Research Handbook on Street-Level Bureaucracy
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Research Handbook on Street-Level Bureaucracy

The Ground Floor of Government in Context

Edited by Peter Hupe

When the objectives of public policy programmes have been formulated and decided upon, implementation seems just a matter of following instructions. However, it is underway to the realization of those objectives that public policies get their final substance and form. Crucial is what happens in and around the encounter between public officials and individual citizens at the street level of government bureaucracy. This Research Handbook addresses the state of the art while providing a systematic exploration of the theoretical and methodological issues apparent in the study of street-level bureaucracy and how to deal with them.
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Chapter 11: Street-level bureaucracy research and the impact of digital office technologies

Matilde Høybye-Mortensen

Abstract

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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