Changing the Digital Government

An essay I wrote for a course I took this summer about the digital Government. Enjoy.

This essay will talk about some of the most important aspects of developing a digital government. It will focus on a chapter from each part of the book The Social Study of Information and Communication Technology. In the first part about foundations I have chosen the chapter titled Solution is the problem: a story of transitions and opportunities that discusses a lot about opportunities, paradigms & change and the importance of context. From the second part of the book about Theories at Work I have chosen to focus on the chapter Farewell to constructivism: technology and context-embedded action which explains functional simplification as well as technology & human action. For the final part of the book, Substantive Issues and Applications, I have chosen the chapter Reconstructing information systems evaluation and will talk about affordability, evaluations and Organizational Learning.

Solution is the problem: a story of transitions and opportunities

This chapter is important since it discusses how we need to accept the world as a continuous and ongoing system which is very important for a digital government. In this world there is no set solutions but a continuous array of new choices to be made. “Change, uncertainty, ambiguity, and complexity must not be sensed as sources of problems to be subsequently solved, but as transitions, potential sources of opportunities, innovation and profit”(Angell&Ilharco 2004, p.55)

“All facts are context sensitive. Contexts are personal”(Smithson&Tsiavos 2004, p.45). For a meaning to emerge we need to put it into a context, if we use a different context it might get a different meaning. This is one of the things one must keep in mind when developing a digital government that is located in different contexts. One example of a difference might be that some areas require a more pedagogic system due to not being as used to similar IT systems, in an advanced environment this pedagogic approach might be seen as cumbersome and slow. “Each of us experience a different world, albeit with ‘similarities’ “(Smithson&Tsiavos 2004, p.53).

The paradigms in society makes a base for our thinking. With the development of the digital government a lot of things changes and some in a fundamental way. One example of a fundamental change is going from a system where the government guides you right to a view of citizens as much more self-reliant. It’s important to not lock yourself into an existing way of thinking since “theory is both a way of seeing and a way of not seeing” (Angell&Ilharco 2004, p.40). With a higher level of information in the society we need to respect that the views of citizens became more divergent with the increased globalism: “proponents of different paradigms cannot be easily resolved, because they are arguing not about points of fact, but from different perspectives about different things”(Angell&Ilharco 2004, p.40).

If one manages to look outside the dogmatic approach the Organization might “see opportunities where others see threat, or to consider possible what everyone else assumes as impossible”(Angell&Ilharco 2004, p.56).  Development is all about being observant of these possibilities. If more persons within the organization sees opportunities a change is more likely to happen.

Farewell to constructivism: technology and context-embedded action

This chapter is important in the way it focuses on “ways that allow for the abstract and the general to be tied to the concrete and specific” (Kallinikos 2004, p.157). Functionalistic simplification and closure together with the need to integrate technology and human action (instead of making them exogenous) form a major part towards organizational development. To make effective use of new technology it must be incorporated into our everyday life.

Functional simplification and closure imply that the […] system admits only certain types of inputs and behaviors. To develop, an organization needs to know where their limits reside. Having this limits is also essential since the system needs to be functional enough for the users.

If the system is too complicated or strange for the users they will not learn much. It is important not to treat IT as something alien and instead try to incorporate it in the daily use as another tool. “Technology and human action, cross-contextual systems, and context-embedded forms of life cannot adequately be understood on the assumption that the one is exogenous to the other”(Kallinikos 2004, p.146)

Reconstructing information systems evaluation

This chapter in the last part of the book pulls the attention and need towards the roll of evaluation and how beneficial it is to an organizations future development. By evaluating past work one is able to avoid the same mistakes and amplify the choices that was right in the past. Looking back will often help you to look forward in a more effective way.

Organizational Learning is used in many ways in an effective development of a digital government. The best way of moving in the right way is building upon past knowledge and improving it. “An evaluation has a role in supporting organizational learning to preserve best practice and avoid repeating past mistakes”(Smithson&Tsiavos 2004, p.210)

The risk about evaluating yourself is that there is a certain bias in how we view the evaluation, “where we have the choice we select the characteristics of the IS and its context that fit our own objectives […] The real world becomes distant from the representations selected, as the representations replaces reality. This becomes the reality we chose to deal with”(Smithson&Tsiavos 2004, p.214). If we in these representations stray too far from the “real life” the organizational improvements will probably have a deteriorating effect. “It is not what an evaluation method says, but rather what it allows to be said that makes a difference”(Smithson&Tsiavos 2004, p.223).


Josef Ohlsson Collentine, 24Aug 2010,
CC-BY, please link to if you use this material.
Written for the course ‘Verksamhetsutveckling i den digitala myndigheten’


Angell, I. & Ilharco, F. (2004). Solution is the problem: a story of transitions and opportunities. In Avgerou, C., Ciborra, C. & Land, F., ed. The social study of information and communication technology. New York, Oxford University Press. Ch. 2.

Kallinikos, J. (2004). Farewell to constructivism: technology and context-embedded action. In Avgerou, C., Ciborra, C. & Land, F., ed. The social study of information and communication technology. New York, Oxford University Press. Ch. 8.

Smithson, S. & Tsiavos, P. (2004). Re-constructing information systems evaluation. In Avgerou, C., Ciborra, C. & Land, F., ed. The social study of information and communication technology. New York, Oxford University Press. Ch. 11.

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Josef Ohlsson Collentine

A transparent and kind American/Swede who likes cultural patterns and Social Media. A creative early-adopter who sports, discusses and explores. More about me
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