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TROPICO at a glance

24 Jul 2018 | Published by Julia Fleischer


How do governments in Europe use information and communication technology (ICT) in designing policies and deliver public services – and does it make a difference? The TROPICO project brings together an inter-disciplinary team of researchers to investigate the recent digital turn in public sectors across ten European countries.

Our overall project design is simple but straightforward: First, we investigate the institutional and individual drivers and barriers for applying ICT for policy formulation and policy implementation (pillar 1). This includes rules and laws and other regulations as well as personal traits such as trust and collaborative attitude.

Then we continue with in-depth case studies on internal and external policy design (pillar 2) as well as on internal and external service delivery (pillar 3). We finish by assessing the impact of ICT-based collaboration on legitimacy and efficiency (pillar 4).

Our project is well aware of sectoral dynamics that may influence how and for which purposes governments may apply ICT. Nevertheless, we opted against a selection of particular policies to enable a broader range of findings with higher generalizability. The first empirical fieldwork is therefore conducted in various sectors and government functions, ranging from waste collection procurement to the use of electronic sustainability assessments before drafting policy proposals, the operation of governmental social media platforms or ICT-based programs run by government agencies in the fields of societal resilience and disaster management.

As a starting point, we expect significant differences between public sectors according to their institutional set-up and administrative traditions that are well-known to shape traditional (or analogue) decision-making in both formulating policies and delivering services (see here). Yet our first findings from the relevance of these institutional drivers and barriers of digital transformation in public sectors show that the “maze of regulations” is not necessarily less impenetrable in countries considered to be frontrunners in applying ICT in government (see D2.3).

Quite to the contrary, openness and innovation in ICT-based collaboration seems to need a certain “regulatory net” that clarifies objectives and formulates standards.

The next steps in TROPICO research will look closer into the individual drivers and barriers to ICT-based collaboration and will exemplify with real-life cases in various public sector authorities which role ICT plays in collaboration in and by governments.