UNU-EGOV conducts research on Electronic Governance (e-Governance or EGOV) and Digital Transformation for inclusive, resilient, and sustainable societies. There are two broad outcomes that our research seeks to contribute to:
Firstly, to understand digital transformation and innovation for socio-economic development and inclusion, as well as to contribute to environmental sustainability. This outcome is expressed in the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The aim is to consolidate and exploit existing knowledge while also exploring new learning towards the goals of worldwide inclusion, development, sustainability, and security.
Secondly, to investigate the current and new e-Governance challenges for a resilient society. This objective is aligned to, and in direct response, to research requests and needs that arise from the global situation started in 2020, notably the pandemic experience and the changes that societies and governments are living through.
UNU-EGOV’s Core Research Programme 2020-2024 (click to enlarge).
The UNU-EGOV Core Research Programme 2020-2024 works towards these outcomes via three independent research lines:
Within each research line, investigations focus on four kinds of activities:
For more details on each research line, associated projects, and publications, use the tabs at the top of this page.
Technological changes have rapidly altered the landscape of governance, impacting the powers and roles of governments and the ways in which they govern. The first research line – Digital governance, regulations, and policies – is concerned with the digital transition at the global, national, and local levels of government. In particular, the implications and impacts of established and emerging digital technologies on governance and regulations and policies as the primary governance instruments.
Digitisation has enormous potential to improve core government functions, contribute to a more resilient and sustainable Public Administration and enhance citizen-centric services at all levels of the State. However, turning the promises of digital solutions into tangible, measurable, and consistent outcomes remains challenging in most countries. The challenge is even more significant in uncertain times and facing complex health, economic, civic, climatic or social emergencies, making it necessary to develop innovative strategies for digital governance under these conditions.
This research line examines governments’ responses at all levels to the emergence of new digital technologies. The aim is to understand how governments can harness such technologies for better governance and how they should prepare for and respond to changes in society that arise from digital technologies. UNU-EGOV regularly advises governments on e-Governance and the regulations and policies needed to make effective use of and prevent abuse of new digital capabilities. This research line both informs and is informed by such consulting work and consolidates and shares the lessons learned and implemented.
Electronic Governance is based on the capabilities of digital technologies, including emerging technologies. Understanding these capabilities and how they might support and transform governance is the focus of the second research line: Digital transformation, innovation, and technologies. This research line investigates the technologies, their introduction and application, and the impacts and outcomes of efforts to transform government and public service delivery digitally.
This research line examines the potential of emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Blockchain, the Internet of Things, Big Data, and Quantum Computing for improving e-Governance and the digital transformation of government. This research concerns how to harness such technologies to engineer new and innovative ways of serving citizens through faster, more efficient and collaborative approaches, supported by more transparent, evidence-based decision-making processes. However, it also seeks to deepen our knowledge of tried and tested digital technologies that can improve governance and support the development of smart cities and smart governance.
In addition to understanding the technologies, it is also essential to examine the combination of social and engineering processes required and the impacts of technology adoption and use. A better understanding of when and how to implement technology innovations is vital to promote their responsible use and improve the likely outcomes. The goal is to ensure that digital technologies are effectively deployed to support countries in their development aims, as well as to enable them to “leapfrog” to higher levels of transformation.
New technologies change the nature of work, everyday life and leisure, and how people interact with each other and with government authorities. They provide innovative ways for governments to keep people and communities informed and understand their needs and views. Versatile digital identity mechanisms, intelligent public service delivery models, and the design and test of communitarian participatory processes (from online petition platforms to mass deliberation systems) are examples. Such technologies facilitate greater participation in governance. There is a need to understand the behavioural changes that are being wrought both in society at large and in the specific context of Electronic Governance and Digital Transformation.
At the same time, new technologies have exacerbated inequalities, particularly because of unequal access to devices and infrastructure as well as the requisite skills. New digital technologies have created privacy threats, have been used to influence people’s opinions and actions, and have in many cases worsened the quality of life of the people that use them. Consequently, it is necessary to understand how new technologies may increase inequality, create risks and erode social values, and ultimately decrease quality of life so that governments can regulate and use technology responsibly and support better human societies.
The third research line – Participation, people, and communities – puts the human being at the heart of e-Governance and Digital Transformation, addressing issues such as poverty and inequality, human insecurity and exclusion in all its dimensions and the goals of happiness and wellbeing. Much of the work in electronic government and smart cities originated in a technology-centric vision, focused on the opportunities for using technology for efficiency and to improve quality of life. This research line examines how to move beyond this focus to explore strategies for the active participation of people and communities in digital transformation. It places equity and social inclusion issues at the heart of research and policy work, adopting a cultural, human-centred approach.