Throughout the globe, the sweep of information and communication technologies offers unprecedented opportunities for the advancement of governance and society. But information and communication technologies alone are inadequate to foster such benefits. An important, time-sensitive opportunity exists to make a major difference in the development of digital governance and society globally. An applied, rigorous research agenda would clarify for policymakers and the research community the costs and benefits of alternative future visions and paths. A solid research agenda, built through a global network of researchers, possesses the potential to forecast likely positive results and negative outcomes before government actions are taken and resources committed. A strong basic research agenda can potentially save billions of dollars by generating knowledge and recommendations proactively rather than post mortems retroactively.
A coherent, focused global research agenda for technology and governance, whose outlines are presented in this report, holds promise to catalyze an invigoration of the applied social sciences. Social science departments worldwide have tended to lag behind empirical developments in the societal and governmental use of information and communication technologies. Many academic researchers have been slow, perhaps even reluctant, to consider information and communication technologies as endogenous variables and to take on the difficult and risky intellectual work involved in the extension and refinement of standard theories and conceptual frameworks. Thus, more attention to theory development and empirical research in mainstream social sciences has the potential both to leverage existing knowledge to better understand the information revolution and, reciprocally, to extend many twentieth century theories and concepts in which information and communication technologies are implicitly assumed to be pre-Internet.
This wide-ranging report, written to provide guidance to the National Science Foundation, draws from several disciplines and applied fields, including political science, computer science, public policy and management, sociology, psychology, and organizational behavior. Its purpose is to broaden and deepen the global research base for digital government by drawing more extensively and strategically on the social and policy sciences to expand the range of theories and conceptual frameworks that might be leveraged in this domain. A powerful, global research base is critical if information and communication technologies are to be developed and used to foster stronger democratic societies.