Forschungs- & Entwicklungsinformationsdienst der Gemeinschaft - CORDIS

Final Report Summary - TRANSLATEINSTITUTION (Translating Institutions. Digitization of Administrative Data Assets as Redesign of the Modernist State)

* Description of the project rationale and main objectives
Rationale. Over the last three decades the digitization of administrative procedures and information flows has deeply affected practices of state-making. However, scarce attention has been paid to the interplay of organizational, political, technological and cultural dimensions of such major change. Scholarship in ICT and government has usually found it hard to avoid deterministic approaches aimed at measuring the impact of ICT on the state. Conversely, works in the Science and Technology Studies (STS) domain have stressed how material, cultural and normative conditions of technology production affect the emergence of new techno-political orders. Since it is thanks to the engagement with the manufactured milieu that modern political entities redefine the meanings of citizenship, legitimate power, territorial authority, and their constitutional epistemic boundaries, no research that aims to investigate incipient forms of authority can avoid following the processes through which technology-making interacts with governance-making.
Overall objective. By adopting a co-production stance, the "Translating Institutions" research aims to investigate which novel subjects of authority and geographies of sovereignty are emerging from the re-design of administrative information infrastructures due to the digitization of governmental data assets. The assumption that drives this research is that processes of digitization of public administrations' information infrastructures are ideal sites to observe the reordering of authority at different scales and among heterogeneous sectors.
On a disciplinary level, this research asks whether and how Science and Technology Studies' post-modernist epistemology can undertake a mutually enriching dialogue with political science's insights about novel forms of authority emerging in the global era. It hypothesizes that the digitization of information infrastructures in institutional settings is challenging the existing institutional order and triggering emergent actors, divergent information-policy hierarchies, novel subjects of authority and procedures of legitimacy.
To achieve the overall objective of this research, three sets of questions have been addressed, corresponding to as many fault lines along which institutional boundaries have been constituted in Modernity:
- National/Local: how are authority and accountability redistributed between local and regional authorities, on one hand, and national agencies, on the other, along with processes of digitization of governmental information infrastructures?
- Technological/Political: how does the massive import of technical expertise needed by digitization programs cope with the expected supremacy of legal knowledge in a government context?
- Public/Private: how are extant hierarchies changing because of the introduction in the ganglia of the Public of hyper-specific technical knowledge held mainly by suppliers? Through which practices is the Public/Private binary re-established or eroded?

* Description of the work performed since the beginning of the project
The project has been carried on in Italy and The Netherlands over the period September 2013 – August 2015. In Italy the project has mainly addressed the National/Local and Technological/Political binaries. It has focused on the integration of personal data databases between local authorities – which are responsible for civil registers of the resident population, regions and ministerial agencies – which formally own those data. The research was conducted through participant observation, interviews and technical and policy document analysis. It has investigated how technical decisions that take place at the micro-operative level can entail unnoticed shifts in authority and functions in institutional relationships between local and national authorities.
In The Netherlands the project has mainly addressed the Public/Private and Technological/Political binaries. On one hand, it has focused on the so called “System of Authentic Registers” (Basis Registratie Stelsel), and in particular on the integration of personal data between national authorities – which manage the civil registers of the resident population – and privatized government agencies that use those data in their daily operations. It has focused specifically on the twenty-year old integration of the Dutch Kadaster’s land registry and property databases with the national register of personal data (Gementelijke Basis Administratie Persoon – GBA). The research has investigated how sociotechnical decisions taken throughout twenty years of incremental development have allowed the Kadaster to keep control of the whole integration process, and avoid vendor lock-ins that are rather diffused in other governmental setting in The Netherlands.
On the other hand, the project has investigated the workings of the Dutch parliamentary Commission on ICT failures. The Commission was established in 2012 as one of the eight research commissions required by the “Future and Research Agenda 2012” approved by the Lower House of the Dutch Parliament in late 2011. The ICT commission was tasked to report on the causes of the alleged high failure rates in informatization projects in the public sector. The research investigated the diverse interpretations of “ICT failure” given by the different stakeholders involved by the Commission (e.g., public officers, ministries, consultants, SMEs, politicians), and analysed how the way the media framed “failure” led not only to pressing parliamentary agendas, but also to changes in inter-ministerial organization and distribution of functions.

* Overview of the main results achieved and their potential socio-economic impact and use
Results are briefly summarized from the three case studies analysed.
Case 1 (Italy). The process of information system integration centralized the relationships between municipalities and the Ministry of Interior (MoI), with the role of ultimate data certifier shifting from municipalities (responsible for data collection, management and certification by law) to a plug-in embedding formal criteria decided by the MoI. However, contrarily to most accounts on the power of information flows, this case does not show that, by crossing institutional boundaries, information flows empower data receivers at the expenses of data providers. Rather, it shows that the integration of government registers do not entail a zero-sum redistribution of information but rather triggers brand new actors/tasks arrangements. In other words, the true innovation of government digitization programs is the introduction of previously not included actors.
This research contributes to the scholarship on power and information flows (especially studies in the so called Information Society and the scholarship on “iGovernment”) by developing the “Vectorial Glance” framework. The VG framework contributes to the research agenda that investigates the redistribution of authority and accountability entailed by more and more integrated governmental information systems by suggesting a materialist and performative approach. For example, the VG approach allowed me to show that the integration of government information systems does not entail a zero-sum redistribution of information but rather triggers brand new actors/tasks arrangements. See Pelizza, A. (2015), ‘Developing the Vectorial Glance: Infrastructural inversion for the new agenda on governmental information systems’, Science, Technology and Human Values. Published online ahead of print on 29 July 2015. DOI: 10.1177/0162243915597478.
Target groups: Information Society and “iGovernment” scholars, public decision-makers, public administrations, information systems designers. This evidence is expected to have implications for the design of ICT governmental projects that affect Local/National relationships.

Case 2 (The Netherlands, parliamentary Commission on ICT failures). The analysis reconstructed how the “government ICT project failures” issue was built by different actors jointly working to set the parliamentary agenda. First, by media, then professionals and academics, then by the same parliamentary Commission on ICT and finally the Dutch Parliament and Government. The research found out that the media framed failures in governmental information infrastructures by adopting two unquestioned assumptions. First, that failures had to be addressed government-wide, rather than at the level of individual departments or ministries. Second, that failures resulted only from technical shortcomings. The resulting “failing governmental ICT projects” issue was seamlessly adopted by Parliament, which—instead of proposing a counter-frame – scaled it up to the political agenda. This media-originated specific interpretation of the issue steered the direction of action toward specific administrative and inter-government solutions, i.e., centralization of operational management functions under one Ministry, instead distribution among different ministries.
This research shows that the way ICT failures are initially framed by the media and then adopted, un-problematized, by Parliament can shape the landscape of possible organizational alliances, thus challenging the existing inter-ministerial organization. See Pelizza, A. and Hoppe, R. (2015), ‘Birth of a Failure: Consequences of framing ICT projects for the centralization of inter-departmental relations’, Administration and Society. Published online ahead of print on 07 August 2015. DOI: 10.1177/0095399715598343.
Target groups: Policy-makers, parliaments, ministries. This evidence is expected to have implications for the policy making and management of large-scale governmental ICT projects. In particular, the article recommends a proactive role of parliaments dealing with ICT failures.

Case 3: (The Netherlands, Dutch Kadaster). The research has identified a number of techno-social decisions that over the years have allowed the Dutch Kadaster to keep control of their ICT programs and internally develop specific competences, while avoiding vendor lock-ins-like situations when developing and deploying projects at all scales. Notably, informal devices for proximity knowledge management have turned out to be crucial.
Target groups: STS and Computer Supported Cooperative Work scholars, public officers and decision-makers, public administration employees. These results can be used as guidelines for procurement processes. Furthermore, this evidence is expected to have implications for mid- and long-term ICT policies of sub-national, national and trans-national governments.

* Contact details: Dr. Pelizza, Annalisa, University of Twente | Faculty of Behavioural, Management & Social Sciences | department of Science, Technology and Policy Studies
T +31 (0)53 489 2709 | Email|
P.O. box 217, 7500 AE Enschede, Nederland

Verwandte Informationen

Dokumente und Veröffentlichungen

Reported by



Scientific Research
Folgen Sie uns auf: RSS Facebook Twitter YouTube Verwaltet vom Amt für Veröffentlichungen der EU Nach oben