Kornberger et al. (2017) - When Bureaucracy Meets the Crowd. Studying “Open Government” in the Vienna City Administration

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Kornberger, M.; Meyer, R. E.; Brandtner, C.; Höllerer, M. A. (2017): When Bureaucracy Meets the Crowd. Studying “Open Government” in the Vienna City Administration, Organization Studies 38 (2), pp. 179-200. DOI: 10.1177/0170840616655496

problem

Open government is one of the latest public sector reform approaches promising that open communication through new ICTs can enable democratic, transparent and collaborative administrative practices. However, the authors argue that open government and bureaucratic organizing (e.g. characterized through secrecy, hierarchy and rules) dominant in public administrations are contradictory. They analyze these "complexities of the encounter between bureaucracy and Open Government" (p. 1) play out and get translated into the administrative practice.

method

A qualitative case study that provides a narrative of the open data practices in the public administration of vienna.

summary

  • The study describes open data practices in the city with the metaphor of the 'Stadtpark' (city park) that is a delimited area of the city and can be opened as well as locked. Public officials translated the vague and potentially chaotic 'jungle' of open communication into a controlable unit.
    • Dillemas regarding the potential and promises of openness that can be in conflict with other values and goals of public administrations. For instance, public administrations cannot decide whether reports about hygiene standards of restaurants should be published or not. It is a political decision to balance interests of restaurant owners and customers (p. 191). Another area that can cause dilemmas for local governments is accountability and reliability. Published data should be correct because administrations can be held accountable by the citizens they serve.
    • It was necessary to translate the broader promises of open government (participation, transparency, co-production) to an open government data project that was manageable in the bureaucratic organization.