Open-ish government -- new book explores the federal government in the digital age

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Screenshot of Government of Canada website. Image: Open Knowledge Foundation/Flickr

With the election less than a month away, all of us who are politically engaged are reflecting on how well our government has worked over the past few years. And governments of all kinds are operating very differently than they did even 10 years ago, thanks to digital innovation and theories of information management which arise from new technologies.

The digital age has had a profound effect on the way our country and our government operates. You can explore these themes in Amanda Clarke's new book Opening the Government of Canada -- The Federal Bureaucracy in the Digital Age.

For example -- she has a section in her book where she considers the legacy of former prime minister Stephen Harper as "Canada’s first digital era prime minister." Considering the secrecy and information control rampant in the Harper era, it wouldn't surprise most of us that the transition towards open government has had its bumps along the way. And it still does, despite the very different style of the Trudeau government.

While it's easy to criticize the federal government for being pretty slow about about figuring out new models to navigate the digital age, Clarke says there needs to be a balance. She makes the case for a more open model of governance, but says that the model also needs to be balanced with the democratic principles embedded at the heart of our parliamentary system of governance. It's a tricky thing.

rabble podcast producer Victoria Fenner talked to Amanda Clarke about how those dynamics are playing out on Parliament Hill.

Amanda Clarke joined the faculty of Carleton University's School of Public Policy and Administration in July 2014. Her research examines public sector reform, policymaking and civic engagement, focusing in particular on the impact of digital technologies on these domains. Prior to joining Carleton, Clarke completed a doctorate at the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford, as a Pierre Elliott Trudeau scholar, a Clarendon Press scholar and a fellow of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. She is co-editor of Issues in Canadian Governance and author of Opening the Government of Canada: The Federal Bureaucracy in the Digital Age. In 2017, Clarke was appointed Carleton University's Public Affairs Research Excellence Chair and in 2019, the Canada School of Public Service named her a Digital Government Research Fellow. She is the founder of the Canadian Digital Governance Research Network.

Image: Open Knowledge Foundation/Flickr

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