Academic journal article Canadian Public Administration

Information Governance in Digitized Public Administration

Academic journal article Canadian Public Administration

Information Governance in Digitized Public Administration

Article excerpt

What information needs to be created and acquired; for what purposes; who will have access to it; will information be shared, combined, and integrated to solve increasingly interconnected problems; will it be used to promote political and public debate and genuine stakeholder participation; who will own and control the information; how will its security, integrity and value be protected; and who will be responsible for making decisions about these issues? (Lipchak 2002: 3)

Information is, along with money and people, a core resource of public administration. It informs decision-making about public policy and public management, supports the provision of services to the public and constitutes a service in itself; it provides a record of government activity for current and future use, and by extension is the basis for accountability within the public sector and to Parliament and the public. Information ("nodality") is one of the four essential tools of government (Hood 1983). A considerable part of government activity is founded on the collection, production, processing, analysis, use and reuse, dissemination, protection, disposal and long-term retention of information. This information life-cycle underpins all areas of public administration (1) and is particularly important in those touching on the relationship between government and society, including service to the public, public communications, access to information and protection of personal information (privacy) and of sensitive information held by the State (security).

An essential characteristic of information is that it can be held in many forms and transmitted through many media. These technological variables have shaped the nature and reach of government. Public administration in 1867, which depended on paper and the postal service, was by 1917 transformed by the typewriter and telephone; by 1967 it was absorbing electronic data processing and photocopiers; and in 2017 it is operating in the digital environment of mobile networks and big data. Earlier forms persist, and each new wave of technology has added to government capacity but also to the complexity of managing its information.

Information governance is an emerging concept that captures the more purposeful approach to government information that is required in the digital era, where information assumes an even more central role (Hood and Margetts 2007). It is both relatively new and still being defined. An umbrella concept, information governance incorporates consideration of policies, procedures and technologies that are essential to managing information and data through their life cycle (Kooper, Maes and Roos Lindreen 2011).

It also seeks to encourage behaviours in people and institutions that foster an information-centred organizational culture. The focus is on the body of information available to an institution, complementing information management's more traditional focus on individual records and items of information. As stated by a private sector-supported think tank, information governance concerns "the activities and technologies that organizations employ to maximize the value of their information while minimizing associated risks and costs" (Information Governance Initiative 2013-2016).

Information governance in digitized public administration, then, is about the capacity to make effective use of all information resources (records, published, electronically-held data) that lie at the heart of governance and public administration. The nature of a government's information holdings--of what it knows--is as complex as government itself, providing its memory, on the one hand, and raw material for its current and future activities on the other. Government information is also of critical importance to the economy and society as a whole; much of it is sensitive, to the individuals and corporations from whom it is collected and to the national interest, and requires special handling in order to maintain its integrity and continued availability. …

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