The 24 Hour Government

This text was originally written for a course in the ‘digital government’

the digital government

“24-timmars myndigheten” is a Swedish approach and vision for a higher level of e-government. In the rest of this essay I will be calling ‘24-timmars myndigheten’ for the 24/7 government or EG (Electronic Government). The goals with the 24/7 government is to “simplify and improve upon public services to the population as well as to the companies” and “facilitate an easier access to information for the citizens and an ability to partake of the decision-making process of the public administration” (’24-timmarsmyndighet’ 2009). The E-government (EG) can be split into three major groups: e-services, e-democracy and e-administration.

One of the main reasons the EG has appeared is due to demands from the citizens of easier and more effective access. The information has brought a fragmentation of time and routines which have shifted the demands from the citizens on the government. When the job times are no longer as bound to the normal 9-5 work days as during the period of scientific management, it puts a different demand on the government to be more flexible as well. Another reason is the increased globalization taking place that might require citizens living temporarily elsewhere to adjust to the opening hours of the Swedish time zone. With an increased access to information elsewhere the citizens demand the same from the Government, access to what they need, when they need it.

With a quicker flow of information the contexts constantly change and the government needs to work more with “dynamic flows of activities and operations and not as static structures”(Kallinikos, p.51). The requirements for a government to be active during evening and nights increase with an increased need for quick results in the flow of information. Continuous change and development is one of the goals behind the Electronic Government.

One of the biggest challenges with developing the EG is responsiveness and flexibility. To make this effective an organization needs a system that is “capable of constantly questioning the very premises under which it operates, detects and copes with deviations or other unhappy instances. Such a project demands a shift from practices of knowing what (e.g. specific and predetermined responses that usually represent simpler forms of learning) to an organizational culture of knowing how (e.g. unspecified or open responses that are formed by applying knowledge to fram a problem or diagnose a situation)”(Kallinikos, p.149). By enabling this within the organization one is able to deal with most problems in an efficient way but this “demands the utilization of human knowledge that cannot be formalized, codified and fed into the machine”(Kallinikos, p.39) thus making that sort of information harder to access 24/7.

The machine is used for automatic and logical action, most of the times this is what is needed from the Electronic Government but a lot of people also need help with more complex problems they can’t solve by their selves and have a hard time labeling. Only what is clearly and unambiguously defined can be fed into the machine”(Kallinikos, p.38), and stripping away the context from the information in order to simplify it enough to fit into the machine might make it hard to work with. “The information that computer-based systems generate is often de-contextualized, e.g. it has been taken away from the context that it now describes or refers to. However, in order to be interpreted, information has to be re-contextualized, e.g. the context to which it refers must be reconstructed in the minds of the people that deal with this information”(Kallinikos, p.62).

From this we see that to make the Electronic Government evolve in a good way we need to put a lot of time and effort into the pedagogic parts of the machines to enable the 24/7 government. The machines add a cognitive complexity that needs to be minimalized in order for an easy and effective use for the citizens. If that is managed the aim of the 24/7 government can be approached.

One example of how a governmental organization is able to utilize our globalized world in order to offer a better service to it’s citizens can be seen in some hospitals. When something happens in the middle of the night they are able to make use of the digital x-ray by sending it down to Australia (where someone is awake) and thereby be able to make an analyzation of it and send it back right away. If this had been done in Sweden there would have had to be someone working on stand-by, which is very expensive, or they would have to wake someone up which would have taken a long time. With developing the Electronic Government it is important to not limit ones thinking to within national borders.

To maintain compatibility across different parts it is important with standardization. The big risk with standardization is that one risks to scale of essential contextual factors. Without contextual factors we risk making the wrong decisions in more complex cases.

Standardization was used a lot during the industrial age when scientific management determined what was the optimal usage. “the U.S. businessman ‘has standardized the individual in order to standardize manufacture’ ”(Kallinikos, p.78). This is a risk with an Electronic Government that evolves in the wrong direction as well. A similar attitude and answers are encouraged in order to make the usage more effective. This would make the life a lot harder for anyone that is outside the standardized values since they would have to go the much harder and longer way finding someone that is able to deal with their “problems”. Therefore it is important to make a judgement about how simple the system should be and how much affordability is necessary to build into it.

The government might in many ways seem as and work as other organizations but it has some differences. There is a much higher level of concern about security within an Electronic Government since they are often entrusted with caring for very personal information (e.g. medical journals) that could hurt individuals if they were leaked. The other concern a government has to deal with that other organizations often don’t need to concern themselves with is that they need to take care of the citizens for a very long time. Other organizations can sometimes chose to engage in a short term relationship with a consumer in order to profit.
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Josef Ohlsson Collentine, 23Aug 2010, josef@collentine.com
CC-BY, appreciate if you link to http://collentine.com if you use this material. Written for the course ’Verksamhetsutveckling i den digitala myndigheten’

[pic: CC-BY-NC, jasminejennyjen]

REFERENCES

’24-timmarsmyndighet’ (2009), Wikipedia, viewed 20 August 2010,

http://sv.wikipedia.org/wiki/24-timmarsmyndighet

Kallinikos, J. (2001). The age of flexibility: Managing organizations and technology. Academia Indacta. 

 

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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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