The Ground Floor of Government in Context
Edited by Peter Hupe
Chapter 11: Street-level bureaucracy research and the impact of digital office technologies
All around the world, it is hoped that digital technologies will enhance the effectiveness of public administration. In this chapter the concept of digital office technology is unpacked in order to get a more differentiated understanding of the empirical phenomena concerned. This is important if researchers want to grasp the consequences of office technologies for street-level work. The term office technologies refers to technologies applied by individual street-level bureaucrats as part of their work, be it in interactions with citizens or when performing administrative tasks. The chapter outlines two different types of approaches to the impact from digital technologies on street-level bureaucrats: a deterministic and a pragmatic type. It makes a case for a pragmatic approach, since there is no indication that street-level discretion will disappear with the use of digital office technologies. The suggestion is that the technologies are not just managerial instruments which impact street-level bureaucrats but an infrastructure which is shaped by how it is used by them.
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