Books and Monographs

Building the Virtual State: Information Technology and Institutional Change. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 2001.

The benefits of using technology to remake government seem almost infinite. The promise of such programs as user-friendly “virtual agencies” and portals where citizens can access all sections of government from a single website has excited international attention. The potential of a digital state cannot be realized, however, unless the rigid structures of the contemporary bureaucratic state change along with the times. Building the Virtual State explains how the American public sector must evolve and adapt to exploit the possibilities of digital governance fully and fairly. The book finds that many issues involved in integrating technology and government have not been adequately debated or even recognized. Drawing from a rich collection of case studies, the book argues that the real challenges lie not in achieving the technical capability of creating a government on the web, but rather in overcoming the entrenched organizational and political divisions within the state. Questions such as who pays for new government websites, which agencies will maintain the sites, and who will ensure that the privacy of citizens is respected reveal the extraordinary obstacles that confront efforts to create a virtual state. These political and structural battles will influence not only how the American state will be remade in the Information Age, but also who will be the winners and losers in a digital society. (Brookings Institution Press webpage)

Selected endorsements and reviews

“Many observers have claimed that the new information technologies have transformed organizations of all kinds, and that they will reinvent the structures and practices of government agencies and the relationships between these agencies and citizens. Building the Virtual State provides an account of the federal government’s encounter with the new information technologies that is grounded in thorough and painstaking research, interpreted through a sophisticated theoretical lens. With striking wisdom, Fountain spins a story that will be of immense interest to the policy community, to students of information technology, and students of organizations who want to see how a seamless blend of neoinstitutional theory and political analysis can illuminate organizational change.” — Paul DiMaggio, Princeton University.

“… the major value of this book lies in the carefully articulated theory of enacted technology and its implications to public managers. But the theory alone would have little weight without the excellent case studies, which flesh out the general concepts and relationship. The cases will also help students of public administration understand why technology is not a panacea.” — Stuart Brettschneider, Public Administration Review, Vol. 63, No. 6.

“The basic argument Fountain makes–that the rise of the internet poses enormous issues for the conduct of government and the role of bureaucracy–has become even more important. Her book is an invaluable map for understanding the sweeping and inescapable changes.” — Donald F. Kettl, Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 118, No. 1.

Choice Outstanding Academic Title 2002

Read the eBook on Google Play (2004)


Chinese translation. 构建虚拟政府:信息技术与制度创新 China Renmin University Press, 2004. Second edition, Public Administration and Public Management Classics, 2010.

Portuguese translation. Construindo um Estado Virtual: Tecnologia da Informaçã e mudança institucional. Escola Nacional de Administração Pública, Brasília, 2005.

Japanese translation. 仮想国家の建設 Tokyo: Ichigeisya, 2005, trans. Hirokazu Okumura.

Spanish translation. La construcción del Estado virtual: Tecnologías de Información y Cambio Institucional. Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas (CIDE), Mexico, 2014, trans. Prof. Ramon Gil-Garcia.

Monographs and Edited Work

The Future of Government: Lessons Learned from around the World Report Monograph. Jane Fountain, Chair, World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on the Future of Government and Council members. World Economic Forum Geneva, 2011. Report written for the first meeting of world leaders on social media and governance at the annual meeting in Davos, January 2011. 52 pages. Russian trans, Yuri Hohlov, 2011; Arabic trans, Yasar Jarrar, 2011. (Other World Economic Forum writing may be found under “Articles”.)

The GPRA Modernization Act Of 2010: Examining Constraints To, And Providing Tools For, Cross- Agency Collaboration Report monograph. Washington, D.C.: Administrative Conference of the United States, 2013. 125 pages. ACUS Recommendations 2013-7 are here. Project documents are here.

Information, Institutions and Governance: Advancing a Basic Social Science Research Program for Digital Government

Report monograph based on a national research workshop organized by the author, sponsored by the National Science Foundation under award no. EIA-0203085. The workshop was intended to aid NSF in developing a research program for digital government. Support for the workshop was provided by the Digital Government Program, the Digital Society and Technologies Program, and the Political Science Program at the National Science Foundation. Cambridge, MA: Kennedy School of Government, National Center for Digital Government. May 2002. 126 pages.

Proposition 2 1/2: Its Impact on Massachusetts A report from the 2 1/2 Project, a multi-disciplinary initiative at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to assess the impacts of Massachusetts’ property tax limitation statute, ed., Lawrence E. Susskind, co-edited by Jane Fountain Serio. Cambridge: Oelgeschlager, Gunn and Hain, 1983.