3 Disruptive Advances in Public Management Information Systems

3 Disruptive Advances in Public Management Information Systems

Management information systems are an integral part of public administration, allowing them to manage programs that serve citizens, increase accountability and transparency, and make important decisions that affect communities and citizens. These systems and the evolving technologies that enable them bring together society’s useful innovations and beneficial resources. Digital services that government organizations have launched allow many more people to stay informed on matters of public interest, and connect people to each other through websites and mobile devices.

The transformation of processes, products and services that affect organizations is referred to as digital disruption — Clayton M. Christensen’s “disruptive innovation” created through emerging computing and aligning technologies. Disruption can occur in almost any industry. It causes organizations to reevaluate how they function administratively, how they conduct research, and in the case of government agencies, how they communicate and engage with the public. Further, digital disruption in the public sector can enable an expansion of services to its wider community. The following are three examples of game-changing innovations that are having a disruptive impact on information systems management in public administration.

Cloud Computing

Organizations use cloud computing to manage, store and process data and software programs which can then be accessed online by servers managed outside an organization, freeing those organizations from the overhead of information technology management and allowing them to focus their energies on delivering products and services to their constituencies. These remote network servers are offered by third-party firms that rent, lease, or provide pay-as-you-go plans for their cloud-related services. In public administration and government operations, cloud computing services bring the promise of substantial benefits.

There are cost savings associated with cloud computing due to potential savings in operating e-government programs. Governments can outsource the storage and maintenance of their programs to cloud providers without additional agency-owned and agency-operated IT resources. Ease of use and scalability are other plusses. Government agencies have the ability to access their data at any time in a simple, straightforward way, enabling government programs to focus on their core business of serving communities and citizens. Another advantage lies in the ability to more rapidly and cost effectively respond to changing IT environments, as government competitive procurement processes, required for transparency and accountability, are notoriously difficult to manage efficiently.

Concerns regarding cloud computing include assuring the security and privacy of government information, and providing required audit capability. Public organizations using cloud computing providers must have the capacity to confirm vendors securely handle all data. Information stored in the cloud requires the same level of protection as data that remains stored locally by the public organization itself.

Information Goods

‘Information goods’ differ from ordinary goods in that these goods represent the value that information has once it is read, used or consumed. The worth of public information results from the vast amount of information inherent in big data, and increased connectivity that allows information from multiple sources to be combined into meaningful depictions of an organization’s operations or public needs and interest. In public management, this concept comes into play in regard to open government, whenever a government agency makes data available for public use in an effort to increase transparency, accountability and public engagement.

Public information goods are also non-excludable, which means all people can use it, regardless of the funding sources that made the data collection and information availability possible. Generally, information goods are non-rivalrous, signifying that the consumption of information won’t reduce the amount of information available to others, though massive simultaneous requests for access can flood some systems making them somewhat congested. Examples of this rare congestion include searches for specific election night results on government websites, and aid requests to FEMA immediately after disaster strikes. Data.gov is one federal government clearinghouse or open data website. Vast amounts of data are available with the direct goal of making government more accountable, assisting public and private companies with decision making, providing researchers with raw data for analysis, and creating economic development opportunities. This data is available equally to all public parties. The number of open government resources for public viewing continues to grow, from national-level data such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Agriculture to local sources like Los Angeles Open Data and DataSF in San Francisco. Analysis of the data becomes its own valued good, as individual researchers, firms, and public organizations work at turning raw data into usable knowledge to address specific questions in public affairs and policy development.

The Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (or IOT) is another disruptive force. The IOT represents the multitude of physical objects equipped with smart sensors, offering the capability to wirelessly upload local data for combined storage and collecting. These devices have the potential to not only change the ways in which machines interact with each other, but to offer new ways for governments and public managers to communicate and share information with the public. Connecting nearly all the operations of cities — including hospitals, roads, parks and beyond — can change the way public officials build city infrastructures and develop and maintain transportation. The data gathered can provide real-time information to keep citizens safer and enhance emergency response to natural and man-made disasters. In addition, the Internet of Things benefits how government agencies are run and how they provide services to citizens. The enhanced connectivity can help with increasing monitoring capabilities for cybersecurity, securing mobile communications, and reducing the use of energy resources. Early examples of the IOT at work in publicly-oriented agencies include smart electric meters (and the smart electric grid), as well as the transportation system monitoring essentials for the launching of autonomous vehicles.

Despite the negative connotation of disruption, digital disruption is having a positive impact on the world of public sector computing, and promises to bring even more progressive changes. Public and government agencies prepared to stay current and embrace these advances have the greatest potential to most quickly pass the benefits of modern technologies to the people they serve.

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If you seek to change the world on a local, national, or global level, the University of San Francisco is a great place to boost your aptitudes, knowledge and skills. By learning more about the University of San Francisco Online Master of Public Administration (MPA), you take an important step toward pursuing your professional goals and fulfilling your individual commitment to social justice. Our program is designed for professionals who want to become more influential and effective managers and civic leaders who effect change through policy management and advocacy.

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