New Technologies and the Modernization of Local Government: an Analysis of Biases and Constraints

Department of Public Policy, De Montfort University, Leicester
Public Administration (Impact Factor: 1.57). 12/2002; 77(4):731 - 751. DOI: 10.1111/1467-9299.00177

ABSTRACT In emerging structures of local governance the institutions of elected local government have the potential to fulfil three complementary roles: those of local democracy, public policy making and direct service delivery. Although ICTs (information and communication technologies) could effectively develop all three roles there is a systemic bias which favours service delivery applications and ignores others. This bias can be explained by reference to a network of actors who determine ICT policy in relative isolation from the other policy networks active at the local level. The ways in which this bias is perpetuated are explored through a case study of ICT policy making in UK local government. The implications of the systemic bias for the long-term future of local government, and indeed public administration, are both severe and profound. They suggest an over-emphasis upon performance measurement, a decline in democratic activity and a diminishing capacity among elected bodies to effect broad public policy initiatives.

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