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Digital government fails to live up to expectations

Originally posted on The Horizons Tracker.

Governments around the world have been enthusiastic investors in digital technology in the hope of providing a better service to stakeholders. New research1 from the University of Birmingham suggests that many of these investments have failed to meet expectations.

The authors explain that governments have often been bewitched by the allure of digital solutions to a whole range of social and economic challenges. They outline, however, that the returns from these investments have been negligible.

No silver bullet

The reality is that digital technology offers few silver bullets and instead comes with various risks and downsides. This misguided perception has led to a limited degree of regulatory oversight, which with generative AI on the horizon could be problematic.

“As a society we have become enchanted with digital technology. We have been told by companies and governments that it holds the solutions to some of our greatest challenges with little to no negative impacts and the price we pay for it is a largely unregulated sector for the sake of ‘progress’, the researchers explain. “But this is a fairytale constructed by tech industry leaders and peddled by politicians for years, and we are only just starting to realize this.”

They outline that policymakers are slowly introducing regulations, such as the Digital Service Act and the Digital Markets Act introduced by the EU, there has been insufficient interest in the interaction between digital technologies and the often messy world they operate in.

Unconstrained innovation

With a rush to develop some form of an effective regulatory framework for AI, they believe there needs to be a more rational and clear-eyed assessment of the true costs and benefits of new technologies, with a greater desire for evidence that they can deliver the promises they make.

“For too long we have been engrossed in the myth that unconstrained innovation and emerging technologies will solve our problems for us without taking into account the adverse impacts this tech is likely to cause. It is incredibly hard to meaningfully extract ourselves from that narrative,” the authors conclude.

“We need a thought-out and sophisticated response to this digital enchantment, based on a realistic and evidence-based understanding of technology, its relationship with society and legal regulation. We need to consider the worst-case scenarios so that we can take the steps necessary to make sure this technology serves us, rather than the other way around.”

Article source: Digital Government Fails To Live Up To Expectations.

Header image source: Created from Gerd Altmann on Pixabay and PNG ALL CC BY-NC 4.0.


  1. Yeung, K. (2023). Dispelling the Digital Enchantment. Prometheus, 39(1), 8-27.
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Adi Gaskell

I'm an old school liberal with a love of self organizing systems. I hold a masters degree in IT, specializing in artificial intelligence and enjoy exploring the edge of organizational behavior. I specialize in finding the many great things that are happening in the world, and helping organizations apply these changes to their own environments. I also blog for some of the biggest sites in the industry, including Forbes, Social Business News, Social Media Today and, whilst also covering the latest trends in the social business world on my own website. I have also delivered talks on the subject for the likes of the NUJ, the Guardian, Stevenage Bioscience and CMI, whilst also appearing on shows such as BBC Radio 5 Live and Calgary Today.

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