P31 Digital transformation and hybrid future for public governance and management

Corresponding chair

John Halligan, john.halligan@canberra.edu.au 

Review group chair

Paul Henman

Coordinators/organisers and co-chairs 

Emeritus Professor John Halligan, University of Canberra, Australia

Professor Paul Henman, University of Queensland, Australia

Associate Professor Amanda Clarke, Carleton University, Canada


Digital transformation involves using new technology to rethink and develop core processes and service delivery. It entails new relationships and engagement with stakeholders through addressing holism horizontally and vertically, and advancing new technological thresholds as envisaged by models of digital era governance. The pace of change in digital transformation has increased with significant implications for public governance and management. This is particularly the case where the focus is on issues with existing and emergent hybrid arrangements. Hybridity takes multiple forms with digital governance and management, which can be delineated according to levels of analysis. Debate about the standing and relevance of models of public management and governance have included the standing of digital era governance. The literature on reform models now favours hybrid conceptions that encompass two or more models, but what of digital governance within a hybrid future?

Another area is the unresolved tension between traditional structures of public management and digital business models advanced by private sector specialists.  This is reflected in top-down policy that ignores the centrality of user experience and co-design. A prime factor in retarding digital change is the tension between old and new technology: the legacy system of outdated hardware and software in the back office and newer more flexible technologies. Contradictory agendas of governments – including economy and improving citizen engagement and service delivery – have different implications for the development of digital transformation. Public-private capability questions arise with the centrality of private sector expertise. Public sectors rely on the private sector in developing capability, but different mixes exist ranging from models with extensive reliance through to selective and ad hoc arrangements. Citizen interaction is central and reflected in objectives for improving user experience and more generally open data and government.

Abstracts are welcome where there is a contribution to the field of public management. The field is being increasingly impacted by dynamic contexts in which innovations in digital technology, such as automated decision making, are affecting service delivery, user interfaces, data management, public managers’ roles in decision making, the parameters within which public management operates and public governance in general. The effects of digital transformation on public management remain unclear, although it is apparent that obstacles to implementing change are shared. A continuing conundrum is the extent to which much of the field needs to be reappraised in terms of new hybrid forms and the multiple ways in which they are being addressed through inter-organisational and system interactions and scenarios for digital futures that seek to lever hybridity in public management. The various hybrid interfaces in digital governance and management cover a range of complex public, private and societal interactions and provide scope for the use of a range of theoretical frameworks. Theories that seek to explain variable progress towards digital government internationally, include cultural and political traditions and institutional analysis. Methods may include case studies, survey analysis, portal/website evaluation, and service integration measurement.