Technologies in Public Agencies and in PA Research: Three Mini-Cases of Use-Inspired Research

I will be giving a talk at the School of Public AffairsCollege of Public ProgramsArizona State University on Feb 14, 2011 @ 10.30-12.

Technologies in Public Agencies and in Public Administration Research: Three Mini-Cases of Use-Inspired Research

Emerging technologies are transforming public agencies and the nature of governance. Public Agencies have long recognized the value of information technologies for achieving their missions, streamlining operations, and communicating with the public. Yet, the track record of public sector information systems (IS) projects - system acquisitions, design and deployment - has been sub-par. I contend that one possible reason is their dual personality. They are both (a) public sector projects and (b) IS projects. Contemporary research on public sector IS projects often emphasizes the former but not the latter, often relegating technology to a “black box.” I will argue that this posture is not only unacceptable but also dangerous. Public administration researchers cannot simply relegate the study of technologies to other disciplines. Today, several factors require us to change our stance on the role of technologies in public agencies and in public administration research, including the amount of taxpayer money that is spent on technologies, the democratizing of technology, and the rise of open data programs. Toward this end, in this presentation, I will briefly present three mini-cases of user-inspired research. The first case will highlight the use of sentiment analysis of secondary data on the IRS Business Systems Modernization. Extracting stakeholder Sentiments and Confidence from documents, with a view to exploring how such measures may offer early indications of project progress and assist managers to prevent undesirable future outcomes. The second case will highlight how innovative public managers are leading the way in deploying technology sophistically for superior citizen engagement. The US Census Bureau used technologies not only to complete the 2010 census under budget, but also deployed them innovatively to engage citizens through the design of viable participatory platforms. The Census Bureau also effectively managed risks associated with using emerging technologies. The 2010 Census campaign focused on increasing response rates and encouraging citizen participation through innovations in the communication process with citizens and the infusion of technology. The third case will describe an ongoing project that seeks to understand the motivations of government agencies, software developers, and the public on the creation and use of (mobile) apps for urban governance.

April in Lisbon – IGU Commission on Geography of Governance Annual Conference 2012

I will be presenting a paper at the Annual Conference of the IGU Commission on Geography of Governance in Lisbon, Portugal (April 12-14, 2012) .The paper, Citizen Apps and Urban Governance: Understanding the Landscape of Apps and their Impacts, draws on my current research project with  Akshay Bhagwatwar (Kelley School of BusinessIndiana University) and my IBM Center for the Business of Government research grant.

Citizen Apps to Solve Complex Urban Problems – Journal of Urban Technology

I have a paper accepted for publication in the Journal of Urban Technology. Co-authored with Akshay Bhagwatwar (Kelley School of Business, Indiana University) this paper looks at how citizen apps are employed to solve complex urban problems.


Tackling complex urban problems requires us to examine and leverage diverse sources of information. Today, cities of all kinds and sizes capture a large amount of information in real-time. Data is captured on transportation patterns, electricity and water consumption, citizen use of government services (e.g. parking meters), and even on weather events. Through open data initiatives, government agencies are making information available to citizens. In turn, citizens are building applications that exploit this information to solve local urban problems. Citizens are also building platforms where they can share information regarding government services. Information that was previously unavailable is now being used to gauge quality of services, choose services, and report illegal and unethical behaviors (e.g. requesting bribes). To the best of our knowledge, this is the first paper to examine the range of citizen applications (‘citizen apps’) targeted to solve urban issues and their ensuing impacts on planning, decision-making, problem solving, and urban governance. We examine citizen apps that address a wide range of urban issues from those that solve public transportation challenges to those advance management public utilities and services and even public safety.

Citation: Desouza, K.C., and Bhagwatwar, A. “Opening up Information for Tackling Complex Urban Problems:  A Study of Citizen Apps,” Journal of Urban Technology, Forthcoming.

Research Award by the Faculty of Economics, University of Ljubljana

Faculty of EconomicsUniversity of Ljubljana awarded my co-authored paper the runner-up prize for the the best scientific journal article at the annual research achievements event. The paper is co-authored with Miha Škerlavaj(University of Ljubljana) and Vlado Dimovski (University of Ljubljana) and examines network-based learning in organizations.  I hold a visiting professorship at the University of Ljubljana.

Škerlavaj, M., Dimovski, V., & Desouza, K.C. (2010): Patterns and Structures of Intra-Organizational Learning Networks Within a Knowledge-Intensive Organization, Journal of Information Technology, 25(2):189-204.

This paper employs the network perspective to study patterns and structures of intra-organizational learning networks. The theoretical background draws from cognitive theories, theories of homophily and proximity, theories of social exchange, the theory of generalized exchange, small-worlds theory, and social process theory. The levels of analysis applied are actor, dyadic, triadic, and global. Confirmatory social network analysis (exponential random graph modeling) was employed for data analysis. Findings suggest: (1) central actors in the learning network are experienced and hold senior positions in the organizational hierarchy, (2) evidence of homophily (in terms of gender, tenure, and hierarchical level relations) and proximity (in terms of geographical and departmental distances) in learning relationships, (3) learning relationships are non-reciprocal, and (4) transitivity and high local clustering with sparse inter-cluster ties are significant for intra-organizational learning networks.

Knowledge Risks in Organizational Networks – Journal of Strategic Information Systems

Peter Trkman (Faculty of Economics, University of Ljubljana) and I have a paper accepted for publication in the Journal of Strategic Information Systems. The paper titled “Knowledge Risks in Organizational Networks: An Exploratory Framework”  uses a combination of knowledge-based and transaction cost theories to show how the dimension and type of knowledge risk differently impact the knowledge transfer, the whole network, and the risk mitigation options.

In a networked environment, it is essential for organizations to share knowledge among themselves if they want to achieve global objectives such as collaborative innovation and increased effectiveness and efficiency of operations. However, sharing knowledge is not risk-free. An organization might lose its competitive edge if it shares too much or certain key knowledge. In addition, an organization might suffer if its intellectual property is improperly handled by its business partners. While the literature has touted the value of knowledge sharing within networks, there is a conspicuous absence of studies examining the risks of sharing knowledge. To address this gap, we develop an exploratory framework that categorizes knowledge-sharing risks across multiple dimensions. Such a framework is a structured alternative to practice-based approach to knowledge risk management. It enables a prior identification of various kinds of knowledge risks that organizations are facing.

The use of such framework is not without its limitations. Thus, a complementary paper will be published in the same issue by Marco Marabelli and Sue Newell that presents an alternative approach to knowledge risk management based on a practice perspective of knowledge.

Just a couple of footnotes


Organizational Interventions of Knowledge Management Systems & Design Science Perspective

I have a paper accepted for publication in the Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology. The paper is titled, "Contextualizing Organizational Interventions of Knowledge Management Systems: A Design Science Perspective," and is co-authored with Peter Baloh (BISOL and IEDC Bled School of Management) and Raymond A. Hackney (Brunel University). This paper is based on Peter Baloh's dissertation. I served as chair of Peter's dissertation committee.

The research in this paper addresses how individuals’ (workers) knowledge needs influence the design of knowledge management systems (KMS) enabling knowledge creation and utilization. It is evident that KMS technologies and activities are indiscriminately deployed in most organizations with little regard to the actual context of their adoption. Moreover, it is apparent that the extant literature pertaining to knowledge management projects is frequently deficient in identifying the variety of factors indicative for successful KMS. This presents an obvious business practice and research gap which requires a critical analysis of the necessary intervention that will actually improve how workers can leverage and form organization-wide knowledge. Our research involved an extensive review of the literature,  and rigorous data collection and synthesis through an empirical case analyses (Parsons Brinckerhoff and Samsung). The contribution of the research is the formulation of a model for designing KMS based upon the design-science paradigm. The essential proposition of our research is that KMS design and implementation must be contextualized towards knowledge needs and that these will differ for various organizational settings. Our findings therefore present valuable insights and further understanding of the way in which KMS design efforts should be focused.

Baloh, P., Desouza, K.C., and Hackney, R.A. “Contextualizing Organizational Interventions of Knowledge Management Systems: A Design Science Perspective,” Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, Forthcoming.

Speaking in France: Paris and Lille, October 2011

I will be giving two talks in France in early October. Both talks are hosted by the faculty at IÉSEG School of Management. On October 10, I will speak at IÉSEG’s Paris Campus on Designing the Innovation Process: Building, Managing, Communicating and Measuring (October 10). This talk is based on my forthcoming book, Intrapreneurship: Managing Ideas within Your Organization (University of Toronto Press, 2011).

On October 11, I will head to IESEG’s Lille Campus where I will speak on the topic of Challenges in Inter-Disciplinary Research: Strategies from Crafting Research Ideas to Publishing. In this presentation, I will share my experiences in executing inter-disciplinary research projects. Studying complex phenomenon requires us to undertake research that (1) draws on multiple disciplines, (2) engages a diverse group of stakeholders, (3) appreciates a plurality of research approaches, and (4) communicates to a diverse set of audiences. Executing inter-disciplinary research is no easy feat to accomplish. Researchers face daunting challenges from the onset, beginning with the inception of ideas, then continuing to the crafting of problem statements, executing the research process, and communicating the results via publications in academic and practitioner outlets. However, these challenges should not be viewed as an excuse to abandon inter-disciplinary research in favor of narrow-minded and singular research exercises, which reduce complex phenomenon in deterministic fashions so as to arrive at simplistic problems that lack relevance. I will present a method (process) for executing inter-disciplinary research that has served me well. Illustrative examples of research projects will be used to exemplify this process and outline strategies for researchers to consider when conducting inter-disciplinary research projects.

In addition to the speaking engagements, I will be working on building collaborative research ties between IÉSEG and the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech.