To a new paradigm in e-government: From digitalization to datafication (blog, 2016)

From digitalization to datafication, to a new paradigm in e-government

Currently the interaction between information technology and public sector is mainly discussed under the label of e-government.  The origin of e-government is closely related to the introduction of internet technology in the mid-1990’s. Although e-government in concept encompasses a wide area of interactions between government and society, in practice the focus is on service delivery.

Without doubt, the leading paradigm for most countries implementing e-government is the “digital front office”. This focus is strongly inspired by the succes of business models in the world of e-commerce. If one can order a book or plane ticket by internet, why not request a parking permit or  send in a tax form online?

But the scene is drastically changing for e-government, with the introduction of a new wave of technologies, like the Internet of Things, Big Data analytics, robots, blockchain, etc. Sceptics might think to witness the next hype or buzz, others, like the World Economic Forum, declare we are entering a new industrial stage and foresee many drastic changes for society, economy and government.

To our opinion, it is also time for e-government to start looking for a new paradigm. The current paradigm of the digital front office is strongly rooted in the Internetbased service-delivery model. It was usefull for the digitalization of government service procedures, but it is questionable if it suits the changes society will experience because of new technology.

Core driving force behind this impact is datafication. This datafication, or data-ism, as coined by New York Times tech-reporter Steve Lohr, is the effect of the invasive application of combined computer, telecom and chip-technology in most aspects of our societies. In governments we already see datafication at the local level, with the swiftly growing popularity of the  concept of Smart Cities. The smart revolution of Cities shows an enormous promise in solving wicked problems. At the same time, serious concerns are expressed, mainly about the impact on ethics and security.

For the e-government community, including government professionals, academics and industry, it is time to turn the tables from digitalization present to datafication future. That way governments can prepare for their new role in the ever more digital society and make sure this society is a better place for all of us to live in.

©Red Plume | The Hague, The Netherlands | september 2016