The added value brought by eGovPoliNet

The members of the Policy Community focus their efforts in the outline of guidelines for researching and deploying current and forthcoming ICT solutions for Governance and Policy Modelling in the Public Sector.

The value-add of an international community

The governments of the world are evolving toward a complex global network of political, societal, and economic dependencies, enabled in part by the expanding capabilities of information and communication technologies. As societies, democracies and economies differ worldwide in a number of important ways, the reasons for ICT supported governance and policy modelling —and the potential ICT solutions—are unlikely to be identical. It would be highly surprising, in fact, if ICT that helped in one society, democracy, and economy always had an identical effect in another. Therefore, eGovPoliNet will diversify across situations, countries, and problems, and consists of a team with expertise in a variety of socio-economic democratic situations. Repeated discussions with research partners over the past few years have also highlighted another curious asymmetry. In the US, the NSF has focused much of its DG funding on the research and development of new ICT, but the new products have not by and large met with much adoption in government. In contrast, in the EU the picture is rather the reverse. Government officials seem considerably more eager to try new ICT, learn about ICT, and attend e.g. e-government conferences. However, they report a relative absence of innovative new ICT compared to what they see being discussed at equivalent conferences in the US.

By working together, the Policy Community will address this asymmetry to some extent. The US partners can bring their knowledge of existing working R&D results to the study, while the EU partners can bring examples of places where this technology is needed and might find use, with the aim of engaging government partners who may be willing to try to use and/or promote the technology in their organisations. Even though the actual deployment of ICT is not the purpose of this project, considering real ICT tools and real government offices will greatly focus the discussion and drive the specificity of the reports produced. This is just an example why the focus of the Policy Community is not only on the European Union but also involves partners from America, Asia and Australia and seeks for nem members from all over the world to learn from their networks and approaches, and exchange skills and experiences with each other for mutual benefit.

An important rationale for international cooperation is therefore that individual nations or regions trying to solve complex problems and challenges can benefit from research, effective practices, and lessons learned in other countries and also appreciate how different cultural and political settings can lead to different results.  Conversely, the same unsolved problems that exist in different parts of the world may be made more understandable and tractable by collaboration across national boundaries. Through extended collaborative partnerships with many national and international agencies, universities, corporations, and NGOs, eGovPoliNet and Crossover can build up diverse linkages and exchanges across the different regions in the world.

The value-add of a multidisciplinary community

The eGovPoliNet identified the need for increased multidisciplinary and international cooperation and knowledge sharing in ICT supported Governance and Policy Modelling. Because of its inherently multi-disciplinary nature, digital governance and policy modelling research requires more collaboration than traditional academic research areas: an ideal project would include collaboration between socio-political scientists and practitioners (to help identify the general problem and outline its ‘ideal’ solution, whilst also analysing practical barriers and helping to overcome them with application of theoretical insights), ICT researchers (to help define and build the technology), organization and management specialists (to help evaluate the effectiveness of government with and without the new technology), and others.

Even further, because researchers in any one country have access to only their particular form(s) of government (at various levels), they are limited in exposure to the general case unless they collaborate across national boundaries. Thus an ideal project would be not only multi-disciplinary but also multi-national. The eGovPoliNet consortium unifies these different requirements. Crossover consortium counterbalances this with ties into practitioner environments.

The network can be used as a stepping stone for more-detailed and goal-oriented digital governance and policy modelling research and development. This area is one that benefits greatly from exposure to examples in multiple nations. In addition it is a large problem, requiring the insights and contributions of people across a wide range of disciplines, from experts in society and political process to experts in government procedure to experts in all facets of ICT.