Information Technology Reference
The emergence of Gov 2.0 has created much enthusiasm for new forms of online
service delivery and citizen engagement in democratic and administrative gover-
nance, with the present advent of mobile, the latest stage in the digitization of
governance both within and outside the public sector. In parallel to this evolution,
stemming partly from longstanding digital divides and partly from newer concerns
over accentuating online cleavages, some jurisdictions such as Great Britain and
Denmark have begun to put forth explicit strategies for digital inclusion.
Such strategies may be viewed partly as critical enablers of expanding the usage
of online service channels offered by public sector entities, thereby generating effi-
ciency savings through channel reallocation and the gradual virtualization of tra-
ditional paper-based processes and place-based facilities. At the same time, there
is an equally powerful argument for social development and assistance and the
growing risk of deeper forms of socioeconomic exclusion for those citizens unable
or unwilling to embrace online resources and activities (or, similarly, for those citi-
zens gravitating to the Internet for malicious or criminal purposes). For both sets of
reasons, an increasingly digital and now mobile public sector must place principles
of inclusiveness and social equity at the heart of any meaningful calculus for real-
izing public value (World Economic Forum, 2011).
Conversely, the Ontario case study presented in this chapter underscores the
dangers of a piecemeal approach to segmenting digital and social development and
pursuing them in largely separate manners, despite the relevance of many aspects
of the participatory and engagement-laden logic of Gov 2.0 for social assistance
reforms aimed at shifting from passive assistance to more action-oriented pro-
grams and initiatives. In addition, Ontario is likely to struggle to achieve its own
online service delivery milestones due to persisting divides in terms of Internet
access and usage. Jurisdictions valuing and pursuing digital innovation and inclu-
sion in a holistic manner, moreover, benefit from strong political commitment to
government-wide and societal reforms, thus far absent in the Ontario context.
In sum, governments at all levels must understand not only the basic con-
tours of digital divides within their jurisdictions but also the policy and gov-
ernance linkages across an increasingly digitized and mobile public sector and
those most disenfranchised from online opportunities for self-empowerment
and collective support. Any effective reformation of social and developmental
assistance necessitates a digital and mobile lens conducive to a more connected
and participatory era.
Jeffrey Roy is a professor in the School of Public Administration at Dalhousie
University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.