Associate Professor Charles Schweik (environmental conservation and public policy) took a group of students last weekend to the international Maker Faire in New York City. The event, which has been touted as the “greatest show and tell on earth,” showcases diverse do-it-yourself technologies, including three-dimensional design and printing; unmanned robotic vehicles such as an open-source underwater robot; and devices made from do-it-yourself low-cost computing methods.
In addition to public policy and administration students from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, the group included students from the UMass departments of natural resource conservation; engineering; and communication, as well as computer science students from Mt. Holyoke College and some eighth-graders from Amherst Regional Middle School. The students were part of a new undergraduate course offered by the UMass department of environmental conservation and the Center for Public Policy and Administration, which encourages students to undertake collaborative “maker” projects to solve environmental science and management problems.
Projects these interdisciplinary students are working on include: balloon-based remote sensing of land cover; monitoring water and air contamination; and low-cost scientific equipment for inventorying or monitoring wildlife. The student teams are documenting and sharing their research with Public Laboratory for Science, an organization committed to making do-it-yourself scientific equipment and methods available to underserved communities around the globe.
Last weekend’s field trip is part of a larger collaborative effort between the UMass colleges of Natural Sciences; Social and Behavioral Sciences; and Engineering, working in partnership with Amherst Media to conduct outreach in the Amherst-Pelham Regional Schools related to open science and “making.” This town-gown partnership was highlighted in a recent White House report on university efforts to encourage the national maker movement.
The trip to New York City was made possible by support from a UMass Amherst Public Service Endowment Grant, the Department of Environmental Conservation and the College of Engineering.
Jane Fountain, Distinguished Professor in public policy and political science, was recently honored as a University of Massachusetts Amherst Research Next Spotlight Scholar. Research Next writes:
“For as long as there has been a virtual state, UMass Amherst Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Public Policy Jane Fountain has stood as an undisputed leader on the topic. As governments and large international organizations continue to learn how to adopt our rapidly evolving technology, Fountain provides the tools, consultation and expert analysis necessary to help them make best use of it.”
In 2001, Fountain published the seminal book, Building the Virtual State: Information Technology and Institutional Change, which outlines the American public sector’s path towards a fair, successful use of digital governance. As the book uses a rich collection of case studies to highlight the institutional and political hurdles to that success, in addition to the technological ones, the book remains a leading resource on the topic. It has been cited more than 1,200 times and translated into Chinese, Portuguese, Japanese, and Spanish. The Chinese translation is in its second edition.
“Dr. Fountain has done more than almost anyone to advance the study of digital government,” says Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy. “Indeed, Dr. Fountain literally wrote the book that defined this field. This book is universally acknowledged as by far the best publication on its topic.”
In spring 2014, Fountain was named to the “Top Federal 100” by Federal Computer Week. She is one of only two academics to make the list. Soon after, she was also appointed to a three-year term on the Experts Advisory Committee of the E-Government Research Center of the Eastern Regional Organization for Public Administration (EROPA). Fountain is the only non-Chinese member of the approximately 10-member Experts Advisory Committee.
As founder and director of the National Center for Digital Government, Fountain has a long history researching and evaluating federal IT policies and practices. In 2013, she released a report through the Administrative Conference of the United States titled “
Examining Constraints To, and Providing Tools For, Cross-Agency Collaboration.” She also translated that work into a report for IBM’s Center for the Business of Government titled “Implementing Cross-Agency Collaboration: A Guide for Federal Managers.” Both examine how the traditionally divided federal bureaucracy has sought to become more collaborative in light of technological innovations. Her guidance on how to improve such collaboration has also earned her the title of “collaboration guru” by Federal Computer Week.
Since joining the UMass Amherst faculty in 2005, her research has focused on institutional perspectives on technology and governance, public organizations and institutional change, women and IT, and the intersection of science, technology and society. Fountain has received numerous awards and recognitions during her tenure, including election to the National Academy of Public Administration and selection as an Inaugural Senior Fellow of the Information and Politics Section of the American Political Science Association. She has also received two of the highest campus honors: the Chancellor’s Medal in 2012 and the 2010 Chancellor’s Award for Outstanding Accomplishments in Research and Creative Activity. Fountain is credited with a number of scholarly publications, including three co-edited volumes, 19 book chapters, 27 working papers, and numerous keynote addresses and conference presentations internationally. She has also served as principal investigator or co-principal investigator on $6.25 million in grants since joining UMass Amherst.
The impact of Fountain’s ideas stretches far beyond academic texts and grants, however. She serves as an appointee to the Governor’s Innovation Council of Advisors for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and served on the American Bar Association’s Blue Ribbon Panel on e-Rulemaking. She has also been the chair, co-chair, and a council member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on the Future of Government, a leadership role working with government and corporate leaders in places such as Davos, Istanbul, Dubai and Vienna.
What’s next for Fountain? She remains dedicated to assisting governments around the world as they make the difficult transition to a more virtual state.
“It’s not an easy thing to take something as complex and variegated as a central government through what I think is a fairly significant transformation,” says Fountain. “For them to become infused with digital information, digital communications and all of the other tools that are available takes some reorganizing. My work is aimed at helping governments understand what their alternative paths are and to help them make more intelligent decisions.”
Article originally appeared on Research Next, available at http://www.umass.edu/researchnext/spotlight/virtual-state.
September 2, 2014
Distinguished Professor Jane Fountain, political science and public policy, gave the keynote address at the opening of Brazil’s first national digital government conference, I Simpósio Internacional em Inovação e Governança Digital, held Sept. 1-2 at the University of Brazil in Brasilia.
Fountain’s keynote, “Disjointed Innovation: The Political Economy of Digitally Mediated Institutional Reform,” addressed key research, policy and practical challenges in digital government. Other researchers at the conference were drawn from the country’s major universities and from the government. Among many topics, they presented empirical and other findings from recent research on participatory budgeting, for which Porto Alegre, Brazil, is well known globally; on the Digital Office (Gabinete Digital), one of the foremost digital democracy initiatives in the world, in the State of Rio Grande do Sul; and on leveraging open source technologies and open content to promote innovation and replication in other platforms in Brazil.
July 10, 2014, Chicago
Distinguished Professor Jane Fountain spoke at the 26th annual meeting of the Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics, held in Chicago last month.
Fountain participated in a featured panel titled “Big Data Across Organizational Forms and Markets.” Her presentation focused on the capacity of government institutions to leverage large data sets and to develop public policies to exploit innovation while protecting the public good.
This was the latest public address that Fountain has given on the topic of big data, a term used to describe complex data sets that are too large to process using traditional computational applications. Increasingly sophisticated technology has allowed social scientists to analyze this kind of data with greater nuance and accuracy.
Last fall, Fountain was one of the experts invited to the Oxford Internet Institute’sworkshop “Responsible Research Agendas for Public Policy in the Era of Big Data.” She participated as the director of the National Center for Digital Government. In addition to academic experts and researchers, the workshop convened senior agency staff from several federal bureaus, including labor statistics; census; and the Office for the Management of the Budget.
Photo: public domain photograph, By User:Shoffman11 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
June 17, 2014
Future of Government Smart Toolbox, a new guide to help governments use technology to build better trust and deliver more efficient public services, includes a section on political representation authored by Jane Fountain, Distinguished Professor in political science and public policy. The guide was launched June 10 by the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on the Future of Government, in cooperation and with the support of the government of the United Arab Emirates.
Political representation is one of the core issues for technology and governance globally. Fountain has been a member of the Future of Government Global Agenda Council since its inception seven years ago. She is past chair of the council and led the writing of its first major report, “The Future of Government: Lessons Learned from around the World,” which led to the initial sessions at Davos for government and non-governmental organizations leaders on this topic.
“Future of Government Smart Toolbox,” provides an analysis of how technology can and is impacting the demands placed on government to deliver more with less, as well as affecting government’s ability to meet expectations. The toolbox focuses on eight key areas for improving government performance: anti-corruption, political representation, bureaucracy, delivery of services, trust, leadership, security and innovation.
As part of the toolbox, the Global Agenda Council on the Future of Government has developed three forward-looking scenarios to examine how the world of governance could evolve by 2050. The scenarios, developed with the Forum’s Strategic Foresight team, are:
- City State: A world in which authority is decentralized to the city level and pragmatism trumps idealism in addressing collective issues.
- e1984: A world in which the promise of Big Data is realized; economic, geopolitical and cyber threats are omnipresent, and collective solidarity is a core societal value.
- Gated Community: A world in which world political power rests with individuals and private sector organizations; individual responsibility and choice prevail in society, with the private sector being the main provider of collective services.
“The UAE government has embraced innovation and set high benchmarks in government efficiency and trust,” said Mohammed Abdullah Al Gergawi, minister of cabinet affairs and chairman of the organizing committee for the Government Summit, Federal Government of the United Arab Emirates. “We are happy that the UAE Government Summit partnership with the forum has led to a tangible and positive outcome as the Smart Toolbox, which takes trust in government as a unifying theme. It also highlights the role of UAE Government Summit as an international platform to enhance the future of the government administration around the world.”
“Leadership of informed societies requires leaders to take a progressive approach to building trust through better, more efficient and responsive governance,” added Espen Barth Eide, managing director and member of the managing board, World Economic Forum. “The World Economic Forum has partnered with the Government Summit, United Arab Emirates as part of our longstanding and strong partnership in order to showcase good governance practices from around the world attesting to the vision and the making of truly smart, technologically enabled governments.”
“ICT has a great role to play in helping governments create trust and provide leadership,” noted Joseph S. Nye Jr., chair of the Council on the Future of Government and University Distinguished Service Professor, Harvard Kennedy School of Government. “But to use it effectively, leaders need to be aware of how technology is changing society and how these changes in turn will place new demands on governance.”
The Smart Toolbox also includes governance best practices from a number of countries, as well as case studies written by council members, including Abdulla Al Basti, director-general, the executive office-government of Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and Jimmy Wales, founder and chair emeritus, board of trustees, Wikimedia Foundation.
June 17, 2014
Jane Fountain, Distinguished Professor of political science and public policy, has been appointed to a three-year term as a member of the Experts Advisory Committee of the E-Government Research Center of the Eastern Regional Organization for Public Administration (EROPA).
Founded in 1960, EROPA is an organization of states, groups and individuals in Asia and the Pacific designed to promote regional cooperation in improving knowledge, systems and practices of government administration in order to help accelerate economic and social development. Fountain is the only non-Chinese member of the approximately 10-member Experts Advisory Committee.
Earlier this month, Fountain served as the keynote speaker at the first international conference organized jointly by EROPA and the Chinese Academy of Personnel Science, eGovernment Research Center.
May 30, 2014 - Distinguished Professor Jane Fountain, Director of the National Center for Digital Government, gave a keynote address yesterday at the International Seminar on E-Government and Modern Governance in Asia. The seminar, hosted by the Eastern Regional Organization for Public Administration, brought together researchers and practitioners of e-governance from around the globe. The two-day session based in Beijing aimed to accelerate the smart and intentional development of e-government throughout Asian countries.
The Eastern Regional Organization for Public Administration was established in 1960 to advance the economic and social development of the region through the promotion of the study, practice and status of public administration and management.
Venice, Italy, May 11 - Jane Fountain, Distinguished Professor in political science and public policy, and Director of the National Center for Digital Government, was an invited participant at the 34th Aspen Italia Seminar for Leaders held in Venice, Italy, from May 9-11.
The focus of the seminar session was media and politics in the digital age: participation, transparency and responsibility. Fountain drew in part from her study of the role of technology in political representation that was published by the World Economic Forum in June.
Jane Fountain, Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Public Policy, has been named to the 2014 “Top Federal 100” by Federal Computer Week, one of only two academics on the list.
“Federal IT would not function without people like this year’s Fed 100,” says FCW. “And at a time when optimism can be hard to muster in government, their stories are a refreshing reminder of what one person can make possible.” Several UMass Amherst alumni were on hand, and Fountain was accompanied by former NCDG fellow, Hirokazu Okumura of Tokyo University (in the photo above).
The “Federal 100” in IT are selected based on contributions made during 2013. Fountain was selected based on her research on cross-agency collaboration in the federal government. In December 2013, the Administrative Conference of the United States (ACUS) released her major report titled “Examining Constraints To, and Providing Tools For, Cross-Agency Collaboration.” The study, commissioned by
ACUS, led to a set of recommendations that were debated and approved by vote of ACUS members at its annual plenary meeting. (Video of the plenary meeting and Fountain’s presentation are available on the ACUS website.) The study was based in part on Fountain’s report for the IBM Center for the Business of Government titled Implementing Cross-Agency Collaboration: A Guide for Federal Managers, the Center’s most downloaded report from January to October 2013. Both studies examine how the traditionally stove-piped federal bureaucracy has sought to become more collaborative in light of technological innovations. Her comments on how to improve interagency collaboration earned her the title “collaboration guru” by Federal Computer Week.
The “Federal 100” was started 25 years ago through the efforts of Frank Reeder, a 25-year veteran OMB official who in the late 1980s initiated with FCW a visible way to recognize and celebrate the achievements and innovations of government officials working in federal IT. Reeder, who was at that time was branch chief for information policy at the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs at OMB, also served during his illustrious career in the legislative branch and through non-governmental organizations. An emphasis on recognizing contributions from all levels of the federal government through a nomination process driven by the expert community and an evaluation process by a blue ribbon panel of judges has continued to be a hallmark of the Federal 100 award for the past quarter century.
Photo: Copyright FCW 2014. Photos of the Federal 100 awards event are available through the Federal Computer Weekly website.