The inclusion office: How the Danish digital state knows, listens to, and acts on its citizens’ problems

Irina Papazu, Thorben Simonsen, Lara Tatjana Reime

Research output: Contribution to conference - NOT published in proceeding or journalConference abstract for conferenceResearchpeer-review

Abstract

The ‘digital citizen’ is a central figure in policy developments and contemporary digitalization efforts in Denmark. Critical discourse analyses of policy reports and strategies have shown the underlying assumptions and expectations of the Danish citizen as being digital ‘by default’, and have illustrated how the citizen has been cast as a neoliberal subject, self-sufficient and capable of navigating the digital universe of the public sector. However, in a report on digital inclusion published by KL and the Agency for Digitisation in April last year, less capable figures of the citizen appear, as the report states that a large proportion of the Danish population will in fact always be ‘digitally marginalized’. This report, we argue, disrupts the dominant imaginaries of frictionless public digitalization, and creates new conditions of possibility for public governance, making digital inclusion a central concern for the state. In this paper, we consider the implications of this report in terms of the spaces of action it opens for a small unit within the Agency for Digitisation: The Inclusion Office. In a departure from the critical, mostly discourse study-based literature on public sector digitalization and its political implications, we seek to acknowledge and understand the efforts made by actors within the state to re-invent their politics vis-à-vis the digitally marginalized citizens. Based on interviews and participant-observation at three conferences where the Office figured centrally, we describe the forms of politics (Gomart & Hajer 2003) practiced by the employees and managers of the Office in relation to digital inclusion. By identifying three such forms of politics – understanding the non-digital citizen, networking with the citizen organizations, and acting on concrete requests from the citizens – we ask how digital inclusion efforts shape public governance in the enactment of the digital state: what form(s) of politics are practiced? Are such practices good? And what capacities to act are distributed and how? In pursuing these questions, we engage in a more generative form of critique, suspending judgement about how the digital ought to be entangled with citizenship and public governance and, instead, we attempt to trace how institutional actors represent and shape the digital state in practice.

Keywords: Citizens’ mediated identities and agencies; digital citizenship; digital democracy; democratic institutions; ethnography
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2022
Publication statusPublished - 2022
EventDemocracy & Digital Citizenship Conference Series - RUC, Roskilde, Denmark
Duration: 29 Sept 202230 Sept 2022

Conference

ConferenceDemocracy & Digital Citizenship Conference Series
LocationRUC
Country/TerritoryDenmark
CityRoskilde
Period29/09/202230/09/2022

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