National Academy of Public Administration Panel Report on Space Traffic Management

A panel of the National Academy of Public Administration, including Jane Fountain, NCDG Director, released a report that was requested by the U.S. Congress for the U.S. Department of Commerce on commercial space traffic management (STM). The report includes recommendations to advance the open data architecture and cross-sector gathering, analysis and use of data that have become increasingly critical to avoiding collisions in space as domestic and foreign commercial companies, universities, and military/intelligence agencies launch assets into orbit.

The panel published a brief article in Government Executive on the report on August 20, 2020 titled “Managing Space Traffic in an Increasingly Congested Orbit.”

The Moon, the Ghetto and Artificial Intelligence: Enacting Digital Government

Jane Fountain, director of the NCDG, was one of the keynote speakers of the 21st Annual International Conference on Digital Government Research (dg.o ’20). The conference was held last June and focused on the discussions surrouding artificial intelligence and digital government. You can check out Fountain’s speech below:


Artificial intelligence promises to offer powerful means, tools and applications to solve a range of problems many of which have long been considered in digital government research. Yet fears abound concerning machine learning, an area of AI that includes opaque algorithms that “learn,” and datasets that may include biases that could have serious implications for the outputs of automated decision making. These profound technological developments collide with troubling increases in social and income inequalities that have produced political destabilization and human suffering. In a prescient lecture, Richard Nelson asked why it is that public policy can put someone on the moon but cannot solve the problems that produce and sustain the ghetto. What should digital government researchers know at artificial intelligence, and what might digital government researchers interested in artificial intelligence applications learn from the metaphor of the moon and the ghetto as we continue to examine and influence the enactment of digital government?

ACM Reference Format: Jane Fountain. 2020. Keynote: The Moon, the Ghetto and Artificial Intelligence: Enacting Digital Government. In dg.o ’20: The 21st Annual International Conference on Digital Government Research (dg.o ’20), June 15–19, 2020, Seoul, NY, USA. ACM, New York, NY, USA, 2 pages.

Fountain Named Keynote Speaker of 21st Annual International Conference on Digital Government Research

Jane E. Fountain, Distinguished University Professor of Political Science and Public Policy, and adjunct distinguished professor in the College of Information and Computer Sciences, will be a keynote speaker at the 21st Annual International Conference on Digital Government Research (dg.o 2020).

The theme of dg.o 2020 is “Intelligent Government in the Intelligent Information Society.” This conference will focus on the role and capacity building of government and the new governance that would be required to timely address the challenges and opportunities that are brought by the new technologies and also to construct a trust-based society by achieving sustainable development in the intelligent information society.

Fountain directs the National Center for Digital Government. Her current research is focused on institutions and digitalization, specifically on cross-boundary and emergent institutional arrangements. She has worked with and coauthored with graduate students, and others, in the areas of institutional development and governance related to technological change in information and communications.

Fountain was selected to the World’s 100 Most Influential People in Digital Government and one of the 14 Most Influential Academics in Digital Government in 2018 and 2019 by apolitical. She was named a Federal 100 awardee in 2013. Fountain is an elected Fellow (2012) and Secretary of the Board of Directors of the National Academy of Public Administration; a former Chair, Vice Chair and invited member of the World Economic Forum Global Advisory Council on the Future of Government; was a member of the American Bar Association Blue Ribbon Commission on the Future of eRulemaking; and was an appointed member of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Governor’s Council on Innovation.

Fountain was awarded the UMass Amherst Chancellor’s Medal, the highest honor bestowed to faculty on the campus, and the Chancellor’s Award for Outstanding Accomplishments in Research and Creative Activity.

Ethan Zuckerman Presents Ideas for Building Social Media that’s Good for Society and Democracy

On Thursday, January 22, 2020, a large and engaged audience composed of UMass students and faculty, and members of the local community came together to hear from Ethan Zuckerman, Former Director of the MIT Center for Civic Media, who spoke about how we can fix social media and use it to strengthen democracy in this era of increasing polarisation. Jane Fountain, Director of the National Center for Digital Government (NCDG) introduced Zuckerman before he presented the talk. See video below.

Fountain Named to Global List of 100 Most Influential People in Digital Government

Jane Fountain, Distinguished Professor of political science and public policy and director of the National Center for Digital Government, has been named one of the 100 Most Influential People in Digital Government for 2018 by global policy platform Apolitical.

The list is the first of its kind to show the full international spread of innovative work in the field of digital government, with public servants from all levels of government appearing alongside representatives of the private sector and nongovernmental organizations, as well as academia. Fountain was named among the 14 men and women selected from the category of academia.

Those included in the list were selected for their influence on the transition to digital governments, whether through policymaking, research, advocacy or other means. Nominations were submitted from hundreds of digital government experts from leading organizations, including 14 national digital services, The Alan Turing Institute, the intergovernmental Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the United Nations, Future Cities Catapult, USAID and the Open Government Partnership.

Apolitical is a global platform used by public servants and policymakers in more than 120 countries to connect with each other and to find original and curated content about what’s working in policymaking around the world on topics such as digital government and government innovation.

Original article published at UMass News & Media Relations. You can find the complete Apolitical list here.

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 Amit 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.