Master of Public Policy   Master of International Affairs  

Digital state capacities

Digital Governance is changing the rules of the game regarding the capacities that governments are expected to build and deploy. In many aspects, these capacities can no longer be labelled as innovations but rather as necessary adaptations geared towards fulfilling core state functions against the backdrop of fast-changing communities of expertise and new emerging social phenomena.

This course will delve into a number of topics related to the concept of state capacity and explore how state capacities evolve in the Digital Age. In this framework, it will explore the challenges, the empirical evidence and the unknowns of four core state areas: a) law enforcement, digital identities, and the reach of the state; b) information-assisted regulation and algorithm governance; c) crowdsourcing, coproduction and open collaborative technologies, and d) the use of blockchain technology by governments. Critical questions addressed will be, for example, what are the conditions that allow better adaptability responses in terms of digital capacity building in the above areas? What are the known intended and unintended consequences of newly adopted digital instruments? Why do countries fall into ‘capability traps'? What are the strongest opportunities and the biggest threats that lay ahead in the field of digital governance?

Discussions and debate points will be drawn both from academic as well as practitioner strands and will involve an active role of the students in investigating state-of the art problems and sources of information, which will feed into an overall framework to address the course's core questions.

The major aim of this course is to provide students with theoretical and applied tools to dig deeper into new capacity challenges facing governments today. By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  • Have a thorough understanding of the obstacles and enablers involved in digital state capacity and state capacity more generally;
  • Reflect on contested and unresolved issues around the role of the state in digital transformation;
  • Develop approaches to address such problems, in particular, using systematic analyses on how to overcome capability traps.