Fountain Addresses Big Data and the Common Good


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

Fountain Authors Section of New World Economic Forum Guide for Government Technology Use



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.


Excerpt from Professor Jane Fountain’s contribution to the “Future of Government Smart Toolbox”

Fountain Appointed to Advisory Committee on E-Government in Asia

Fountain poses before her invited lecture at Tsinghua University School of Public Policy and Management, China’s top public policy school.

Fountain poses before her invited lecture at Tsinghua University School of Public Policy and Management, China’s top public policy school.

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.



Fountain Delivers Keynote at EROPA E-Governance Seminar

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.

Fountain Discusses Technology in Political Representation at Venice Seminar

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 receives “Federal 100” award


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.

Jane Fountain, NCDG Director, with Hirokazu Okumura, Tokyo University and former NCDG Fellow, at the Federal 100 Awards Gala

Jane Fountain, NCDG Director, with Hirokazu Okumura, Tokyo University and former NCDG Fellow, at the Federal 100 Awards Gala

“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.

NCDG Welcomes Visitors from Bogotá, Colombia


Visiting graduate students from Externado University, Bogota, Colombia with Jane Fountain, NCDG director, and NCDG Fellow Ahmed Ibrahim


This week, the National Center for Digital Government welcomes six international visitors from Externado University in Bogotá, Colombia for a weeklong visit from April 7 to 11, 2014. This exchange is part of a broader partnership between NCDG at the University of Massachusetts and Externado University that aims to provide professors and students from both institutions with increased opportunities to study and work internationally and is being facilitated by the International Academic Program.

The visit, entitled “Management Research Trends in the 21st Century”, is comprised of diverse activities at the University of Massachusetts throughout the week, including lectures, meetings with UMass faculty and students, and visiting graduate courses. The six visitors are graduate students at Externado University’s Business School in Bogotá. They are: Carlos Merchán (MBA), Magda Zea (Masters in Innovation), Diana Pérez (Masters in Human Resources and Organizational Development), María Fernanda Paz (Masters in Marketing), Héctor Méndez (Masters in Marketing), and Mariam Facio (Masters in Strategic Thinking). Elsa Augustine coordinated the visit on campus.

Erdem Erkul at the Council of European Professional Informatics Societies (CEPIS) in Brussels

ErdemCEPISDr. Erdem Erkul,  Regional National Plan Manager, Legal & Corporate Affairs, Middle East and Africa, Microsoft and a former NCDG Fellow, participated in the the 52nd CEPIS Council last weekend in Geneva.

CEPIS (Council of European Professional Informatics Societies) in Brussels is the representative body of national informatics associations throughout greater Europe. CEPIS’ main aim is to promote the development of the information society in Europe. It achieves this by focusing its efforts on a number of areas that are of particular interest to its members. The NGO was established in 1989 by nine European informatics societies. It has since grown to represent over 300,000 ICT and informatics professionals as members in 32 countries. CEPIS also supports the European Commission and European Union in technology related policy issues through its activities.

Representatives of member countries and societies meet annually. Erkul has been attending these meetings on behalf of the Informatics Association of Turkey and representing Turkey for four years in the area of informatics and technology.

Last weekend, the 52nd meeting was held in Geneva. Erkul delivered a speech and made a presentation on “The role of NGOs in Public Participation and the Policy Making Process”. At the end of the Council meeting , European representatives, who are presidents/vice presidents of European informatics associations, nominated him for election as Vice President. The election will be held in Brussels in November 2014.CEPISgroup

Jane Fountain delivered a keynote address at the symposium titled “Technological Innovation in Government: Toward Open and Smart Government” organized by the Section on Science and Technology in Government, American Society of Public Administration, held at the McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies, University of Massachusetts Boston on April 5, 2014


For details see:


New report: Building Cross-Agency Collaboration

Last week, Jane Fountain presented the results of a broad study of cross-agency collaboration at the annual plenary meeting of the Administrative Conference of the United States, an independent federal agency. The final report, The GPRA Modernization Act of 2010: Examining Constraints To, and Providing Tools For, Cross-Agency Collaboration brings together guidance and recommendations for public managers, examines the early implementation of some of the provisions of the Government Performance and Results Act Modernization Act of 2010, and highlights four case studies of successful, important cross-agency collaboration. I’m immensely grateful to current and former government officials and other experts who gave generously of their time and knowledge to teach me more of the inner workings of cross-agency collaboration.

The case studies in the report are meant to illustrate concretely the complexity of cross-agency collaboration and, in most cases, the long period of development required for public managers and others to build shared goals, language, methods and processes. The case studies demonstrate innovative and impressive cross-agency projects.

The National Export Initiative, one of the administration’s first set of cross-agency priority, or CAP, goals is meant to double U.S. exports by the end of 2014. The effort brings together about 20 different departments and agencies responsible for trade policy, negotiations, funding and other resources, and export promotion. The initiative builds on the Trade Policy Coordinating Committee, established by Congress in 1992, and strengthens its strategic focus and coherence.

Reducing veteran homelessness focuses on the “virtual agency” created by policy entrepreneurs at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, HUD, and the Veterans Administration, the VA, working with a constellation of state and local government agencies, NGOs and other partners. The HUD-VA Supportive Housing rental voucher program, an interagency program that actually began in 1991, is one of the core cross-agency vehicles to move veterans with a variety of physical and mental health needs out of chronic homelessness. Nineteen federal agencies comprise the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH). But local level collaboration is critical for implementation. The case describes the linkages from Washington to local level, community decision makers.

The Partnership for Sustainable Communities is a collaboration among three federal agencies designed to reconceptualize policies and practices by coordinating those who work on affordable housing with those who focus on affordable transportation to produce solutions for communities that will help people live in proximity to jobs with the ability to choose affordable transportation. The U.S. Department of Transportation, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Environmental Protection Agency have worked together to build this cross-agency capacity. Here’s a brief video from the mayor of Bridgeport, Connecticut on the importance of the collaboration.

An expert at DOT said of this initiative:

One of the biggest [cross-agency projects] in the Obama Administration has been the Partnership for Sustainable Communities. This is clearly worth doing. We do a profound amount of transportation, housing, economic development, environmental planning and investment that is completely disconnected. We fail to capitalize on synergies and we spend way more money than we should and we don’t get the outcomes. That’s an area where the challenges [of cross-agency collaboration] are worth it.

Expedited Permitting and Review of Federal Infrastructure Projects is a case study that offers guidance to public managers and others on the cross-agency use of dashboards, rapid response teams, and interventions at the regional and local levels to push collaboration throughout agencies. Quoting from a presidential memorandum of August 2011, the project is meant to more fully leverage strategies such as “integrating planning and environmental reviews; coordinating multi-agency or multi-governmental reviews and approvals to run concurrently; setting clear schedules for completing steps in the environmental review and permitting process; and utilizing information technologies to inform the public about the progress of environmental reviews as well as the progress of Federal permitting and review processes.”

The background and recommendations in the report build on and expand previous research, including a more concise report titled Implementing Cross-Agency Collaboration: A Guide for Federal Managers, published by the IBM Center for the Business of Government.

The ACUS annual plenary discussion concerning the study were surprising, in a positive way, because agency general counsel and attorneys discussed how important it is to them to understand the components of cross-agency collaboration. Most public management researchers know little about the perspectives and role of agency general counsel and attorneys with respect to interagency collaboration. We need to know more. Some attorneys described how agency attorneys are thrown into complex negotiations across agencies, and multiple parties, having had no training or experience in these matters. The video of the plenary session discussion is useful for its recording of this discussion. ACUS also makes publicly available on its website the meetings, minutes and various reviews of the study and recommendations as these were carried out by the ACUS Committee on Administration and Management.