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Valuable digitalisation: how local government can play the ‘technology game’ in the public’s interest

Digital transformation Innovation Telehealth Public consultation Collaborative governance Netherlands

This report looks at digitalisation in various ways from the perspective of local politicians and policy makers. We describe the need to guide technical innovation in a socially responsible manner and the role that politicians and policy makers play in this regard (Chapter 2); we discuss how digital technology can and cannot bolster local democracy (Chapter 3); we show how local authorities increasingly present themselves as a platform for innovation (Chapter 4); and we address the use of digital technology to improve municipal services (Chapter 5).

Our approach to digital innovation and the associated use of technologies has an impact on the economy, government, people’s work and social lives, and the physical environment. In short, it is shaping the society of the future. At the same time, digitalisation processes are difficult to predict and to control. Politicians and policy makers, including local ones, can neither slow the pace of digitalisation nor ignore it. Its impact is simply too immense. Randomly encouraging digitalisation is also ill-advised, however. Government is there to serve the general interest and politicians and policy makers must therefore let public values (ranging from efficiency to privacy and control over technology) inform this process and transform digitalisation.

The ideas presented in this essay can be traced back to five crucial processes in what we refer to here as the ‘innovative technology game’:

  1. assessing public values
  2. experimenting
  3. seizing opportunities
  4. mitigating risks
  5. working and learning together 

We have distilled ten perspectives, or ‘sightlines’, from these processes to guide the actions of local politicians and policy makers in this domain.

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