BECOMING DATA-DRIVEN? The reconfiguration of work situations in the Danish Customs and Tax Administration

Bastian Jørgensen

Publikation: Bog / Antologi / Rapport / Ph.D.-afhandlingPh.d.-afhandling


This dissertation explores how work situations become reconfigured as public organizations strive to become data-driven. In 2016, the Danish Government published a new digital strategy encouraging public organizations to take the next step in modernization. In line with the ongoing popular rhetoric of an unfolding data revolution, the digital strategy emphasized data as an essential asset of the future digital age. Public organizations were recommended to invest in, develop, and improve upon their data infrastructures. The digital strategy argued that by increasing their use of data, public organizations would become more efficient and able to deliver better public services to citizens. The strategy is one key source for the emergence of a new and popular vision inside public organizations: To become data-driven. This dissertation studies the emergence of this data-driven vision in the Danish Customs and Tax Administration. Using an ethnographic approach, the dissertation explores how data-driven visions and technologies affect public organizations’ work and organization. It describes and analyzes how organizational relations and boundaries become reconfigured, as public employees work with emerging data infrastructures. The study draws on science and technology studies, critical data studies, and public administration theory. The dissertation consists of three research papers, each analyzing a work situation affected by data-driven visions and technologies. In the first work situation, we are introduced to frontline workers who are confronted with the idea of making taxpayers digital and self-serving, also referred to as ‘no-touch customers’. In the second work situation, we are introduced to data scientists and customs officers experimenting with a new machine learning algorithm for fraud detection. Finally, in the third work situation, we follow the project participants of a large IT project as they attempt to ‘bring home’ control and responsibility of data sharing in the public sector. In each of these work situations, a central figure appeared, which had the function of connecting the task of implementing new information technologies and visions to existing organizational challenges and decisions. The dissertation traces the different figurations and their practical effects, highlighting the emergence of new organizational boundaries, including how organizational competencies and responsibilities become reallocated between public employees, and the shifting relations between what counts as visible and invisible work. The dissertation contributes with new knowledge about how a public organization and its employees are affected by data-driven visions and technologies.
ForlagIT-Universitetet i København
Antal sider166
ISBN (Trykt)978-87-7949-048-2
StatusUdgivet - 2021


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