A Handbook of Comparative Social Policy
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A Handbook of Comparative Social Policy

Edited by Patricia Kennett

The current context of social policy is one in which many of the old certainties of the past have been eroded. The predominantly inward-looking, domestic preoccupation of social policy has made way for a more integrated, international and outward approach to analysis which looks beyond the boundaries of the state. It is in this context that this Handbook brings together the work of key commentators in the field of comparative analysis in order to provide comprehensive coverage of contemporary debates and issues in cross-national social policy research.
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Chapter 22: Informational Society, E-Governance and the Policy Process

Ian Holliday


Ian Holliday The rapid development of information technology (IT) is currently affecting many spheres of economic, social and political life. In social policy sectors, the impacts are already considerable, and seem likely to intensify as existing IT applications are implemented and further advances are made. This chapter analyses the current and prospective implications of informational society and e-governance for the policy process in general, and social policy in particular. It begins by examining the nature of informational society and egovernance before turning to key policy issues. Informational society For some analysts, the IT advances of the past half-century or so, and particularly of the past two decades with the emergence first of the personal computer and secondly of the Internet, constitute nothing less than a revolution that will transform every aspect of human life. Castells, the leading information age guru, argues that the IT revolution is ‘at least as major an historical event as was the eighteenth-century industrial revolution’ (Castells, 2000a: 29). Its sheer speed and reach mean that its effects may be even greater than the industrialization changes that have swept the globe since about 1750. As Castells notes, ‘dominant functions, social groups and territories across the globe are connected at the dawn of the twenty-first century in a new technological system that, as such, started to take shape only in the 1970s’ (Castells, 2000a: 33). Although information age impacts are not yet universal even in societies at the forefront of IT progress, and in many under-developed societies...

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