New article: Open innovation in the public sector: drivers and barriers for the adoption of

Screen Shot 2017-04-24 at 9.02.16 PMA forthcoming special issue on Digital Government and Public Management in Public Management Review includes one of my articles titled “Open innovation in the public sector: drivers and barriers for the adoption of“.


Here is the abstract:

Online Open Innovation (OI) platforms like are used to post public sector problem statements, collect and evaluate ideas submitted by citizens with the goal to increase government innovation. Using quantitative data extracted from contests posted to and qualitative interviews with thirty-six public managers in fourteen federal departments contribute to the discovery and analysis of intra-, inter, and extra-organizational factors that drive or hinder the implementation of OI in the public sector. The analysis shows that system-inherent barriers hinder public sector organizations to adopt this procedural and technological innovation. However, when the mandate of the innovation policy aligns with the mission of the organization, it opens opportunities for change in innovation acquisition and standard operating procedures.

KEYWORDS: Online Open Innovation platforms, barriers for e-government adoption, government innovation, crowdsourcing innovations

See more information on RG.


Mergel, I. (in press): Open innovation in the public sector: drivers and barriers for the adoption of Special Issue: Digital Government and Public Management, in: Public Management Review, XX:X, pp. xxx-xxx.


Social Intranets in the Public Sector

Mergel_IBM_SocialIntranet_GraphicSocial intranets are in-house social networking sites that use technologies – such as automated newsfeeds, wikis, chats, or blogs – to create engagement opportunities among employees. They also include the use of internal profile pages that help people identify expertise and interest (similar to Facebook or LinkedIn profiles), and are used in combination with other social Intranet tools such as online communities or newsfeeds. Employees can follow each others updates, automatically receive push information from newsfeeds or curated newsletters on specific topics, or collaboratively create knowledge.

In addition to external social media tools, other communication mechanisms are used inside organizations to communicate news, task-oriented information, or informal information among employees. Standard internal communication tools include:

  • E-mails to disseminate information among a limited number of recipients
  • Newsletters with aggregated information that a department deems important to share with all employees
  • Relatively static intranet pages
  • Listservs—electronic mailing lists used to distribute specific content to its subscribers
  • Physical face-to-face interactions in meetings, hallways, office spaces, or conference rooms

Social intranets support the creation of topical discussion threads that can be read across the whole organization. Discussions evolve among employees who otherwise wouldn’t have an opportunity to know about each other’s expertise on a topic, and other employees who can passively listen to these discussions to absorb useful information for their own task environment. The connections employees create on the social intranet can be interpreted as articulated knowledge networks: Employees with similar interests connect to each other and thereby create networks through which they share knowledge.

Other than shared hard drives, email lists, or shared documents, social Intranets allow the whole organization to participate in knowledge creation and exchange activities. Sharing is not limited to a pre-defined group, team, or limited to a siloed departmental structure. Instead, employees can opt into topical newsfeeds and passively absorb the shared information.

In the U.S., the Department of Defense has created milSuite, allowing access for active military personnel and civilian contractors. Other social Intranet platforms include the Department of State’s Corridor connecting employees worldwide in embassies with the Washington, DC, operations. The Intelligence Community has created iSpace to break down intelligence sharing silos. NASA has launched a site called SpaceBook, that was never scaled up to the whole organization and only parts of social Intranet survived. Internationally, GCconnex is connecting the whole government of Canada to allow employees to collaborate on government-wide topics across geographically dispersed locations and in the The Netherlands, the online social networking site Pleio is used to share best practices across otherwise disconnected government entities. For a more comprehensive overview of the cases see IBM Center for the Business of Government’s Social Intranet report (Mergel 2016).

Benefits of social Intranets

Social intranets make communication patterns, networks, and the location of an organizational knowledge sources visible across organizational boundaries. Employees follow each other on internal social networking sites, knowledge network structures become visible to the rest of the organization. In contrast to working groups or e-mail lists, the relative publicness of employees with the same interests contributing to discussions helps the rest of the organization understand who works on what and who holds knowledge that might be useful for future projects. Especially in organizations with frequent and routine changes in roles (e.g., Foreign Service employees at State or military personnel at DOD), plenty of expertise exists that is not explicit in the current role of an employee. This visibility might lead to increased awareness and attention among employees, and it can be exploited for future projects or information needs.

Persistence. Social intranets help to trace communication streams and knowledge-creation activities (recorded and archived for future access). These communication streams are usually not recorded during meetings; instead they are hidden in e-mails or disappear from instant messenger platforms and videoconferences as soon as both parties log off. The information is available in an asymmetric format: not all parties interested in the information have to be online while the knowledge is created through online exchanges. Instead, the discussion threads are available on the front page of a user’s newsfeed in real-time, but they can be accessed at times convenient for each employee.

Discoverability of knowledge. Even though employees might not be part of their colleagues’ ongoing discussions about issues in other parts of the organization, knowledge is now discoverable across artificial organizational boundaries; it can be tagged with the names of employees considered the original knowledge experts, whom others can then contact. For example, employees who use blogs and microblogging tools on the intranet can create new connections, use comments from other employees as feedback for their projects, or ask for assistance in problem-solving activities.

Speed of search and read activities. Knowledge created in communications streams, newsfeeds, documents, or other types of content files such as videos or pictures is available in real-time to the whole organization and not limited to pre-defined audiences. Especially in government, most intranet collaboration platforms do not require an approval chain to publish, which lowers barriers to quick sharing.

Lowering geographic distance and communication barriers. Computer-mediated communication often leads to the loss of social cues. Communication and awareness drops off with geographic distance in organizations. While some organizational design elements, such as functional organizational units, are used to pool together all employees who work on similar tasks or topics, communication drops off as soon as employees are geographically separated. They won’t be aware of other employees with similar knowledge interests. Social intranets help to create a steady stream of knowledge and increase the awareness of publicly discussed topics. Instead of search and discovery, relevant information is pushed to employees.

Strengthening social ties, creating social capital, and social capitalization. The use of internal social networking and collaboration sites in the private sector has shown that employees are creating new connections with employees located in other parts of the organization, especially when they are not co-located or part of the same work teams. This leads to connections that can be reactivated in the future when additional knowledge needs occur. In addition, the problem of “connecting the dots” and pooling similar knowledge to create a more complete picture can evolve. Publishing information on social intranet platforms can potentially strengthen (or tarnish) employees’ “personal brand.” The curator of a popular and informative blog can increase his/her reputation and that can positively affect future career opportunities. Alternatively, a person who frequents these sites too often can become “that guy.”

Open communication. Employees who use external social networking sites, such as Facebook or Twitter, are more likely to update and share on internal social sites as well. Their experience with “openness” outside their professional lives has the potential to break up knowledge silos that exist in government.

Supporting three main knowledge management activities

Creating organizational knowledge. Government tends to codify organizational knowledge in handbooks, and knowledge reuse has to follow hierarchical standard operating procedures. Free-floating and informal knowledge-sharing activities outside of formal forms of knowledge-sharing, such as cables and memos, are rarely supported through technological means, especially in agencies that have to facilitate the transfer of highly confidential information. This leads to restrictive norms and procedures for information transport. As a result, the transfer of knowledge is highly restricted. The social intranet provides functionalities to internalize, but also externalize, knowledge by combining information sources from inside the organization, across organizational boundaries, and between organizational units.

Socializing organizational knowledge. Organizational knowledge needs to be available for two major purposes: (1) Ad-hoc decision making during crisis situations, and (2) supporting long-term policy-making activities. The multitudes of knowledge hubs through which informal and formal information exchanges happen across many layers of the social intranet create fluid discussions. Government organizations therefore need mechanisms to make knowledge “sticky,” that is, to identify important knowledge pieces that decision makers and knowledge experts pay attention to.

Using technology to share knowledge. Social intranets support the connections among employees, as well as their knowledge, skills and expertise, and internal reputation. Identifying these attributes online is seen as a core functionality to locate and connect expertise and experience. Traditional HR departments cannot deal with the complexity of this task; instead, in-house social networking sites now support these activities.


Mergel, I. (2016): The Social Intranet: Insights on Managing and Sharing Knowledge Internally, IBM Center for the Business of Government, Report “Using Technology” Series, Washington, DC.

PhD or Postdoc Job Announcement (deadline April 15, 2017)

In collaboration with the German Research Institute for Public Administration I am searching for a PhD student or Postdoc to work on digital transformation topics (see the project list).

This is a fulltime position (100% -13 TV-L) funded by the University of Speyer and the candidate will be located at the University of Konstanz. Please send your full application including until April 15, 2017 using the job number “Kennziffer 0517″ to: Deutsches Forschungsinstitut für öffentliche Verwaltung, Freiherr-vom-Stein-Str. 2, 67346 Speyer ( Include a cover letter outlining your motivation and interest in digital transformation, grades, copies of other supporting certificates and diplomas, and a writing sample.


Am Deutschen Forschungsinstitut für öffentliche Verwaltung ist baldmöglichst eine Stelle als

Forschungsreferentin/ Forschungsreferent

befristet auf drei Jahre zu besetzen. Die Vergütung erfolgt nach Entgeltgruppe 13 TV-L. Es besteht die Möglichkeit zur Promotion.

Aufgabenschwerpunkt ist die Mitarbeit im Programmbereich „Die Transformation des Staates in Zeiten der Digitalisierung“ unter Projektleitung von Frau Prof. Dr. Ines Mergel. Die Beschäftigung wird am Arbeitsort Konstanz ausgeübt.

Der Aufgabenbereich umfasst die Forschungsfelder Digitale Transformation, wie zum Beispiel Co-design von online Dienstleistungen, Open Innovation, Big Data, Open Government, Social Media und anderen nicht-konventionellen Technologien und Praktiken der öffentlichen Verwaltung.

Gesucht werden Absolventen/-innen (Master) eines Universitätsstudiums der Verwaltungswissenschaften mit speziellem Fokus auf Public Management oder eines Universitätsstudiums der Verwaltungsinformatik. Sie sollten außerdem Interesse an anwendungsorientierter wissenschaftlicher Tätigkeit mitbringen. Fließende Englischkenntnisse in Wort und Schrift, eigenständiges und selbstmotiviertes Arbeiten sowie Erfahrung im (englisch-sprachigen) wissenschaftlichen Arbeiten und Schreiben sind weitere Voraussetzungen.

Schwerbehinderte werden bei entsprechender Eignung bevorzugt berücksichtigt. Es wird nur ein Mindestmaß an körperlicher Eignung verlangt.

Das Deutsche Forschungsinstitut für öffentliche Verwaltung ist bestrebt, den Anteil an Frauen im wissenschaftlichen Bereich zu erhöhen. Entsprechend qualifizierte Frauen werden daher besonders gebeten, sich zu bewerben.

Ihre Bewerbungsunterlagen mit Motivationsschreiben (Bezug auf die Forschungsfelder), Lebenslauf, vollständigen Zeugnissen und anderen Urkunden und Schreibexemplaren sind in elektronischer Form (ausschließlich im PDF-Format) bitte bis spätestens 15. April 2017 unter Angabe der Kennziffer 0517 zu richten an: Deutsches Forschungsinstitut für öffentliche Verwaltung, Freiherr-vom-Stein-Str. 2, 67346 Speyer (

Fragen zu Inhalt und Perspektiven der Stelle richten Sie bitte an Frau Prof. Dr. Ines Mergel (

Wir freuen uns auf Ihre aussagekräftige Bewerbung.

Start-up Kultur in der Verwaltung (dt.)

Der Behörden Spiegel hat in seiner März-Ausgabe 2017 einen kurzen Artikel von mir zum Thema “Start-up Kultur in der Verwaltung” publiziert.

Hier ist  der Volltext:

Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 6.59.19 AM

IT-Inkubatoren zur digitalen Transformation der öffentlichen Verwaltung

IT-Inkubatoren oder digitale Start-up Teams sind sogenannte Digitale Service Teams, die sich in der öffentlichen Verwaltung mit Themen der digitalen Transformation auseinandersetzen.

International sind besonders die Teams in den USA, Großbritannien, Australien, Niederlande, Dänemark oder auch Italien bekannt. In den USA wurden unter Präsident Obama gleich zwei Teams gegründet: (1) U.S. Digital Service: ein ‚Feuerwehr’-Team, dass sich vor allem mit der Wiederherstellung des gescheiterten Onlinemarktplatzes zum Verkauf von Krankenversicherungen beschäftigt hat und danach als Stabstelle dem Weißen Haus zugeordnet wurde. (2) 18F (zu finden an der Straßenecke der 18th und F Street in Washington, DC) ein sogenannter ‚services company and product incubator’, der sich auf die Einführung von agiler Softwareentwicklung fokussiert und als interner IT-Dienstleister die Behörden auf neue IT-Akquisitionsformen vorbereitet.

USDS und 18F sind nach dem Vorbild des britischen Government Digital Service (GDS) modelliert, der ursprünglich dafür gegründet wurde, um die überaltert Gov.UK-Webseite zu überholen. Im Laufe dieser Tätigkeit hat sich dann herausgestellt, dass es wichtig ist interne Prozesse zu überdenken anstatt nur das äußere Erscheinungsbild upzudaten. Das Ziel ist es Onlineprodukte der öffentlichen Verwaltung anzubieten, die in ihrer Qualität und Umgang mit Produkten externer Provider im privaten Sektor mithalten können. Ein ähnliches Team ist in Australien mit der Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) gegründet worden um Online-Dienstleistungen klarer, einfacher, und schneller anbieten zu können. Auch hier ist der Fokus darauf was Bürger benötigen, wie deren Onlineverhalten ist, und wie sich die öffentliche Verwaltung diesen Herausforderungen stellen kann. Italiens Premierminister hat ebenfalls einen IT-Inkubator auf den Weg gebracht und für deren Leitung einen italienischen Landsmann der derzeit einer der Vizepräsidenten von Amazon ist, eingestellt. Um das italienische Team Digitale aufzubauen pendelt Diego Piacentini zwischen Seattle und Rom und befindet sich in der Rekrutierungsphase einer Vielzahl von IT-Experten.

Was ist all diesen Teams gemeinsam: Sie sind explizit in Form von IT-Inkubatoren in der Bürokratie aufgestellt. Oftmals sind diese Teams außerhalb der traditionellen CIO-Organisation angesiedelt, so dass sie sich inhaltlich nicht mit der Wartung und Instandhaltung der bestehenden IT-Infrastruktur beschäftigen. Sie sind mit Vollmachten und Budgets ausgestattet, die es ihnen erlaubt IT-Ingenieure aus dem privaten Sektor zu rekrutieren und dadurch Kompetenzen und Erfahrungen in den öffentlichen Sektor einzuführen, die bisher vor allem auf externe IT-Dienstleister beschränkt waren.

Diese Teams arbeiten teilweise mit innovativen HR-Methoden, sowohl im Bereich der Rekrutierung als auch in den flexiblen Anstellungsoptionen, die es für IT-Ingenieure und Softwareentwickler leichtmacht, kurzfristig einzusteigen mit der Option wieder in ihre bisherigen Jobs zurückzukehren. Beispielsweise nutzt die US-Regierung eine flexible HR Policy, die Ingenieure aus Silicon Valley von Firmen wie Google oder Twitter für sogenannten „Tour of Duty“-Anstellungen nach Washington bringt, die zwischen zwei Monaten und zwei Jahren begrenzt sind. Die Motivation der Ingenieure ist offensichtlich nicht das weitaus geringere Gehalt im öffentlichen Dienst, sondern eine prosoziale Motivation ihrem Land kurzfristig mit ihren Fähigkeiten aushelfen zu können und dadurch eine breite Wirkung auf die Verbesserung der Zugangsmöglichkeiten zu Onlinediensten der öffentlichen Verwaltung für die gesamte Bevölkerung zu haben.

Die Start-up-Kultur mit breiter Mitbestimmung, flexiblen Arbeitszeiten, einer Just do it-Mentalität und kurzen Entwicklungszyklen steht im Konflikt mit der Top-down-Hierarchie der öffentlichen Verwaltung. Die Herausforderung in diesen IT Start-ups in der Verwaltung bleibt die Schwierigkeit neue Technologien und Arbeitsweisen in die Bürokratie zu absorbieren und den Bedürfnissen der öffentlichen Verwaltung anzupassen. Jedoch haben die bisherigen Erfahrungen sehr innovative digitale Transformationen hervorgebracht, dazu gehört beispielsweise die Blue Button-Initiative des Department of Veterans Affairs, mit deren Hilfe sich Kriegsveterane in allen Bundesländern ihre Gesundheitsakten herunterladen können oder die Vereinfachung des Immigrationsprozesses von 18 Webseiten auf eine Seite. Alle Teams müssen sich noch etablieren und über die Zeit wird sich zeigen, ob die Bürokratie digitale Innovationen mit Hilfe von IT-Inkubatoren oder Digitalen Agenturen aufnehmen kann.

Professor Dr. Ines Mergel ist Professorin für Public Administration an der Universität Konstanz wo sie zu Themen der Digitalen Transformation der öffentlichen Verwaltung forscht und lehrt. Professor Mergels Forschung zu Digitalen Service Teams wird pünktlich zur Konferenz Digitaler Staat in einem Report von IBM – Center for the Business of Government veröffentlicht. Kontakt:




EGPA CfP: Permanent Study Group XV: Public Administration, Technology and Innovation

The European Group for Public Administration (EGPA) in close collaboration with Politecnico di Milano is organizing the 2017 EGPA Annual Conference to be held from 30 August to 1st September in Bovisa (Milan). The event will be preceded by the PhD Symposium on 28 and 29 August.

This year, the PSG XV on Public Administration, Technology and Innovation (PATI) invites theoretical and empirical papers on topics related to the co-evolutionary dynamics between technological, social innovations, and public administration.

The topics we are particularly interested in include (but we also consider submissions on other related topics):

  • The outcomes of public sector innovations: what have been the economic, procedural, trust/legitimacy-related outcomes of public sector innovations resulting from either adoption of new governance practices (co-creation and co-production, living labs, etc.), or new technologies (online platforms, big data tools, other technologies of ‘smart cities’, etc.)?
  • Digital transformations and technological innovations: how are public administrations using new methods and technologies to transform public service delivery, i.e. what kind of approaches are public administrations using to abandon the traditional designs following their own internal logics and to adopt human centered approaches that move citizen needs at the center of the co-design and coimplementation processes?
  • Emergence of predictive governance and on-demand public services: how will the adoption of big data, participatory forms of governance, etc. affect the modalities of public services, i.e. will we see the shift from universal to on-demand and predictive public services and what will be the key opportunities and challenges (political, economic, ethical, technological) of such transformations?


  • Please submit abstracts via the conference website by 10 April 2017
  • The decisions will be announced by 8 May 2017
  • Complete papers should be uploaded by 1 August 2017

For queries and further information, please contact Dr. Erkki Karo, erkki.karo[at]



Prof. Rainer Kattel, Ragnar Nurses Department of Innovation and Governance, Tallinn University of Technology, Estonia, rainer.kattel[at]

Prof. Dr. Ines Mergel, Department of Politics and Administration, University of Konstanz, Germany, ines.mergel[at]

Dr. Erkki Karo, Ragnar Nurkse Department of Innovation and Governance, Tallinn University of Technology, Estonia erkki.karo[at]


International Conference Call for Papers: Innovation in Public Services and Public Policy (PUBSIC)

15 – 17 November 2017

Lillehammer University College, Norway

Keynote speakers

Sandford Borins, University of Toronto
Stephen Osborne, University of Edinburgh

Lillehammer is easily accessible by a direct train from Oslo Airport – which has excellent air travel connections across the world.

Innovation is often articulated as a panacea for addressing social and economic problems in the modern world. However; the models of innovation for public services that are posed in this context have often drawn from private sector experience in an undifferentiated way that conflates the manufacturing of products with the delivery of services, and have not taken into account the distinctive characteristics of public rather than private services.

In recent years, however, public management theory on innovation has begun to evolve, with an important body of knowledge on public service delivery emerging – for example, there was a special issue of Public Management Review devoted to public service innovation in 2014, whilst a major research programme of the European Commission on social innovation has recently been concluded (LIPSE). Important international conferences sponsored by IRSPM were also held in Shanghai and in Budapest in 2015.

Call for papers

To continue this dialogue and to build upon this evolving body of knowledge we would invite you to participate in the Public and Social Innovation Conference (PUBSIC 2017), to be held at Lillehammer University College in Norway over 15-17 November 2017. Lillehammer University College is leading the development of public and social innovation research in Norway with the support of the Norwegian Research Council and with excellent links into Norwegian public service delivery.

The International Advisory Board invites abstract proposals across the following themes:

  • Public and social innovation and ICT/digital technology (including the use of Big Data)
  • Collaboration and open innovation in public and social innovation
  • Co-production,  the co-creation of value, and  public and social innovation
  • Co-design and the role of citizens/service users in public and social innovation
  • The third and non-profit sector and social and public innovation
  • Social enterprise, social entrepreneurship, and social and public innovation
  • Managing and evaluating  public and social innovation
  • Political dimensions of public and social innovation
  • Innovation in public policy and in public policy processes
  • The roles of public employees and/or citizens in public and social innovation
  • Public – private partnerships and public and social innovation

Abstract proposals, to a maximum of 500 words, should be submitted by 15th May 2017. For more information on the proposal submission process, see the conference webpage . Panel proposals are also welcome, within one of the suggested themes. A panel is 3 – 4 connected papers and a proposal should be of maximum 1,000 words and include an overview of the panel topic (500 words) and a summary of the papers within the panel (500 words). All abstracts and panels will be reviewed by the International Advisory Board and decisions notified to lead authors by 9th June. Papers are welcome from both experienced and new/doctoral students and of both an empirical and theoretical nature.

 All conference papers will be considered for fast track review to Public Management Review (PMR) and also possibly for a special issue of PMR, if there are sufficient papers of the requisite quality.

International Advisory Board

Rolf Rønning [Co-Chair] (Lillehammer University College), Stephen P Osborne [Co-Chair] (University of Edinburgh), Gyorgy Drótos (Corvinus University, Budapest), Ricardo Gomez (University of Brasilia), Jean Hartley (Open University), Yijia Jing (Fudan University, Shanghai), Albert Meijer (University of Utrecht),  Ines Mergel (University of Konstanz), Greta Nasi (Bocconi University, Milan) Madeline Powell (University of Sheffield), Eva Sørenson (Roskilde University), and Richard Walker (City University of Hong Kong).

For further information on PUBSIC contact Rolf Ronning –

Predictive Analytics in the Public Sector

shutterstock_218879485-700x467My colleague Rainer Kattel (Tallinn University of Technology, Tallinn) and I are in the process of conducting interviews on digital transformation in the Estonian government. By coincidence we came across an interesting practice: the use of Big Data to review customs and financial data streams with the goal to reduce corruption. I wrote this up as a short contribution for the German Behörden Spiegel – a newspaper for public managers.

Here is the text (adapted from the German version – scroll down for the original text):

Big Data are Internet-generated data from online interactions of humans with websites or passive data collection by computer networks or physical sensors.The resulting data sets are usually defined as “big” because of its size, the speed in which they are generated, and the possibilities for predictive analytics and real-time insights into behavioral preferences of citizens.

Traditionally, public sector organizations are operating mostly with administratively designed and collected that results out of the direct interactions with citizens, includes other government records, and mostly includes data sets, such as open data, or other transactional data. It usually goes through an extensive cleaning and analysis process until it is made available with significant time delays (in the case of census data even years of delay). Oftentimes, the use of this ‘old’ data is used for predictive analytics to project the potential needs of citizens. Big Data however are automatically generated data sets, unstructured, and matching it with administrative data requires significant effort to match them with administrative data for the use by public managers.

Using the example of the Estonian customs and tax services, Big Data analytics can help to fight corruption in near real-time. Based on standardize cash flows, the Estonian tax and customs analysts have created risk profiles for different types of organizations. Every company is matched up with one of the profiles. These are continuously compared to cash flows and daily updates and adjustments are done in case of minor deviations. In addition to the risk profiles, so-called Key Performance Indicators in combination with additional data sets, such as banking transactions, invoices, business registers, lang register entries,, etc. In addition, data from online auction sites are used to find out if sellers are paying their sales taxes.

In case of anomalies between the expected tax incomes and the risk profiles of companies, based on a predefined algorithm, warnings are sent to the analytics team. After a first review, they decided what Information to forward to the specialists who will conduct their own ad hoch investigations. Using the analytical assessment in combination with the specialists’ experiences and assessments, a more detailed risk assessment is derived. As a result, either the risk profile is adjusted, or auditors are launching a tax examination on site on the same day.

This type of real-time analysis and timely interpretation of large-scale data sets allows the Estonian tax and customs authorities to assess information about the current tax situation and potential corruption cases in real time.

In the future, predictive analytics tool can be used to identify patterns about the health of individual companies. Predictive analytics can be used to understand the potential economic and social impact in case of impending bankruptcies. Using big data analytics can help government make more effective and efficient decisions, be potentially better prepared and act preventatively.


Here is the full text in German and a link to the article.

Korruptionsbekämpfung in Echtzeit

Big Data sind Internet-generierte Daten, die sich aus den Onlineinteraktionen von Menschen mit Webseiten und physischen Sensoren ergeben. Die resultierenden Datensätze, die allgemein aufgrund ihrer Größe, der Schnelligkeit ihrer Erstellung und den daraus resultierenden Möglichkeiten zur Echtzeitanalyse definiert werden, erlauben der öffentlichen Verwaltung Einsichten in die Bedürfnisse und tatsächlichen Handlungen von Bürgern. Sie stellen eine Kombination aus Social Media-Daten wie geteilten Videos und Fotos, likes/shares, Onlinebanking, Onlineeinkäufen, und Mobilfunkdaten dar.

Traditionell arbeitet die öffentliche Veraltung mit administrativ designten und aufwendig gesammelten Datensätzen, die vor allem aus den direkten Interaktionen mit Bürgern entstehen. Administrative Daten können einem Vorgang und individuellen Personen oder Haushalten zugeordnet werden. Beispiele dafür sind Zensusdaten, oder bisherige bearbeitete Fälle, die in Kombination mit professionellem Verständnis der Beamten für sogenannte predictive analytics dazu genutzt werden zukünftige Trends vorherzusagen. Dagegen werden Big Data-Datensätze automatisch generiert, sind unstrukturiert, und bedürfen hohem Einsatz um die Daten für die öffentliche Verwaltung nutzbar zu machen.

In Kombination können Big Data und administrative Daten dazu beitragen die Fachaufgabe der öffentlichen Verwaltung effizienter und effektiver zu gestalten. Dies zeigt sich am Beispiel der Estländischen Steuerbehörden, die Big Data-Analysen einsetzen um schnell Steuerhinterziehung zu identifizieren um möglichst noch am gleichen Tag die Ermittlungen vor Ort einzuleiten.

Die Zoll- und Finanzbeamten haben basierend auf standardisierten Finanzströmen für unterschiedliche Unternehmensformen zunächst sogenannte Risikoprofile angelegt, die mit echten Finanzdaten getestet werden, und kontinuierlich – wenn notwendig sogar täglich – dem tatsächlichen Geschäftsgebaren angepasst werden. Zusätzlich zu den Risikoprofilen dienen sogenannte Key Performance Indicators – Leistungskennzahlen – in Kombination mit den weiteren Datensätzen wie z.B. Banküberweisungen, Rechnungen, Unternehmensregister, Grundbucheinträgen. Aber auch Daten von Internet-Autobörsen werden miteinbezogen, um herauszufinden ob Verkäufer ihre Einkommen versteuern.

Sobald sich Abweichungen zu den steuerpflichtigen Finanzströmen ergeben, die dem Profil des Unternehmens nicht entsprechen, werden aufgrund der vordefinierten Algorithmen Warnungen an das Analyseteam geschickt, die die Daten mit ihrer eigenen Einschätzung an die Fachabteilung weitergeleiten. In Kombination mit den fachlichen Einschätzungen der Fachbehörden und den durch die Risikoanalyse entsteht somit eine klarere Risikoeinschätzung, die die Steuer- und Zollbehörden nutzen um weitere Schritte einzuleiten. Entweder werden die Risikoprofile des Unternehmens auf die neue Situation angepasst, so dass keine Warnungen mehr entstehen, oder Betriebsprüfer leiten Kontrollen noch am gleichen Tag ein.

Diese Art der Echtzeitanalyse und –interpretation von großen Datenströmen erlaubt es den Estnischen Steuer- und Zollbehörden Informationen über die gegenwärtige Steuersituation des Landes zu ermitteln. Zukünftig können die bereits etablierten Tools auch dafür genutzt werden um aus den in den Finanzströmen erkennbaren Mustern vorherzusehen, ob es einem Unternehmen schlecht gehen wird. Predictive analytics können dann auch dazu beitragen die Belastungen des Staates und das Aufkommen potentieller sozialer Probleme frühzeitig zu erkennen und eventuell präventiv einzugreifen – zumindest vorbereitet zu sein.


Professor Dr. Ines Mergel ist Professorin für Public Administration an der Universität Konstanz wo sie zu Themen der Digitalen Transformation der öffentlichen Verwaltung forscht und lehrt. Kontakt:

LSE Impact of Social Sciences blog: What does Big Data mean to public affairs research? Understanding the methodological and analytical challenges

The following text was originally prepared for LSE’s Impact of Social Sciences Blog and reposted here.


The term ‘Big Data’ is often misunderstood or poorly defined, especially in the public sector. Ines Mergel, R. Karl Rethemeyer, and Kimberley R. Isett provide a definition that adequately encompasses the scale, collection processes, and sources of Big Data. However, while recognising its immense potential it is also important to consider the limitations when using Big Data as a policymaking tool. Using this data for purposes not previously envisioned can be problematic, researchers may encounter ethical issues, and certain demographics are often not captured or represented.

In the public sector, the term ‘Big Data’ is often misused, misunderstood, and poorly defined. Public sector practitioners and researchers frequently use the term to refer to large data sets that were administratively collected by a government agency. Though these data sets are usually quite large and can be used for predictive analytics, administrative data does not include the oceans of information that is created by private citizens through their interactions with each other online (such as social media or business transaction data) or through sensors in buildings, cars, and streets. Moreover, when public sector researchers and practitioners do consider broader definitions of Big Data they often overlook key political, ethical, and methodological complexities that may bias the insights gleaned from ‘going Big’. In our recent paper we seek to provide a clearer definition that is current and conversant with how other fields define Big Data, before turning to fundamental issues that public sector practitioners and researchers must keep in mind when using Big Data.

Defining Big Data for the public sector

Public affairs research and practice has long profited from dialogue with allied disciplines like management and political science and has more recently incorporated insights from computational and information science. Drawing on all of these fields we define Big Data as:

“High volume data that frequently combines highly structured administrative data actively collected by public sector organizations with continuously and automatically collected structured and unstructured real-time data that are often passively created by public and private entities through their internet.”

This definition encompasses the scale of newly emerging data sets (many observations with many variables) while also addressing data collection processes (continuous and automatic), the form of the data collected (structured and unstructured), and the sources of such data (public and private). The definition also suggests the ‘granularity’ of the data (more variables describing more discrete characteristics of persons, places, events, interactions, and so forth), and the lag between collection and readiness for analysis (ever shorter).

Methodological and analytical challenges

Defined thus Big Data promises access to vast amounts of real-time information from public and private sources that should allow insights into behavioral preferences, policy options, and methods for public service improvement. In the private sector, marketing preferences can be aligned with customer insights gleaned from Big Data. In the public sector however, government agencies are less responsive and agile in their real-time interactions by design – instead using time for deliberation to respond to broader public goods. The responsiveness Big Data promises is a virtue in the private sector but could be a vice in the public.

Moreover, we raise several important concerns with respect to relying on Big Data as a decision and policymaking tool. While in the abstract Big Data is comprehensive and complete, in practice today’s version of Big Data has several features that should give public sector practitioners and scholars pause. First, most of what we think of as Big Data is really ‘digital exhaust’ – that is, data collected for purposes other than public sector operations or research. Data sets that might be publicly available from social networking sites such as Facebook or Twitter were designed for purely technical reasons. The degree to which this data lines up conceptually and operationally with public sector questions is purely coincidental. Use of digital exhaust for purposes not previously envisioned can go awry. A good example is Google’s attempt to predict the flu based on search terms.

Second, we believe there are ethical issues that may arise when researchers use data that was created as a byproduct of citizens’ interactions with each other or with a government social media account. Citizens are not able to understand or control how their data is used and have not given consent for storage and re-use of their data. We believe that research institutions need to examine their institutional review board processes to help researchers and their subjects understand important privacy issues that may arise. Too often it is possible to infer individual-level insights about private citizens from a combination of data points and thus predict their behaviors or choices.

Lastly, Big Data can only represent those that spend some part of their life online. Yet we know that certain segments of society opt in to life online (by using social media or network-connected devices), opt out (either knowingly or passively), or lack the resources to participate at all. The demography of the internet matters. For instance, researchers tend to use Twitter data because its API allows data collection for research purposes, but many forget that Twitter users are not representative of the overall population. Instead, as a recent Pew Social Media 2016 update shows, only 24% of all online adults use Twitter. Internet participation generally is biased in terms of age, educational attainment, and income – all of which correlate with gender, race, and ethnicity. We believe therefore that predictive insights are potentially biased toward certain parts of the population, making generalisations highly problematic at this time.

In summary, we see the immense potential of Big Data use in the public sector, but we also believe that it is context-specific and must be meaningfully combined with administratively collected data and purpose-built ‘small data’ to have value in improving public programmes. Increasingly, public managers must know how to collect, manage, and analyse Big Data, but they must also be fully conversant with the limitations and potential for misuse.

This blog post is based on the authors’ article, ‘Big Data in Public Affairs’, published in Public Administration Review (DOI: 10.1111/puar.12625).

Note: This article gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Impact Blog, nor of the London School of Economics. Please review our comments policy if you have any concerns on posting a comment below.

About the authors

mergelInes Mergel is full professor of public administration at the University of Konstanz’s Department of Politics and Public Administration. Mergel focuses her research and teaching activities on topics such as digital transformation and adoption of new technologies in the public sector. Her ORCID id is 0000-0003-0285-4758 and she may be contacted at

rethemeyerKarl Rethemeyer is Interim Dean of the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs & Policy, University at Albany, State University of New York. Rethemeyer’s primary research interest is in social networks and their impact on political and policy processes. His ORCID iD is 0000-0002-5673-8026 and he may be contacted at

isett_portraitKimberley R. Isett is Associate Professor of Public Policy at the Georgia institute of Technology. Her research is centred on the organisation and financing of government services, particularly in health.  Her ORCID id is 0000-0002-7584-0181 and she may be contacted at

CfP Special Issue Agile Government and Adaptive Governance in GIQ

Special Issue on Agile Government and Adaptive Governance in the Public Sector

Governments around the world have to respond faster to citizen needs, like the expectation of 24/7 availability and personalized access to government services generated by the so-called ‘Facebook generation’. Seamless user-centric experiences on social networking suites, such as Weibo or Twitter, as well as online marketplaces such as Amazon, increase the demand for similar experiences with government services. In addition, industry trends, such as Big Data, predictive analytics methods, and Smart City approaches drive the need to create internal capacity and skill sets to evaluate, respond to, and implement new technologies and internal processes.

The previous new public management era has left many government organizations with a reduced skill set and limited capacity to upgrade their IT infrastructure. As a result, their capability to innovate has been deteriorated due to increasing incentives to outsource especially IT development and services. The rollout disaster in the U.S. was a clear indication that the role of information management experts in government is oftentimes limited to contract management tasks, such as planning and oversight. One response from government organizations is to create internal innovation labs, organize hackathons, hire Chief Innovation Officers, or try to recruit industry expertise into government.

We observe first organizational, structural, managerial, procedural, and technological changes to address the changing internal and external environments of government organizations. As an example, the UK and US governments have adopted new organizational structures in form digital services teams that are able to respond faster to ad hoc needs of their internal government clients. They have adopted an agile government approach designing software in a more information- and user-centric way that is standard in the IT industry. Once software is developed, it is shared widely across all levels of government and no longer siloed in one department. In addition, governments need to adapt to changes in their internal and external environments and create systems that allow them to scan trends and identify developments, predict their potential impact on the organization, and quickly learn and implement responses (Gong & Janssen, 2012).

This special issue therefore invites papers that address open research questions that were posed in two recent Viewpoint pieces in Government Information Quarterly by Janssen & Van den Voort (2016) on adaptive governance and by Mergel (in press) on agile government. Adaptive governance should ensure that an organization is able to deal with the changes, while protecting it from becoming unstable. The main characteristics of adaptive governance are decentralized bottom-up decision-making, efforts to mobilize internal and external capabilities, wider participation to spot and internalize developments, and continuous adjustment to deal with uncertainty (Janssen & Van den Voort, 2016). An agile government introduces user-centric software development approaches implemented together with agency-based project managers to shorten the implementation cycle, improve the outcomes of IT projects, and make sure that user needs are considered (Mergel in press).

For this special issue, we welcome conceptual, empirical, qualitative, quantitative or mixed methods research papers. Topics may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Conceptualization of agile government and adaptive governance, implication, benefits and theory building;
  • Specific or distinguishable agile software development approaches for governmental organization and/or digital public service;
  • Agile software development project management (e.g. Scrum method) in governmental contexts;
  • The impact of applying agile government or adaptive governance on the culture, organizational structure, business processes and individual behaviors;
  • The impact of agile government and adaptive governance on policy-making processes, including information acquisition, negotiation, policy formulation, evaluation and examination;
  • Information sharing and organizational learning in agile government and adaptive governance environments;
  • Adaptation at different levels, traceability and accountability in agile government and adaptive governance projects;
  • Principles and approaches to enable/increase adaptability;
  • Coordination/mediation mechanisms in adaptive governance;
  • Pros and cons of adaptability, barriers and drivers, challenges and opportunities, balance between adaptability, stability, and accountability;
  • In-depth and comparative case studies of agile government and adaptive governance in public sector; and
  • Whether, and how, agile development approaches lead to user-centric digital government services, processes, and applications.

Special Issue Guest Editors:

  • Ines Mergel, University of Konstanz, contact:
  • Yiwei Gong, School of Information Management at Wuhan University, contact:
  • John Bertot, iSchool at University of Maryland, contact:

Special Issue Format

Each submission is subject to a rigorous double-blind peer review process with at least two independent reviewers. Authors can contact the guest editors for additional information.

The deadline for manuscript submission: January 1, 2017 Extended Deadline until February 15, 2017


Gong, Y., & Janssen, M. (2012). From policy implementation to business process management: Principles for creating flexibility and agility. Government Information Quarterly, 29(Supplement 1), 61-71.

Janssen, M., Van de Voort, H. (2016): Adaptive governance: Towards a stable, accountable and responsive government. Government Information Quarterly, 33(1), 1-5.

Mergel, I. (in press 2016): Agile innovation management in government: A research agenda. Government Information Quarterly, 33(3), 516-523.