Coproduction of Smart Services: opening the discussion

In cities around the globe, transformative changes concerning smart public services have taken place. More and more, they involve a wide array of stakeholders in the (co)production of public services: from the public sector to the private, and from individual citizens to entire communities and organizations. Take the case of FixMyStreet, a map-based website, and mobile application, enabled by GPS, which is provided by a private partner and used by citizens to report problems that need the attention of a relevant local authority, such as potholes or broken streetlamps.

This kind of initiatives came with new promises. ICT is claimed to empower service users, enhance the speed and reach of communications, and promote multilateral and rich information exchange without time and space constraints [1, 2] (see also https://citadel-h2020.eu/news/forthcoming-article-ict-enabled-co-production-public-services-barriers-and-enablers-systematic-review).

In the case of smart services’ coproduction, city governments increasingly rely on the private sector to take the lead in ICT-based urban innovations due to the technological and financial complexities behind smart –public– services. For instance, Bicing is a smart bike-sharing public service promoted by the City of Barcelona (Spain) and provided by a private company. The interesting aspect lies on Bicing’s game, which rewards healthy and sustainable behaviours that collaborate with the environment, encouraging the realization of physical activity. Through this app, citizens-users can gain points by having those behaviours (e.g., distance travelled by bike, calories burned) as well as by completing certain challenges. In doing so, the users can get several prizes based on the points they have accumulated. Some questions arise as: What do these changes entail in terms of public values to be realized through public services? What role do private actors play? Does the involvement of private actors change the coproducing actors’ expectations towards public values?

This collaboration between private and public actors can lead to each adopting new roles, engaging in different types of interaction, and navigating changing accountability dynamics. It also comes with further challenges regarding private companies assuming tasks and responsibilities traditionally performed by the government  [3–5]. Although the private sector opens the door to innovation, “the social values inherent in public services may not be adequately addressed by the economic efficiency calculus of markets” [6]. Private actors’ expectations regarding the service tend to diverge from the public actors’. While this might not be striking, the significant aspect lies in the public nature of the coproduced service, and therefore, the importance of diverse public values being realized through the coproduction process.

Early thinking on the potential downside and risks behind future ICT-based coproduction projects will broaden the possibilities of developing innovative and efficient solutions in the field of smart services while safeguarding the social aspect of public services.

Based on the forthcoming article: Rodriguez Müller, A.P. & Steen, T. Behind the Scenes of Coproduction of Smart Mobility: Evidence from a Public Values’ Perspective. In: Lindgren, I., Janssen, M., Lee, H., Rodríguez Bolívar, M.P., Tambouris, E., Scholl, H. J. (eds.) EGOV 2019. LNCS. Springer, Heidelberg (2019, forthcoming).

REFERENCES

[1] Fugini, M., Teimourikia, M.: The Role of ICT in Co-Production of e-Government Public Services. In: Fugini, M., Bracci, E., and Sicilia, M. (eds.) Co-production in the Public Sector. pp. 119–139. Springer, Cham (2016).

[2] Meijer, A.J.: Coproduction as a structural transformation of the public sector. Int. J. Public Sect. Manag. 29, 596–611 (2016).

[3] Ma, Y., Lan, J., Thornton, T., Mangalagiu, D., Zhu, D.: Challenges of collaborative governance in the sharing economy: The case of free-floating bike sharing in Shanghai. J. Clean. Prod. 197, 356–365 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2018.06.213.

[4] Anthopoulos, L.G., Reddick, C.G.: Understanding electronic government research and smart city: A framework and empirical evidence. Inf. Polity. 21, 99–117 (2016). https://doi.org/10.3233/IP-150371.

[5] Klievink, B., Janssen, M.: Challenges in Developing Public‐private Business Models. Eur. J. ePractice. 9–23 (2012).

[6] Hefetz, A., Warner, M.: Privatization and Its Reverse: Explaining the Dynamics of the Government Contracting Process. J. Public Adm. Res. Theory. 14, 171–190 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1093/jopart/muh012.