Forthcoming article: “ICT-enabled co-production of public services: Barriers and enablers. A systematic review”.

Policy-makers and politicians around the world voice their support for the deployment of ICTs to enable more co-production of public services and a number of initiatives have been rolled out. But to what extent do ICTs really enable co-production, or, pose a barrier to this? As part of the results of CITADEL WP3, this article offers the first systematic review of the emerging literature on ICT-enabled co-production (Clifton, Díaz-Fuentes, and Llamosas García, Forthcoming.)

Do information and communication technologies (ICTs) enable, or pose a barrier to, public service co-production?

“ICT-enabled co-production” is the term commonly used to refer to the use of ICTs in order to support engagement in the co-production of public services. This may take the form of facilitating traditional forms of co-production of public services or of helping establish new ways to co-produce. Wikipedia is a successful example of how citizens can co-produce public goods using ICTs.

Despite the rhetorical enthusiasm, governments have been slower than expected to adopt mechanisms to promote ICT-enabled co-production (Meijer, 2015, OECD, 2018a). In recent years, however, governments have started to roll out ambitious digital programmes in this direction. Examples include the Australian government’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) assistant avatar to facilitate access to government services for the disabled (OECD, 2018a), or the United Nations’ partnership with Microsoft to launch a social innovation hub to enable young women to start up their own businesses, by supporting them with ICT training and resources (OECD, 2018b).

In response to the rhetoric around ICT-enabled co-production, and governments’ emerging efforts to promote it at a large scale in practice, some scholars have expressed skepticism about the effects ICTs will have on co-production processes (Verschuere at al., 2012). For example, Criado and Villodre (2018) have pointed out that, just as ICTs created a “digital divide” as regards telecommunications have/have nots, “ICT-enabled co-production” may do a similar thing, enabling co-production in some scenarios whilst posing a barrier in other contexts, potentially even creating a “double digital divide”.

Indeed, even when looking at traditional co-production (without ICTs), a significant body of research had already found co-production to be highly uneven across government and citizens. For example, Ostrom (1996) sought to explain why certain communities self-organize to govern their commons through co-production, whilst others fail to do so.

  • Government barriers:
  • A shortage of finance, inadequate technical skills of staff and complex regulation
  • Resistance of professional staff to use ICTs in co-production.
  • Government enablers:
  • Government selection of lower cost ICT solutions, adequate staff training, government support to adapt regulation to ICT-enabled co-production.
  • Government solutions to restore trust between citizen and governments
  • Citizen barriers:
  • As regards demographic factors: less participation of older people and females in ICTs enabled co-produce than their younger and male counterparts. Citizens may decline to use ICTs because of their worries and negative emotions around technology, such as the fear of being humiliated by their grandchildren when using them.
  • A lack of trust in government, specific ethnic, social and language differences, and fearing disruption of traditional forms of social interaction are relevant.
  • Citizen enablers:
  • As regards demographic factors, enablers are related to running tailored technical training for citizens in order to overcome their barriers to use ICTs.
  • When ICTs help constitute new collaborations between citizens, this goes towards more co-production.

References

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  • Criado, I., & Villodre, J. (2018). Public employees in social media communities: Exploring factors for internal collaboration using social network analysis. First Monday, 23(4).
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