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Essentially Digital Governance in Austerity: ‘NPM Rising from the Dead’ or a New Quasi-Paradigm for Public Management Reform?

Date & Time:
12:30:00 - 13:45:00,
Wednesday 16 May, 2012


In a time of austerity, politicians look for models of government that offer more for less in public services – or at least the same (or not much less) for less. Possible models that offer such an outcome include the ‘New Public Management’ model that aims to cut the costs of government by more emphasis on effective management and the ‘Digital Era Governance’ model that aims to cut the costs of government by using the power of digital technology to integrate services and interact better with citizens. At the present time much is being claimed for the capacity of ‘Digital by Default’ approaches and digitally generated ‘big data’ to cut costs in both the public and private sector, but governments struggle to demonstrate the cost-saving effects of huge IT investments.

The aim of this inter-disciplinary lunchtime workshop is to investigate the historical record to explore how far managerial or IT changes or any combination of the two, have actually delivered hoped-for productivity increases in the past and to explore the potential for them to do so in the future. Some of the questions we will ask include:

  • Did New Public Management reforms of the 1980s and 1990s deliver the promised efficiency and productivity gains, or lead to more effective governance? Or did governments emerge from three decades of reform meaner but not much leaner?

  • What evidence is there that use of the Internet and IT has delivered increased productivity, or has it resulted in gold-plated, over-priced government, with cost-savings always a case of ‘jam tomorrow’? Has personalization through IT had other effects, such as rising inequity in public policy outcomes?

  • Will austerity bring a revival of New Public Management, a renewed impetus for Digital Era Governance, both or neither?

The workshop is intended for faculty and graduate students interested in the analysis of public policy, public services and executive government, and all are welcome to attend. It will take the form of short presentations of pre-circulated (where possible) papers followed by discussion.

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  • Professor Helen Margetts
  • Name: Professor Helen Margetts
  • Affiliation: Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford
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