A sociotechnical network perspective on egovernment technologies
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A sociotechnical network perspective on egovernment technologies. Shailey Minocha Steve Walker http://egov4u.open.ac.uk @OUegov4u. Technology and government – what have the Romans ever done for us?

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A sociotechnical network perspective on egovernment technologies

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A sociotechnical network perspective on egovernment technologies

Shailey Minocha

Steve Walker



  • Technology and government – what have the Romans ever done for us?

  • Drew on the financial capital of Rome to mobilisethe human capital of the sculptors, and the organisational capital and communication networksrecessary to transport it to southern Egypt

  • “His calm distant gaze, emphasised with inset eyes of glass and stone, give him an air of quiet, assured strength” – Reputational capital supportingthe maintenance of Empire

  • But.. Still carries the imprint of desert sand after Kushite armies decapitated it and put the head in the steps to a temple – technologies can be challenged and rejected….

Caesar August us

(c. 25BC), BritishMuseum

The technical and the social

  • Avoid technocratic, technologically determinist views

  • Sociotechnical networks

    • A more socialised view of technologies

    • Heterogeneous elements

    • Linked by protocols, rules

  • Social and technology-in-use are inseparable

  • Draws on Kling et al (2003)’s sociotechnical interaction network

E-government - ‘Digital by default’

  • Channel Shift

  • Government services like Amazon.com

  • Track a blood sample like a delivery

  • FixMyStreet

  • Satisfied ‘consumers’

But… digital exclusion

  • 1.2 million young adults are excluded on cost, lack of fixed address and lack of access to the internet;

  • 1.4 million sheltered seniors are excluded on cost, fear of change and lack of access to practical support;

  • 2.7 million people aged over 55 are excluded on issues of trust, knowledge, motivation and skill;

  • 2.2 million are un-persuaded by the benefits of the internet. (Klein, 2011)

  • HMRC

  • Not just a simple technology divide

    • TaxWiz register for small business

      • Not designed for tax agents (main users)

      • Too complex for non-specialist

      • Non-compliance

      • Non-availability of (actual) broadband (Charted Institute of Taxation, 2011

      • Use existing paper forms as checklists for online (ICAEW, 2011)

      • Claims about the success of online corporation tax predate implementation (TTT)

    Sociotechnical network (Kling)

    • ‘User’ replaced by ‘social actor’ or ‘participant’

    • Ecological view – looking beyond simple relationships between artefacts as users;

    • Technology open to local adaptation and social influence; creative use


    Networks are constitutedin the space formed

    by the interaction of


    Some ‘heuristics’

    • Identify a relevant population of system interactors

    • Identify core interactor groups

    • Identify incentives

    • Identify excluded actors and undesired interactios

    • Identify existing communication forums

    • Identify system architectural choice points

    • Identify resource flows (Kling, 2003)

    Urban Access

    Urban Access database & web site

    Data about

    Restaurants etc

    Retrieve data

    Update data

    Issue: how is this data gathered and verified, and by whom?

    Visitors, residents etc

    National Mobility Assoc members

    Agricultural Community Learning

    EU data

    National/localegov portal

    Online marketing

    Agricultural Worker Learning Centre


    Issue: aiming training at families who can support less literate, older agricultural workers


    Capitals and ST networks

    Human – attributes of individual human nodes, including skills to interact with other people (communication skills) and technological nodes (computer literacy)

    Social – structure and strength of ties between human nodes and associated access to resources, including ICT-mediated connections

    Environmental – applications residing in technological nodes

    Infrastructural – communications networks and devices supporting applications

    Organisational – properties of organisational actors (which are emergent, including from the sociotechnical networks which comprise them)

    Financial – financial resources required and generated by STN

    Reputational – perceptions of other network elements (in the case of technological nodes, closely related to the concept of ‘technological frames’)


    e-government applications as sociotechnical networks

    Closely intertwined with the social and sociotechnical networks of people’s lives

    Access not simply on/off, even for the digitally ‘included’

    Offers a way of operationalising our capitals framework in considering specific instances of technology

    Refs tbc

    Klein, D. (2011) cited in Stokes, T. (2011) Digital by default and the digitally excluded, LASA at: http://www.lasa.org.uk/blog/detail/digital-by-default-and-the-digitally-excluded/

    Kling, R., Mckim, G. & King, A. (2003) A bit more to it: Scholarly communication forums as socio- technical interaction networks. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 54, 47-67.

    Lawson, C. (2008) An Ontology of Technology: Artefacts, Relations and Functions. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology, 12.

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