Intriguing quotes from “Building the Virtual State” by Jane Fountain

This book is nine years old, but still quite relevant in my
opinion. I’d like to know who else has read it and what they
think–and what similar books you recommend.

I put some interesting passages below. I also cite this book a couple
times in the list of questions I shared a couple times on this list.

Note that the book has a good deal of theory, drawing from at least
three disciplines, but also three large case studies.

(Is there a list of recommended books/resources on GovLoop?)

Building the Virtual State: Information Technology and Institutional Change

Jane E. Fountain

Pages: 256

Year of Publication: 2001


Brookings Institution Press

Summarizing Alfred C. Stepan from “The State and Society: Peru in
Comparative Perspective”: Intellectual activities and decisions of
civil servants working for long periods on policy questions are
arguably more powerful and influential than the sporadic attention of
legislators to particular policies.

Whereas dramatic efficiency gains and cost savings in the economy are
rewarded through profits, promotions, stock price increases, and
market share, similar gains in government are rewarded with budget
cuts, staff reductions, loss of resources, and consolidation of
programs. (p. 13)

Indeed, many organizational actors are scarcely aware of the potential
of their technological systems. It is not surprising, therefore, that
similar organizations may use identical information systems in vastly
different ways….The flexibility, decomposability, and functionality
of the web and related information technologies mean that a system’s
objective characteristics may differ substantially from those that are
actually used. (p. 89)

An underlying assumption in the automation of decisionmaking is that
the key elements of decision can be isolated, formalized, and
programmed. But knowledgeable actors disagree about the key data
elements for decisionmaking, and it is not clear that training them to
conform to one set of decision rules would improve command
decisionmaking. (p. 187)

Budget examiners tend to find “messy” network arrangements at odds
with their routines. (p. 197)

Public managers in a networked environment are the central enactors of
technology in the state. They can no longer afford the luxury of
relegating technology matters to technical staff. (p. 199)

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I’ll have to check out that book. I like the excerpts. There’s a list of recommend books on the wiki. I’d love if you shared your favorites.