The National Center for Digital Government (NCDG) was established in 2002 with generous support from the National Science Foundation. NCDG is based at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in the School of Public Policy and the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences.
NCDG’s mission is to build global research capacity, to advance practice, and to strengthen the network of researchers and practitioners engaged in building and using technology to improve governance and civil society. The goal of NCDG is to apply and extend the social and policy sciences to advance research and practice at the intersection of governance, institutions and information technologies.
The goal of the center is the advancement of knowledge and practice through research, teaching, and engagement. We strive to build a deeper understanding of how social, technical, and policy research can better integrate scientific understanding with the design, implementation, diffusion and evaluation of information and communication technologies used in digital governance and related domains. In the academy, social science research often neglects confronting fundamental changes in information and communication technologies and their implications for central streams of theory and research. As a consequence, a generation of graduate students are without adequate intellectual guidance and support thereby weakening future research capacity in this domain. In the computer and information sciences, inadequate attention to the social properties and implications of social, political and other non-technical dimensions of governance and civil society continues to signal the importance of cross-disciplinary approaches to digital governance.
Our location in a land grant, public university is a source of pride at a time when reducing social inequalities is a central challenge. The mission and goals of NCDG align strongly with the UMass Amherst strategic plan for 2018-2023. As a forward-looking center oriented toward research, teaching and service, NCDG fosters new research, curriculum and courses, and outreach to practitioners in government and nonprofits as well as to businesses whose work bears on digital government.
Government and civil society have been in a period of deep transformation since the early 1990s, heralded by developments in information and communication technologies. The outcomes of fundamentally new modes of coordination, control, and communication in government offer potentially great benefit but also pose potentially great peril. Researchers and practitioners have a deep obligation to examine, articulate and communicate the range of possible effects of ubiquitous computing in government and to influence its development through research, education, dialogue, and practical activities.
Since its inception in 2002, NCDG has functioned in three primary ways: as a clearinghouse for digital government research, practice, and innovation; a convener of social, policy, computer and information science researchers, government practitioners and related private sector actors; a means to advance human development through workshops for cross-sectoral groups, education for graduate and executive students, and development of teaching tools and resources; and the advancement of knowledge through all of these attributes as well as longitudinal, cross-disciplinary, problem-oriented research. Successive waves of technological developments from the Internet and Web, to the rise of social media, and, more recently, the advancement of artificial intelligence and machine learning reshape the focus but not the overall vision of NCDG.