Fountain to Advise on Digital Economy for the Arab World

Via UMass Amherst School of Public Policy

Jane Fountain, Distinguished University Professor at the UMass Amherst School of Public Policy and the Department of Political Science, has been invited by the League of Arab States to join an advisory group on the development of a digital economy in Arab nations.

Fountain, founder and director of the National Center for Digital Government, will serve on an experts group that will review and make recommendations to the Digital Economy Strategy for the Arab World, prepared by the League’s Council of Arab Economic Unity. She also will also attend the Arab Economic Unity Council Economy Summit, to take place in December in Abu Dhabi, where the strategy will be presented for formal approval.

“I’m deeply honored to be working with the Arab League on digital government developments,” Fountain said. “It’s especially important for the Arab world to develop a strategy that encompasses the myriad challenges as well as the potential of digital government.

“At a time when cybersecurity, surveillance, privacy and the ability to detect whether online information is real or false threaten to disrupt the online world, a feasible plan should combine realism with a sense of possibility.”

Fountain also serves as director of the UMass Amherst Science, Technology, and Society Initiative and as a board member of the National Academy of Public Administration. She was recently named one of the world’s 100 Most Influential People in Digital Government.

“Technology and governance is a priority area for the School of Public Policy,” said SPP Director Al Roberts. “We’re fortunate to have Professor Fountain serving on our faculty.”

— Maureen Turner, communications manager, School of Public Policy

World Librarians Project Brings Educational Resources to Students in Malawi

Professor Charlie Schweik of the UMass Amherst School of Public Policy and the Department of Environmental Conservation and two students traveled to Paris last month to present their World Librarians project at a United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) conference, Mobile Learning Week 2018: Skills for a Connected World.

World Librarians aims to breach the “digital divide”—the gulf between the 53 percent of the world’s population that lacks access to the internet and those who have it—by bringing educational resources to teachers and students in Malawi. The UMass team, which includes students and staff from across campus, works in partnership with ShiftIT, an education organization in Malawi, and the California-based nonprofit World Possible, which developed the technology used by World Librarians. Schweik is one of a team of scholars at the School of Public Policy whose work includes a focus on policy related to science and technology.

Without the internet, “people don’t have access to the information they want to make their lives better,” Schweik explained at the recent UMass Information & Communication Technology Summit, where the team demonstrated the project. World Librarians addresses that problem through its work with nine rural, offline schools and libraries in Malawi. Each site is provided with a RACHEL, a portable server and Wi-Fi hotspot device developed by World Possible that’s loaded with open-access educational resources—such as Wikipedia and Khan Academy materials—that can be accessed by students and teachers in solar-powered computer labs.

In addition, teachers and librarians can request specific information by sending a message to World Librarians via Twitter. That’s possible, Schweik said, because cell phones are fairly common in developing countries and the small data demands of sending or receiving short Twitter messages is less costly to a user’s data plan than surfing the internet. When World Librarians receive a request—which might be anything from instructions on drying tomatoes, to guides to teaching Shakespeare, to materials to get girls interested in physics—the team’s two student “searchers” get to work.

“What makes this project unique is that we’re searching for what they ask for,” as opposed to presuming to know what they need, said project manager Pammy Eisner, a senior political science major who’s in the School of Public Policy’s accelerated master of public policy program. Too often, she said, the western world imposes on people in developing nations its assumptions about what’s best for them. World Librarians uses a peer-to-peer communication model and seeks feedback from the Malawi educators to ensure that the resources it sends meet their needs.

Finding those resources is not always easy. To avoid copyright infringement issues, World Librarians shares only open-license or Creative Commons material, which can be hard to find, noted Jeremy Smith, a UMass librarian involved with the project. The searchers also need to keep in mind the ages and English skills of the students who will use the materials; videos are best, Eisner said, because they’re typically more accessible than written material.

Once the right resources are found, the UMass team puts it on a Google drive, then someone at ShiftIT loads it to a flash drive and physically delivers it to the requesting school or library. Students and teachers can access the material in their solar-powered computer labs, with machines provided by UMass, and can save it on inexpensive flash drives provided by the project.

World Librarians is growing, adding a rural health center to its list of sites in Malawi and exploring an expansion in Cameroon. The goal, Schweik said, is to scale up the project, bringing it to more countries, offering resources in more languages, and finding other universities to join the effort.

The group’s trip to the UNESCO conference was supported by the School of Public Policy, the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, the UMass Libraries, the School of Earth and Sustainability, the Department of Environmental Conservation, and the Commonwealth Honors College.

About the School of Public Policy: Established in 2016, the UMass Amherst School of Public Policy is a hub for research and teaching, preparing students for leadership in public service. The program’s focuses include social change and public policy related to science and technology.

— Maureen Turner, communications manager, School of Public Policy

— Photo of Charlie Schweik and Pammy Eisner

Caroline O’Connor, photographer

Information Technology Program, CICS, UMass Amherst – ©2018

“A Justice-Based Approach for New Media Policy” by Ait Schejter

Amit Schejter will present a lecture titled “A Justice-Based Approach for New Media Policy” on October 20, 2017, 12-1 p.m., at the Integrated Learning Center, Communication Hub, 3d floor, at UMass Amherst. (Contact Jonathan Corpus Ong at for details.)

Amit Schejter, professor at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Pennsylvania State University, will present from his new book, A Justice-Based Approach for New Media Policy: In the Paths of Righteousness (Palgrave, 2017). Professor Schejter’s book calls for a conceptual advance from a focus on “freedom” to a focus on “equality” and a move from an emphasis on “liberty” to a concentration on “capability.”

NCDG is co-sponsoring this event with the Department of Journalism, the Department of Communication and the School of Public Policy.

Fountain delivers keynote at ICEGOV2017 in New Delhi, India

Jane Fountain, Director of NCDG, and Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Public Policy, delivered a keynote address on March 8, 2017 at ICEGOV2017, one of the world’s foremost international research conferences on digital government and knowledge societies. This year’s conference took place in Delhi, India.

Fountain’s keynote was titled “Political Priorities and Administrative Performance: Building Cross-Agency Capacity.”

Fountain’s keynote address was based in part on her recent research, including:

Building an Enterprise Government: Creating an ecosystem for cross-agency collaboration

Government Performance and Results Modernization Act of 2010: Examining Constraints to, and Developing Tools for, Cross-Agency Collaboration

Implementing Cross-Agency Collaboration: A Guide for Federal Managers

The ICEGOV2017 conference theme was “Building Knowledge Societies: From Digital Government to Digital Empowerment.” At the conference, Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad launched Open Forge – the Government of India’s platform for open collaborative software development of e-Governance applications based on open data and open standards — and introduced the Digital India Global Roadmap, an action plan connecting the goals of Digital India with the United Nations Development Program sustainable development goals.

Fountain attended the conference, and associated planning meetings for the Digital India program, as a guest of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Government of India. The conference was organized by the Ministry through its Digital India Program and by the United Nations University. The conference presented peer-reviewed papers from 60 countries.

Recommendations to Build Cross-Agency Collaboration for the Next Administration

Fountain March 2016 cover

Today’s political and policy challenges – like veteran homelessness, sustainable communities, federal permitting and review, cybersecurity – demand greater cross-boundary capacity, that is, the ability of government to use cross-agency collaboration, partnerships and a range of enterprise approaches to solve problems. And new technologies make information sharing and streamlining possible. Yet governments remain too fragmented with agencies working “silos” without sufficient communication and knowledge sharing.

NCDG Director Professor Fountain’s new white paper, Building an Enterprise Government: Creating an Ecosystem for Cross-Agency Collaboration in the Next Administration, makes recommendations for building enterprise approaches in government. It was published on Monday, March 14, 2016 jointly by the Partnership for Public Service and IBM Center for the Business of Government.

Fountain’s report recommends that transition teams and the next administration should determine the presidential priorities and goals that are likely to require multiple agencies to work together. The White House should include executive talent in the form of a chief operating officer to focus on those cross-agency priorities when other matters threaten to divert attention. Over the past 25 years an emerging ecosystem of institutional actors has grown up to support cross-agency and enterprise teams. This institutional network is vital to enterprise and cross-agency approaches. It’s potential as a source of knowledge, strong practice and communication should be leveraged by government executives.

A group of current and former government officials gathered in Washington, D.C. in September, convened by the Partnership for Public Service and the IBM Center for the Business of Government to examine how to develop such approaches and to make recommendations for the next presidential administration. Professor Fountain captured the central themes of this roundtable discussion and built on her own research during more than two decades to recommend concrete steps the transition teams and next administration should take to develop the ability to work across agency boundaries.

The report is part of a series of five white papers to develop a Management Roadmap for the next administration and is included in the Partnership’s Center for Presidential Transition Ready to Government initiative.


Jane Fountain, NCDG Director, at 2016 World Government Summit in Dubai


IMG_20160208_012715024_HDRJane Fountain, Director of NCDG, was invited to participate in the 4th World Government Summit at the invitation of His Highness Lt General Sheikh Saif Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior of the United Arab Emirates. The Summit was held from 8-10 February in Dubai under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai. Fountain, Distinguished University Professor, Political Science and Public Policy, is the Chair of the Political Science Department and Director of the National Center for Digital Government.

Jane Fountain big dataThe World Government Summit focuses on shaping governments of the future and improving government service delivery through innovation. Billed as the largest annual government gathering in the world, the Government Summit serves as a global platform by gathering officials, thought leaders, policy makers and business leaders dedicated to developing the future of government.

This is not Fountain’s first visit to the region. As former Chair, Vice Chair and current member of the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on the Future of Government she has participated in summits and meetings in the UAE for the past seven years and previously worked with executives and government leaders at the Dubai School of Government.

IMG_20160209_124006945_HDRAt the Summit, Fountain heard President Barack Obama, who gave the keynote address by video; Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda, who discussed the growing influence of the UAE as a force for innovation and change in the Middle East and Africa; Muhammed Yunus, Founder of Grameen Bank and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate; and Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and President of Mary Robinson Foundation for Climate Justice.

During her visit, Fountain also met with US Ambassador to the UAE, Barbara Leaf, to discuss digital government, cybersecurity policy and innovation. Fountain was joined at the meeting, which took place at the US Embassy, by Hon. Chester Atkins, former member of the U.S. House of Representatives and of the Massachusetts Senate and House of Representatives; and by Boston University Professor Jessica Stern, terrorism expert and policy consultant. Fountain said, “The UAE is one of fastest growing nations in the world and has the region’s most highly developed infrastructure. It has become an international leader in important areas of government innovation and use of technology. While its path is quite different from that of the west, it is a country that merits close observation for its impressive innovations.”

Jane Fountain with Hon. Chester Atkins at the World Government Summit

Jane Fountain with Hon. Chester Atkins at the World Government Summit

Fountain also met with principals and analysts at Hedayah, one of the world’s top international institutes dedicated to countering violent extremism through research, analysis, dialogue, communication and capacity building. Hedayah’s activities range from counter-messaging and work with former fighters and victims of terrorism to police training, the role of women, empowering communities, participatory approaches, national strategies and legal issues in prevention of terrorism.

Jane Fountain with UMass alumns and Robotics for Good winners

Jane Fountain with UMass alumns and Robotics for Good winners

Among the highlights of the Summit was the UAE AI & Robotics Award for Good. The award supports innovations in artificial intelligence and robotics that focus on practical areas of value to society such as health, social services and education. Two UMass Amherst alumni – Michael McKinley and Maciej Pietrusinki, both of whom received Bachelor’s degrees in Mechanical Engineering – were members of the teams that won first and third place, respectively. McKinley’s team, SUITX, has developed affordable exoskeletons for children with neurological disorders. Pietrusinki is founder and president of AndrosRobotics LLC, which developed a robotic leg advancement device that administers gait training therapy to stroke and other neurological patients.

The Summit featured an Innovation Lab. Among the displays:


Rats trained to detect land mines and TB


China works with Baidu, the UN and others to pay citizens to recycle e-waste to prevent pollution


Drones for emergency relief in hard to reach areas.


Patient centered medicine


Dubai will soon launch the Museum of the Future in a building suitably designed fit for its purpose.




IMG_20160208_045247800 Beyond facial recognition … detecting emotion from facial images






Prototype exhibits at the Summit examined human enhancement, facial recognition, robotics and more.





Thought provoking exhibits on human augmentation




Events such as the World Government Summit are critical for global information sharing and knowledge transfer. It is impressive to see the Emiratis take the lead in such an important international gathering.


Schweik gives invited plenary talk at the Seventh International Workshop on Network Theory focusing on “Peer Production Networks”

On October 29th, Charlie Schweik gave an invited plenary talk entitled “Reflections on Open Source Software and Open Science Peer Production” at the “Seventh International Workshop on Network Theory: Peer Production Networks” at Northwestern University. In his talk, Schweik presented findings from his large-scale empirical study of open source software as the ‘quintessential instance’ of peer production, and then reflected on his work in peer production in other domains, such as open educational resources and in open source hardware and science. The full workshop program and links to talks is available at:

NCDG Symposium on Institutional Perspectives on Digital Government Research


On Monday, June 8, NCDG is hosting a research symposium on institutional perspectives on digital government research. Here is the program and list of speakers:

Symposium on Institutional Perspectives in Digital Government Research
National Center for Digital Government – University of Massachusetts Amherst
Gordon Hall, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

10-11 a.m. Welcome and introductions

11-11:40 “Enacting Collaborative Electronic Government: Empirical Evidence and Lessons from a Survey,” J. Ramon Gil-Garcia, Associate Professor, Rockefeller College of Public Affairs, and Research Director, Center for Technology and Government, University at Albany, State University of New York

11:40-12:20 p.m. “The Relation among Institutions, Organizations, Actors’ Preferences and e-Governance in Estonia,” Nele Leosk, Doctoral Candidate, European University Institute, Florence, Italy; NCDG Fellow and NYU Governance Lab Fellow (Fulbright-Schuman grantee)

12:20-1 p.m. “Using Technology for Improved Governance in Pakistan, ” Dr. Obed Q. Pasha, Lecturer, Center for Public Policy & Administration, University of Massachusetts Amherst

1-2 p.m. Lunch

2-2:40 p.m. “Digital Government Transformation and Internet Portals: The Co-Evolution of Technology, Organizations, and Institutions,” Luis F. Luna-Reyes, Associate Professor, Dept of Informatics, College of Computing and Information, University at Albany, State University of New York

2:40-3:20 p.m. “Administrative Information Sharing in Korea: Institutional Approach,” Seok-Jin Eom, Associate Professor of Public Administration, Seoul National University

3:20-4 p.m. “Digitally Mediated Institutions: Opportunities and Challenges in Cross-Agency Collaboration,” Jane E. Fountain, Distinguished University Professor and Director, National Center for Digital Government, University of Massachusetts Amherst

4-5 Discussion

Professor Nizar Ben Neji Highlights Tunisian E-Government Advances



Left to right: Jian Li, NCDG pre-doctoral fellow, Jilin University, China; Dr. Gretchen Gano, CPPA STS Research Associate; Nele Leosk, NCDG pre-doctoral fellow, [European University Institute, Florence, Italy); Jane Fountain, Distinguished University Professor and NCDG Director; Nizar Ben Neji, [Assistant Professor, University of Carthage and Fulbright Scholar; Prof. Raquel Galindo, Autonomous University of Madrid; Dr. Obed Pasha, Center for Public Policy and Administration.

On Wednesday, April 22, Nizar Ben Neji, a Fulbright Visiting Scholar and Assistant Professor from the University of Carthage in Tunisia, presented an overview of e-government initiatives in his home country during a seminar hosted by the National Center for Digital Government in Gordon Hall 203 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

During the last few years, public administration and structures in Tunisia have shown promising signs of moving from a classical way of delivering services to a more modern approach. The United Nations E-Government Survey 2014 shows that Tunisia leads the continent in e-government innovation and resources, climbing 28 places since 2012 due to the new government efforts to better serve citizens and businesses online. Neji will also highlight one of the most recent e-government projects in Tunisia, the Tunisian E-Procurement System (TUNEPS), a new digitized system that is covering the entire procurement process from purchase requests to payments.

In the video below, Neji discusses e-Government initiatives at the eID conference in Budapest:


The full presentation given at the National Center for Digital Government can be viewed here: Neji’s Presentation. For additional information, the former Tunisian Prime Minister gave a talk at the Harvard Institute of Politics entitled “Tunisia: A Start-Up Democracy,” the complete video is available by following this link.

During his Fulbright exchange, Neji is conducting research on cloud security and cryptography at the UMass Amherst electrical and computer engineering department. He has worked as information technology project manager at the Tunisian Government Certification Authority of the Ministry of ICT, where he was in charge of providing IT consulting services to support various PKI-related projects across e-government, e-banking and e-commerce. He was member of several national steering committees in charge of supervising national IT projects such as TUNEPS and the national committee in charge of revising the cybersecurity and cybercriminality law in Tunisia.