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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

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
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
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
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
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
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
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

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
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
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
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.