Experts and e-government: Power, influence and the capture of a policy domain in the UK

Horrocks, Ivan (2009). Experts and e-government: Power, influence and the capture of a policy domain in the UK. Information, Communication and Society, 12(1) pp. 110–127.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/13691180802109030

Abstract

This paper argues that as e-government has increasingly come to dominate the policy agenda for the delivery of public services so it has simultaneously acted as a fundamental mechanism for increasing the power and influence of “experts”: i.e. the IT consultancy industry, and its supporters within government and public services. The result is the emergence of a power loop in which consultants occupy influential positions in government and public policy circles and then act as powerful agents in promoting both the development of e-government “solutions” and the technology and expertise these require to “deliver” the promised outcomes. This creates further opportunities for shaping and controlling e-government policy, and for more “experts” to enter the e-government environment, so increasing the power and influence of the “consultocracy”. The loop is thus self perpetuating and, more importantly, enduring, due to the ideological and cultural environment which surrounds and underpins it. The paper concludes by arguing that while it was, and remains, the case that there are legitimate reasons why the consultancy industry has a role in government and public services, the extent of the power and influence of the industry and its supporters in the e-government policy domain, and over the technological capability on which e-government depends, poses significant questions as to whose interests the industry best serves. Furthermore, whether this is detrimental to the development of best value/cost effective systems to deliver public services, and whether the basis and extent of these relations undermines the credibility and legitimacy of the policy process, and thus of democratic governance generally, remains an open question.

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