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Exploring Digital Government Transformation in the EU: understanding public sector innovation in a data-driven society

This study supported JRC research on digital government and digital transformation. The key aim of the study was to explore the latest changes in the way public governing is perceived and exercised, by taking into account the new digital technologies including artificial intelligence and big data. The team has developed a conceptual framework, carried out the state of the art review, implemented four experimental case studies, developed scenarios for the future and suggested policy and research recommendations. The study team organised a number of events and workshops in order to test the validity of its findings and gather additional insights. The study team produced a number of outputs that included two JRC Science for Policy Reports, a policy brief, JRC Technical Report and JRC Conference and Workshop Report. The main publication, based on the final report, could be accessed on the JRC website

The underlying conclusion of the study was that the public sector is being reimagined in various (yet contested) ways as ubiquitous service provider, which is also expected to make sure that people understand what is going on, feel involved and feel ownership of public decisions. It is partly normative and partly pragmatic understanding of the ongoing transformation, which assumes a rather optimistic scenario built on participation, trust and open innovation. Nevertheless, dystopian scenarios are also plausible, if governments use the new technologies to exercise social control or online platforms manage to turn their market power into political power. The empirical case studies revealed a mixed picture, providing both examples of innovative use of technology as well as its limits. Eventually, the realisation of one or another scenario will depend on a variety of factors, including societal leadership, administrative capacity and the resilience of societies in view of trends towards fragmentation and informational echo chambers.