Digital Governance and Policy Analytics

The “digital era”, characterized by the ubiquity of digital electronic technologies and the resulting seismic shifts in social, political and economic spheres, has profound implications for the practice of governing and processes of governance.

CSIP is investigating how public administration and governance is being disrupted by advancing digital technologies, and how government and society might respond to this rapidly-evolving environment.

Digital electronic devices have become absolutely central to our lives. But while they are becoming commonplace, they are quickly becoming invisible to our perception. In combination with the significant shifts in-train, the digital era requires deep institutional recalibrations in response. While governments have taken advantage of and have been influenced by computer tools over the past half century, the digital era has profound implications for the practice of governing and processes of governance.

The digital era is producing significant challenges and opportunities for Canadian governance, stemming from:

  • new information channels and platforms, leading to a flood of communication and increasing demands for attention;
  • expanded abilities to collect data from citizens, provided both actively and passively;
  • heightened expectations on the part of citizens and stakeholders that they be included in policy making and that their voice be heard;
  • new ways to monitor performance and behaviour, closing the feedback loop between policy and outputs; and,
  • the ability to send signals into the policy environment using the same channels and platforms used to collect data.

Governments must build their capacity and their sophistication in using digital tools.

With just a handful of governments beginning to invest in policy analytic capabilities, we stand at the precipice of a significant reformulation of the policy analysis approach. But to take full advantage of these new tools, governments need to make further investments in hardware, software, and people.

This research cluster aims to deepen the analysis of new and emerging changes, and serve as a platform for experimentation to test what works in this new environment. In addition to deciphering what the digital era means for society and governance, CSIP researchers will work directly with government partners to design and implement digital governance field experiments to find and promote institutional innovations in real-world settings. The long-term impact will be a better understanding of how Canadian society and governance is evolving in the digital era, and what governments can do in response to that change.

Current Research Programs

IP can be an incentive for technological innovation, offering strategic advantages to those who control information. But IP can also be an impediment to innovation, hindering collaboration or access to knowledge. “Open” and/or “collaborative” innovation happens when knowledge flows across the boundaries of any single firm, and circulates throughout knowledge networks and innovation ecosystems.

Led by Jeremy de Beer, his multidisciplinary research team are seeking to understand which IP practices and policies work well for open innovation, which do not and, most importantly, why.

Three case studies are currently being conducted:

  • Smartphone patent wars
  • Digital content and creative consumers
  • Science and technology partnerships

Qualitative and quantitative data collected through these case studies will lead directly to proposals for new IP-related metrics to evaluate and improve open innovation practices and policies. A book, co-authored articles, practical guidelines and policy recommendations will mobilize new knowledge across academic disciplines and industrial sectors, having impact on scholars, industry and government.

The 5-year project runs from 2013-2018, and is jointly funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Genome Canada and three collaborating universities: Ottawa, Saskatchewan and Simon Fraser.

Evolving digital technologies are critical to Canada’s future economic growth and prosperity. Global leadership driving this rapid pace of innovation is also in constant flux—posing a challenge for Canada, but also an opportunity. To benefit, we must take appropriate action, as our prospects for competitiveness and economic growth are inextricably linked to our ability to seize the ‘digital opportunity’ being created.

Canada, however, lacks sufficient insight into how to create a global competitive advantage. The paucity of current research on the nature of Canadian participation in evolving digital networks leaves a gap in the knowledge base needed to form effective policies on the municipal, provincial, and national level.

In response to this need, the Innovation Policy Lab, in association with lead partner, the Canadian International Council, have established a new research partnership to produce the knowledge required to move forward. The Research Partnership on the Digital Economy, including members from 16 universities and 12 partner organizations, will work together with the goal of situating Canada’s digital opportunity in a global context. This, in turn, will encourage policymakers to strengthen our international competitiveness and contribute to a broader public debate throughout Canada with regard to what kind of political economy we want to promote moving forward.

This research project will identify strengths in current and emerging digital sectors, by examining the place of Canadian corporations, products and services in global production networks. It will also examine how individual regions and locales can invest in the appropriate skills and infrastructure and design appropriate policies to attract outside firms and assists local ones to participate in these networks as well as build upon existing expertise and success across sectors. At the same time, the project will investigate the extent to which digital technologies are being adopted and diffused across a wide range of other sectors—from advanced manufacturing to natural resources and business services—all of which are crucial for the future competitiveness of the Canadian economy and ask if we are taking full advantage of the opportunities on offer.

Digital technologies are rapidly changing the world we live in, whether by facilitating the restructuring of business into more effective global production networks, or by improving the productivity of businesses applying digital tools in their operations, and providing better opportunities to digitally connect communities. However, these developments do not automatically bestow their benefits upon all businesses or nations equally. We need to better understand how Canadian information technology firms, digital media content producers and technology users can most effectively participate in the rapidly expanding global digital economy. The goal of the research partnership is to provide a clearer understanding of how Canada can benefit from these changes, based on solid research, to help business, governments and communities develop effective strategies for Canada’s digital future.