Politics vs. service

By: Sandford BorinsMy recent book, Digital State at the Leading Edge, followed the development of IT in Canadian government for the last five years. Looking back, I'm amazed at how many surprises new technologies provided.In this blog, I'll be continuing the discussion of the impact of new technology in the public sector – both politics and government – and keeping my eye out for problems, questions, and paradoxes.As a professor, I'll also be looking at the use of IT in the university, in particular by our tech-savvy students. And I'll end each entry with a question. So let's begin.One of the biggest changes brought about by Canada's new government concerns the federal government's portal (www.gc.ca) – a prime location in cyberspace, visited by millions.Under the Liberals, the focus was on services, with by far the most territory given to three service gateways: Canadians, business, and non-Canadians. A postage-stamp tab in the northwest corner led to the PM's site.The Conservatives have flipped this around, with most of the real estate occupied by pictures of the PM, the announcement of the day, and government priorities. The service gateways have been relegated to three small tabs on the left sidebar.There is nothing to stop the Harper government from doing this, but is it right? There is a perpetual struggle between politicians and public servants about how to divide up this prime piece of cyberspace. What is the right balance between the government-of-the-day's messages and ongoing public services – 90/10, 10/90, or 50/50?Or maybe this isn't the right way to see it. Both the U.S. and British governments devote one portal exclusively to government services (www.usa.gov and www.direct.gov.uk) and another to the political supremo (www.whitehouse.gov and www.number10.gov.uk). Should we?What do you think? Best answer gets a copy of Digital State at the Leading Edge.

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