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New book on Public Governance

Head of the Center for Digital Transformation (CeDiT) is co-editor of a new book about digital administration and management. The aim is to develop a common understanding of concepts and theories that will strengthen the field.

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Leif Skiftenes Flak, lecturing

Professor Leif Skiftenes Flak is co-editor of the book Scientific Foundations of Digital Governance and Transformation - Concepts, Approaches and Challenges, published on Springer. The book represents an important knowledge base for understanding and describing the changes and the new reality of digitalisation. «Digital governance» has become an established field of study that includes management and service development in the public sector, and how this can be developed through the use of ICT. It is nevertheless a relatively young scientific branch, and the editors of the book - Leif Skiftenes Flak, Yannis Charalabidis and Gabriela Viale Pereira - saw a need for clarification of concepts as well as to establish a common frame of reference.

Presents knowledge and concepts

–The aim of the book has been to systematize research-based knowledge about the field called digital management and transformation. Today, digital management is an international field of research, but characterized by a certain conceptual confusion - researchers use different terms based on their own field and research tradition. There was a need for an updated overview that collects and systematizes concepts, basic principles, theories, methodology and tools in the field, says Flak.

As head of the Center for Digital Transformation (CeDiT), Flak represents a broad interdisciplinary team that researches the relationship between digital transformations and societies, organizations and individuals.

– Currently, the term digital transformation is used as a kind of sack term for technology-driven changes in, for example, management models, organizational structures and work processes, says Flak. It is important to remember that a few years ago, the term digitization was used with approximately the same meaning. And before that again, we talked about IT-based organizational change and process automation. These terms are still used interchangeably and the book will hopefully help to clear up a bit in how we use these. One important reason why more people have begun to use the term 'transformation' is probably that digital technologies and access to large amounts of data enable ever more profound changes.

An interdisciplinary approach

Digital management brings together perspectives from political science (public management) and information systems. The Department of Information Systems had from early on an interdisciplinary approach to digitization, and was already in the early 2000s central in establishing a Scandinavian research environment that focused on digitization of the public sector. Later, PhD student Frank Danielsen and Flak joined the ERASMUS + project GOV 3.0, where the purpose was to help consolidate digital management as an active scientific discipline. The project brought together researchers and practitioners from a number of countries, and developed a knowledge base with an overview of studies, courses and literature in the field. This formed the basis for the current book publication.

– The term digital transformation has received much attention in Information Systems and Management disciplines in recent years, but has been less used in public sector research. Thus, we risk studying similar phenomena in the public and private sectors with different concepts. One of the book chapters defines, for example, key concepts such as digitization, digitization and digital transformation. The concepts are basically general, but we exemplify them in the context of digital management. When we operate within a context of the public sector, it is of course positive with more awareness of the phenomenon also within political science, says Flak.

Data based decisions

An increasingly data-driven development in society requires a closer connection between different research fields. Therefore, CeDiT is also composed of representatives from various social science disciplines:

– We see that data increasingly forms the basis for public service development and decisions made in society. Such data can, for example, be sensor-generated environmental data that form the basis for climate control, or various types of personal data that can trigger fully or partially automated public services. It is useful to understand and interpret this development in a broad professional community, he says.

Other contributors to the book are PhD students Tove Sofia Engvall and Frank Danielsen, as well as Professor Øystein Sæbø.

Read more about the book here.