Close Encounters of the Digital Kind: A Research Agenda for the Digitalization of Public Services

Ida Lindgren, Christian Østergaard Madsen, Sara Hofmann, Ulf Melin

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This paper contributes to e-government research by presenting a review and discussion on how digitalization of public services has affected the interaction between citizens and government. We argue for a conceptualization and critical
reflection on the nature of the underlying interaction between citizens and public officials - the public encounter - that digital public services are developed to support. We apply a qualitative and hermeneutic approach and illustrate that
digital public services change public encounters concerning when, where, and how interactions occur, what each actor does, and the skills required of them. By relating these changes to emerging digital technologies (e.g. data mining,
machine learning, sensor technology, and service automation), we illustrate that while these new technologies carry the potential to further digitalize service provision and fulfil the democratic goals of digital government, authorities can
apply the same technology to restrict, control, and surveil citizens. Based on a critical discussion on what digitalization might entail for society, we identify problem areas arising from this development and propose a research agenda for
understanding this phenomenon further. We raise questions and ethical concerns regarding accountability and reskilling of citizens and public officials as public service provision becomes citizen self-service.
TidsskriftGovernment Information Quarterly
StatusUdgivet - 12 mar. 2019


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