Dissertation Proposals Sketchings

Gov2.0 and the Policy Analyst – Resistance is Not Futile?

Dissertation Proposal Discussion Draft

A Preliminary Outline for a  Proposed Research Design

Gov2.0 has emerged in recent years as a particular implementation of e-gov, built on the framework and technologies of Web2.0, such as weblogs and microblogs (e.g., Twitter), wikis (e.g., Wikipedia), social networking (e.g., Facebook) and social tagging (e.g., Delicious). Gov2.0 is defined here as instances where Web2.0 approaches and technologies are applied to public-sector governance, administrative, service-delivery and policy–making functions.

Gov2.0 has a lot of hype attached to it. But is it transformative? That is, does the implementation of Gov2.0 cause significant change in activities of government and governance processes? The proposed research project examines the effect on public policy analysis settings from deploying collaborative information and communication technologies in new ways – specifically whether new Gov2.0 collaboration modes represent transformational technologies in the context of policy development. We have a long experience with the application of computer technology in government settings, but questions continue to arise and the questions themselves have changed: from an era of e-government a decade ago when the questions were principally managerial and technical, the issue is now framed in terms of new Gov2.0 technologies and whether the technology can transform the nature of policy work.

The assessment of a technology’s power to transform a process, setting or institution can focus on three areas: the technology, the institution or the individuals in the organization. This study is aimed at assessing the limiting factors in realizing the transformational power of Gov2.0 focused on the implications of system users’ behaviours.

Research Question

Is the transformational power of Gov2.0 constrained by information system usage behaviour?

Significance of the Question

  • The explosion of Web2.0 tools in commercial space has moved into public sector space resulting in the label Gov2.0 (O’Reilly, 2005), which is defined here as instances where Web2.0 approaches and technologies are applied to public-sector governance, administrative, service-delivery and policy–making functions.
  • Web2.0 is seen by many as a transformational technology (e.g., Benkler, 2006; Shirky, 2008; O’Reilly, 2005). Gov2.0, by extension, is seen as transformational both in a predictive sense (i.e., a sufficiently disruptive technology will necessarily have a transformative effect; e.g., Gong, 2010) and as a tool to drive government reform (i.e., in order to achieve desired governance reforms such as open and transparent government, transformative technologies must be adopted; e.g., O’Reilly, 2010). Prior to the emergence of Gov2.0, similar questions about the transformational power of e-gov were asked (e.g., Borins et al., 2007; Dunleavy et al., 2006).
  • My experience in recent years, however, points to a key challenge in the implementation of Web2.0 modes of work in a particular small corner (of a corner – see figure 1) of governance: in attempting to deploy collaborative tools in support of policy analysis, users have frequently exhibited resistance to change and have presented challenges for successful implementation through lack of acceptance of new technology approaches (see also Young, 2010).
  • On the other hand, what serves as an antithesis to user resistance, to drive Gov2.0 adoption and experimentation? Is it digital natives and the infiltration of new cultural norms into a renewed public service? (see Gasser and Palfrey, 2008). What institutional incentives and disincentives are there supporting or limiting the transformation power of Gov2.0?
  • This research is designed to address:
    • whether user resistance is demonstrated widely, and if so
    • what explains resistance to new technology-driven work modes, and
    • whether user resistance can limit the transformational power of a technology, and
    • what management and technology strategies can be deployed to address resistance and its effects.

Locating Collaborative Policy Analysis (bounding the inquiry)

E-government / e-governance (e-gov), broadly concerned with the application of computer technology to activities of government and governance processes, reveals potential benefits to be realised from using new information and communication technologies (ICTs) to address a range of public sector functions. While one objective of the dissertation research will be a broad survey and conceptualization of the e-gov space, a tentative mapping of e-gov into four distinct categories would include:

  • e-policy: ICTs applied to the policy process
  • e-democracy: ICTs applied to communication, consultation, civic deliberation and voting
  • e-services: ICTs applied to service delivery, and
  • e-management: ICTs applied to corporate administrative tasks.

These four broad categories are represented in the four quadrants shown graphically in figure 1. They are organized along two axes: inside-to-government settings and out-of-government settings are distinguished along the horizontal axis (this “inside-outside” distinction follows from Dobell, 2003); and a rough approximation of the policy cycle (represented as a spectrum between “talking” and “action”) is represented by the vertical axis. Further distinguishing of the vast range of sub-types of e-gov tools, methods and techniques are shown within each quadrant – each containing its own mini-quadrant using the same inside-outside / talking-action axes.

Figure 1: Conceptualizing the e-gov space

Collaborative policy analysis (a.k.a. computer-supported G2G collaboration for public policy and decision-making; see Karacapilidis et al., 2005) – is located in the extreme top-left quadrant of figure 1, within the e-policy category.

Conceptual Framework

Figure 2: Conceptual Framework

The introduction of a computer-supported collaborative work technology that seeks to have a transformative effect on traditional policy analysis must address user resistance to its adoption.

Hypotheses and Implications:

  • Null hypothesis: the implementation of Gov2.0 has a transformational effect on the policy analysis function.
    • Implication: If we find that implementing Gov2.0 modes on the policy analysis process results in a transformed process, we will need to develop new management approaches in public administration to adapt to the changed setting;
  • Hypothesis: the implementation of Gov2.0 fails to transform the policy analysis function.
    • Implication: depending on what explains the failure of the implementation to drive transformation, confirmation of the hypothesis will raise questions of what effective techniques and implementation strategies can be developed to aid successful future deployment.
  • Possible Perspectives for Testing the Hypothesis:
    • From a technology perspective, questions of usability and functionality arise, i.e., while the technology may have transformational power, poor design can cause it to fail in that objective.
    • From an institutional perspective, the failure of a technology to transform governance points to political, executive and bureaucratic barriers to Gov2.0 adoption and to realizing its transformational impact. In a working paper, Mergel et al. (2010) label this the “Public Sector Web 2.0 Paradox” and also cite work by Kraemer and King (2003) which argues that pre-Web2.0 e-governance did not demonstrate a transformative effect.
    • Informed by the perspective that technologies are not transformational on their own, rather that “technologies are implements by which people transform societies” (6, 2001), a behavioural perspective centres on the user and their acceptance of a new technology. Specifically, can we explain transformation-failure using theories of resistance to information and communications technology (ICT) implementation?


  • Qualitative paradigm, using case study method.
  • Observation (both in situ and via remote monitoring), structured and semi-structured interviews will be used for evidence gathering.
  • Theoretical foundation: Unified Theory of Acceptance and Use of Technology (UTAUT) which aims to explain user intentions to use an information system and the subsequent behaviour of users. Four key constructs (performance expectancy, effort expectancy, social influence, and facilitating conditions) are direct determinants of intention and behaviour. Gender, age, experience, and voluntariness influence the four key constructs. UTAUT represents the consolidation of eight previous models (theory of reasoned action, technology acceptance model, motivational model, theory of planned behavior, combined theory of planned behavior/technology acceptance model, model of PC utilization, innovation diffusion theory, and social cognitive theory) (see Venkatesh et. al., 2003).
  • This perspective is reinforced through the call for “better empirical research into the sociology of policy analysis.” (Dobuzinskis et al., 2007)
  • Location: The settings for the case study will be a small number (e.g., 5) of internal public sector policy analysis settings in which the work unit will engage with a new collaborative policy analysis environment.
  • A tool specifically designed for this study will be deployed for the use of the subject work groups (essentially a policy analysis wiki, derived in part from Karacapilidis et al., 2005). A short workshop and tutorial will be held to orient the work unit members to the tool.
  • Following the introduction of the collaborative work space, the work unit will be observed in their use of the tool both in situ and through remote monitoring means.
  • Following the observation period, structured interviews with work unit members will be conducted. In addition, semi-structured interviews with management and executive leaders will provide organization context to supplement the observation setting.

Literature Scan

What is transformation and what constitutes a transformative technology?

“Transformation” in governance is a term used with increasing frequency but without a corresponding advance in definition (see, e.g., Borins et al., 2007). A supplemental objective of this research is an operational definition of “transformational technology”, to be derived from the literature, that allows for a determination as to whether the introduction of a technology into a particular governance setting has had – or potentially could have – a transformative effect.

Perri 6 (2001) defined transformational technologies as those which produce “fundamental changes in how we organise our social life” and are “involved in large scale discontinuous change to societies.” (p. 74). He is careful to note that technologies do not transform societies, rather technologies are the implements by which people transform societies. However, there are as many unintended consequences of deploying and using new technologies, and consequences that we are unaware of at the time of the adoption of the technology.

Peter Phillips (2007) surveys approaches to transformative technology in order to frame the scope of his inquiry into systems for governing transformative innovation. Transformative technologies involve discontinuous adjustments in our productive and institutional capacity, displacing, destabilizing or overturning precursor systems. In most cases, major changes like the domestication of fire, agriculture, mechanization and ICTs “involve upstream inventions that open up a wide array of new production, consumption, political and cultural opportunities.” (p.21). Major shifts in technology are often labelled as ‘revolutionary’ (e.g., Shirky, 2008). Alternative terms equated with transformational technology include ‘radical innovation’ (Leifer et al., 2000) to typify changes that restructure markets, ‘drastic technologies’ (Helpman, 1998) to identify discontinuity, ‘disruptive technology’ and ‘disruptive innovation’ (Christensen, )  for a new technological innovation / process that overturns an existing dominant technology. Other terms include breakthrough, metamorphic and pervasive. Beyond the pure domains, hybrids such the pairing of ICTs and mobile technologies, are possible.

From the Organizational Theory perspective, planned organizational change (POC) is typically triggered by an environmental shift that, once sensed by the organization, leads to an intentional response. POC has four interrelated components: (a) a change intervention, (b) affect on key organizational target variables (c) individual behaviour changes and (d) organizational outcomes. Change interventions are divided into two general types: traditional organizational development (OD), and organizational transformation (OT).

Organizational Transformation is defined as:

  1. a set of behavioural science theories, values, strategies, and techniques
  2. aimed at the planned change of organizational vision and work settings.
  3. having the intention of generating alpha, beta, gamma (A) and/or gamma (B) cognition change in individual organizational members, leading to behavioural change and thus
  4. promoting paradigmatic change that helps the organization better fit or create desirable future environments. (Porras and Silver, 1991)

OT has emerged over the last decade as a distinct and profound form of planned change. This occurs because the variables targeted by OT approaches (organizational beliefs, purpose, and·mission, the components of organizational vision) affect a “deeper” level in the organization than those traditionally targeted for change by OD (i.e., work setting variables).

What is Gov2.0?

Web2.0 technologies – such as blogs, microblogs and vlogs, wikis, mashups, podcasts, RSS feeds, social networking and tagging – do not represent a new research paradigm but rather an applied version of computer-supported cooperative work (CSCW). For simplicity, this research defines Gov2.0 as instances where Web2.0 technologies are applied to governance functions in the public sector environment – crossing administrative and policy–making functions.

Gov2.0 has many meanings: For some, it is the use of social media by government agencies. For others, it is wholly about government transparency and open data. Still others think of it as the adoption of Web2.0 tools like cloud computing, wikis, crowdsourcing, mobile applications, mashups, developer contests, or all of the other trappings of Web2.0 as applied to the job of government. Whereas Web2.0 was not simply a new version of the Web, but rather a resurgence of the original intention and design in the Web, similarly, Gov2.0 is not a new kind of government but rather an attempt to reconnect government with its original intent – a means for civic interaction, democratic participation and collective action, and as a mechanism for addressing public problems (Lasswell, 1951). Gov2.0, then, is the use of the collaborative technologies at the heart of Web2.0 to solve public problems.

Content creators were few in the first generation web (Web1.0) with the vast majority of users acting as consumers of content. In Web2.0 space, any participant can be a content creator and the entire environment and its tools are geared towards user-created content.

The Transformative Nature of Gov2.0

Web2.0 technologies are having dramatic effects in the way people communicate, collaborate and engage in peer-to-peer production using the Internet (Benkler, 2006). Benkler (2006) refers to “Commons-based Peer Production” – harnessing the productive power of users.

“Web 2.0 is a set of economic, social and technological trends, that collectively form the basis for the next generation of the Internet – a more mature, distinct medium characterized by user participation, openness, and network effects.” (O’Reilly, 2005).

“transformational government is viewed as a next stage of e-government” (Gong, 2010, p.171)

“This is the true measure of Gov 2.0: does it make incremental changes to the existing system, or does it constitute a revolution?”  (O’Reily, 2010).

“‘To what degree is Web 2.0 transformative?’ Traditional IT and government work suggests it shouldn’t be, but at the same time it has been very transformative in other aspects of society (e.g., business and culture in general). It is time to begin to undertake a research design that systematically looks at this question.” (Mergel et al., 2010, p. 32).


Benkler, Y. (2006). The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Borins, S. F. (2007). Digital state at the leading edge. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Dobuzinskis, L., Laycock, D. and Howlett, M. (2007). Policy Analysis in Canada: The State of the Art. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Dobell, A. R. (2003). “The Role of Government and the Government’s Role in Evaluating Government: Insider Information and Outsider Beliefs.” University of Victoria Panel on the Role of Government Research Paper. August 12, 2003.

Dunleavy, P. (2006). Digital era governance IT corporations, the state, and E-government. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Cormode, G. and B. Krishanmurthy. (2008). “Key differences between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0.” FirstMonday – Peer Reviewed Journal of the Internet, 13(6), 1-19.

Gasser, U. and J. Palfrey. (2008). Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives. New York: Basic Books.

Golembiewski, R. T., Billingsly, K., Yeager, S. (1976). Measuring change and persistence in human affairs: types of change generated by OD designs. J. Appl. Behav. Sci. 12:133-57

Gong, Yiwei. (2010). “Book Review: Handbook of Research on ICT-Enabled Transformational Government: A Global Perspective, Vishanth Weerakkody.” Information Polity: The International Journal of Government & Democracy in the Information Age 15, no. 1/2: 171-173. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed October 18, 2010).

Karacapilidis, N., Loukis E., and Dimopoulos S. (2005). “Computer-supported G2G collaboration for public policy and decision making.” Journal of Enterprise Information Management, Vol. 18, No 5, 2005, pp. 602-624.

Kraemer, K., & King, J. L. (2003). Information Technology and Administrative Reform: Will the Time After E-Government Be Different? Paper presented at the Heinrich Reinemann Schrift Fest, Post Graduate School of Administration.

Lasswell, H.D. 1951. “The policy orientation”, pp. 3-15 in D. Lerner and H.D. Lasswell (eds.), The Policy Sciences. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Mergel, Ines, Charlie Schweik and Jane Fountain. (2010). “The Transformational Effect of Web 2.0 Technologies on Government.” Working Paper. Electronic copy available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1412796

O’Reilly, T. (2005). What Is Web 2.0: Design Patterns and Business Models for the Next Generation of Software.

O’Reily, T. (2010). “Government as a Platform”, in Open Government

Phillips, P.W.B. (2007). Governing Transformative Technological Innovation: Who’s in Charge? Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.

Porras, J.I. and Silvers, R.C. (1991). “Organizational Development and Transformation.” Annual Review of Psychology. Vol. 42:51-78.

Venkatesh V. and Davis F.D. (2000) “Theoretical Extension of the Technology Acceptance Model: Four Longitudinal Field Studies.” Management Science, Vol. 46, No. 2 (Feb., 2000), pp. 186-204.

Venkatesh,V., Morris, M.G., Davis, G.B., Davis, F.D. (2003). “User acceptance of information technology: Toward a unified view”, MIS Quarterly, 2003, 27, 3, 425-478.

Young, J. (2010). “In Wired Singapore Classrooms, Cultures Clash Over Web 2.0.” The Chronicle of Higher Education. Date posted: September 7 2010. Date accessed: October 18 2010.

6, Perri. (2001). “Governing by Technique: Judgement and the Prospects for Governance of and with Technology.” In OECD. Governance in the 21st Century. Paris: OECD.

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