The rising income inequality – in 2013, the richest 10% earned 9.6 times the income of the poorest 10%, compared to 7.2 times in the 1980s; changing profile of poverty – from pensioners in the 1980s to the youth and families with children today; and growing evidence of the negative effect of inequality on social and economic stability; all make continuing provision of essential public services to all, i.e. independent of income levels, more important than ever. However, Public Service Delivery (PSD) is increasingly challenged by diverse social needs, ageing societies, digitally-savvy populations, economic pressure, income inequality, and unequal PSD conditions existing within and across countries. For example, the failure of PSD in many developing countries is not just due to the scarcity of resources but to the problems of incentives, accountability and governance that vary from one context to another. If the quality of PSD also differs from context to context, universal public service provision intended to reduce inequality would in fact do the opposite.
Context-specific PSD considers the uniqueness of the national, local or sectoral context to achieve the best match between the circumstances where a public service is delivered, the needs of the target audience and the standard of PSD agreed across contexts. An example is the UK Government’s “Delivering Differently in Neighbourhoods” programme that provides financial support and expert advice to local authorities in redesigning and co-delivering services at the local and neighborhood levels. Context-specific PSD requires various forms of innovation: creating and maintaining eco-systems of government agencies, businesses, non-profit organizations, universities, citizens and other actors that participate in the provision, consumption and intermediation in PSD; bringing services closer to consumers through, e.g. the provision of multi-service centers and the use of diverse delivery channels; learning about PSD locally and from around the word and adapting the knowledge to the local contexts; and digitizing PSD, tailoring services to individual needs, and delivering them through various digital channels using new social and organizational models.
The focus of the project is on digital innovation for context-specific PSD. The project will analyse PSD systems used in different national, local and sectoral contexts, including inputs from the United Nations Public Service Award, identify critical factors affecting the performance of PSD systems and how such factors differ from context to context, and examine how digital technology and digital innovation could be used to transform such systems and enhance their performance. The project will collect research findings; develop cases of digital innovation in context-specific PSD; propose policy recommendations for digital innovation in PSD ready for adaptation to different local and sectoral contexts; run two pilots to validate such recommendations in Portugal and Colombia; develop courseware on digital innovation in context-specific PSD, and deliver such courseware to Government Chief Information Officers and their counterparts responsible for Administrative Modernization in Portugal, Colombia and other countries.
Tavares, António; Soares, Delfina; and Estevez, Elsa. 2016. Electronic Governance for Context-Specific Public Service: a Survey of the Literature in Proceedings of the 9th International Conference on Theory and Practice of Electronic Governance (ICEGOV2016). pp. 135-138. ACM Press.
Nielsen, Morten. 2016. Governance and Online Service Delivery: The Danish Case in Joint Proceedings of IFIP EGOV-ePart 2016. IOS Press.
Lopes, Nuno; Soares, Delfina; Nielsen, Morten; and Tavares, António. 2017. Research Gaps on Public Service Delivery in Proceedings of the 10th International Conference on Theory and Practice of Electronic Governance (ICEGOV2017). pp. 465-474.ACM Press.