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Digital Era Governance – a new chapter of public management theory and practice

Digital technologies profoundly influenced social and economic realities, making the world more difficult to govern. These changes reached public administration, including the New Public Management (NPM), a bureaucratic model that evolved from both the new institutional economics and the notion of managerialism, and has been gaining traction in developed countries since the beginning of the 1980s.


Wojciech Białożyt, Managing Director of WiseEuropa

NPM, which has been based on managerialism, decentralization, de-bureaucratization, privatization and a reduction of size and scope of the administration, passed its peak in the mid-2000s. States have been undergoing a ‘hollowing out’ process, losing their role of provider of public services and causing increasing citizens’ discontent as the NPM has been failing to deliver results. This has coincided with the accelerating development of the notion of governance, a model based on powersharing and the participation of citizens in the co-creation of institutional order and co-design of public services. Such governance, however difficult it may be to define clearly, has, in contrast to NPM, taken into account social phenomena that traditional examinations of government and public administration have overlooked.

The transformational role of the internet had a fundamental impact on the relations between governmental institutions and citizens. The internet has accordingly paved the way for the emergence of a new public administration model: Digital Era Governance (DEG) in which digital technologies are in the center of governments’ organizational structures. As simple digitization of bureaucratic proceedings has no longer been delivering recognizable results, DEG embraces the permeation of government by the culture of internet. The key features of the Digital Era Governance and its more advanced version – Essentially Digital Governance (EDGE) are reintegration (referring to the architecture of state administration), need-based holism (focusing on citizens’ needs) and digitization changes (concerning cultural, social and technological adaptation).

DEG and EDGE both challenge public administration, requiring its internal and external opening, and lead to an administrative set-up characterized by simplification, automation of daily bureaucratic work and flexibility in delivering services. While the NPM model still remains strong in many countries, its impact is diminishing and alternative scenarios can be drawn concerning how DEG and EDGE will be entering the practice of government and public administration in the years to come.

The text is an abstract of an article which was published in the MAZOVIA Regional Studies.

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