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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.

Abstract:

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.

New Project – Examining Public Participation in ACTion Alexandria

The Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech has entered into an agreement to partner with ACT for Alexandria to advance the design of citizen engagement platforms.I will lead a team of researchers who will work in collaboration with ACT for Alexandria personnel to examine public participation on the ACTion Alexandria platform. The team will look at how user interactions on the community platform can guide design choices that promote more robust forms of citizen engagement.

ACT for Alexandria is a community foundation founded in the the fall of 2004 by a small group of citizens who came together to decide how best to stimulate philanthropic giving to improve the lives of the most vulnerable in their community. The ACTion Alexandria project is a new citizen engagement platform which provides interactive tools that make it easier for residents to take a more active role in addressing community problems. ACTion Alexandria connects individuals to nonprofit organizations they want to support, but with a strictly local focus. Individuals have the opportunity to take action on behalf of nonprofits working to improve the community.

ACT for Alexandria is a prominent player in the non-profit space. We are excited to partner with them to study the dynamics of public participation in action. The ACTion platform gives us access to real world scenarios of how citizens use technology to engage each other.

This initiative will advance the work being done in Policy Informatics at the Metropolitan Institute. Designing better collaborative and participatory platforms remains a critical challenge in the public arena. We are not only interested in this project from a research point of view but also from a design and policy point of view. The Metropolitan Institute will be analyzing information on user behavior on the platform, designing experiments to test various strategies for increasing engagement on the platform, and contributing to the design of the overall platform.

Collaborating on this effort allows us the opportunity to make a difference in our community. The MI is based in Alexandria and we want to be part of the community. ACT for Alexandria provides an amazing array of services, from scholarships to leadership training. ACTion Alexandria is where the idea of community engagement meets the newest technological innovations.

See here for the press release from the Metropolitan Institute (Link)