Toward ICT-enabled Co-production for Effective Crisis and Emergency Response

Abstract: In contemporary society, public services struggle to maintain a high quality of service if the authority responsible for the service delivery experiences resource deficit and increased uncertainties and vulnerabilities. This thesis explores how information and communication technology (ICT) can enable new types of network collaborations – co-production – between government (municipalities) and citizens, for a more effective crisis and emergency response. This is explored in the light of digitalization and taking an end-user perspective. The thesis’s first objective is to describe the transformation toward ICT-enabled co-production. The second objective is to identify opportunities and challenges involved in ICT-enabled co-production. The thesis’s method includes two case studies supported by various theories and approaches: network collaboration (including co-production), sociotechnical systems, and end-user involvement. The data collection is conducted using semi-structured interviews, focus groups, user participation techniques, and document reviews. The intended audience is practitioners (local government and national agencies) and researchers within crisis and emergency response, information systems (IS), and public administration research disciplines and domains (e.g. co-production). The description of the transformation toward ICT-enabled coproduction in crisis and emergency response is a result in its own right. Here, the citizen volunteers become involved in the actual delivery of the response, despite non-specific competence and non-organizational affiliation. In relation to the transformation toward co-production, the thesis concludes that digitalization facilitates end-user involvement in the ICT development process and increases their influence. If open systems as mobile technologies are used, end-users can adapt the technology on their own and add technologies, without the support of the formal developer or local government. The thesis also identifies opportunities and challenges of ICT-enabled co-production. Examples of opportunities include citizen volunteers having a high degree of engagement, being an effective complement to professional responders, and increasing perceived safety in the community. This informal structure of co-production enabled by ICT minimizes the need for local governments to spend resources on managing collaboration. Examples of challenges include the lack of organizational affiliation of volunteers (e.g. integration of citizen volunteers, i.e. end-users with non-organizational affiliation in the technology of the ICT system) and aspects of formal and social control (regulation, and moral and privacy issues). The thesis’s contributions include enriched knowledge of essential aspects to consider when developing ICT-enabled co-production with an end-user perspective, and an understanding of the transformation of the application domain over time and the implications of ICT-enabled coproduction. This makes it easier to comprehend and develop contemporary and future co-productions. The thesis is perceived to have high originality and value since it studies time periods in which local government, technology, and crisis and emergency response have undergone dramatic changes, and explores one of the first Swedish empirical initiatives involving citizen volunteers as responders. 

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