PUBP737. Cases and Concepts in E-Government

GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY
Professor Anne L. Washington

E-government or electronic government projects began as efficiency initiatives. Computer technology improved delivery of public sector services, transactions, information and publications. Internal institutional changes driven by technology developed into a new way to conceptualize government and governing. Contemporary concerns focus on how technology is transforming government’s relationship with society, from individual citizens to international commerce. This course offers a theoretical and conceptual framework to inform practical policy work on electronic government.

PUBP737 approaches electronic government as a socio-technical system that is the product of geo-political institutions. Socio-technical theory considers both the social systems and the technical computer systems. The social aspects define who is involved, what relationships change and how concepts are interpreted. The technical aspects define tangible objects, infrastructure constraints and how ideas are represented. While acknowledging the intrinsic properties of technology objects, our main focus is how they are fundamental to the construction of meaning. A traditional analysis perceives technology as static, straight-forward and simplistic yet technology is never static. Technology can change as fast and dynamically as the human communities they are designed to support. A socio-technical view accounts for this dynamic of dual change. Technology will be considered as a tool to negotiate boundaries between people.

To build nuanced policy responses, our conceptual framework will emphasize multiple perspectives. Each week we will ask questions about the institutional, local and global perspectives of electronic government. An institutional perspective grounds electronic government as a product originating from an internal organization process. A local community perspective considers direct social relationships that are transformed through electronic government. A global network perspective illuminates large-scale implications within the larger society and worldwide economy.

This is a seminar and will focus on writing and presentation skills. Professionals in public policy are expected to speak effectively and write coherently. Being able to clearly communicate about technology is a valuable and marketable skill. This class will prepare students to provide analytical and ethical advice on the impact of technology projects. Students are expected to connect readings to current events and actual government projects. We will use Bardach (2009) as the model of policy analysis. Please make sure you are familiar with its concepts before the beginning of class.

Policy work involves quick practical responses and in-depth considered research. A group assignment and the mid-term exam are designed to simulate the real-world need for quick policy responses. The group assignment will be an in-class timed exercise submitted in the form of a presentation. The take-home exam will be a timed analysis in the form of a short essay. A semester-long individual writing project provides balance. Each student will deeply research and consider one policy issue related to electronic government. Each stage in the writing process is graded separately. Students will need to meet each deadline throughout the semester to successfully complete this project. Each student will be assessed on classroom participation, online participation, a group project, an exam and an individual paper. Students will also be asked to submit a brief biography and a statement of interests.

The course will cover emerging public policy issues associated with electronic government. The list of topics is subject to change based on interests of those enrolled. Guest lecturers, who are experts in e-government, will speak and give demonstrations of the latest technologies. All students are required to read the guest author’s work and come prepared to ask questions. One student will be assigned as host for the guest. Student hosts are responsible for introducing the guest on the day of the visit. Guests will be speaking on digital diplomacy, information policy, national security and global e-government initiatives.

At the end of this class, each student will know how to analyze competing interests in technology design, identify ethical dimensions of information policy, and critically evaluate electronic government projects. Students will have the opportunity to talk with the authors of key policy papers. Students will have the opportunity to enhance their ability to write concise and balanced policy briefs and give compelling oral presentations. This class provides a theoretical foundation for research on electronic government and the digital state.

 

Reading List PUBP 737