Disruptive Technologies and the Public Sector: The Changing Dynamics of Governance

  • Christine Leitner
  • Christian M. StiefmuellerEmail author


Technological innovation has shaped and transformed society again and again over the course of history. In this context, the advent of the “digital age” is no exception. However, what has changed is the speed with which waves of new technologies advance and spread. Such innovations as the Internet and mobile phones have emerged and wrought profound changes on societies across the globe within the space of only a few decades. And there are still more such disruptive technologies on the horizon, that is, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT). Consequently, technology-driven new business models, the geographical dispersion of production, and the invention of new products and services are all challenging traditional governance patterns and modes of operation around the world and how governments are perceived by citizens. In this context, this chapter focuses on how disruptive technologies affect the role of the State and on the new challenges they pose to policymakers against the underlying conundrum. On the one hand, there is widespread belief that the judicious use of technology is imperative for economic and social development and a potential key accelerator and enabler for many, perhaps all, of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). On the other hand, however, we still need to fully understand, and adapt to, the governance challenges that arise as a consequence of this unprecedented rate of technological progress. Thus, this chapter looks at how the process of technology adoption interacts with the policy cycle taking into account the three-dimensional relationship between government and technological innovation, since government assumes three different roles, that is, user, regulator, and promoter of innovation. It also summarises briefly what are considered to be some of the most significant technological trends of today and the particular opportunities and challenges they pose for policymakers. In doing this, it singles out some of the key policy issues that emerge from the disruptive nature of such technologies, while at the same time it discusses their implications on public governance. It concludes with a number of key takeaways.


  1. Atomium European Institute; European Commission; European Parliament, 2017. Next Generation Internet Summit. From the Internet of Things to the Internet of Humans: A European Strategy for the Next-Generation Internet.
  2. Bower, J. L. & Christensen, C. M., 1995. Disruptive Technologies: Catching the Wave. Harvard Business Review, January/February 73(1), pp. 43–53.Google Scholar
  3. Bradley, J., Reberger, C., Dixit, A. & Gupta, V., 2013. Internet of Everything: A $4.6 Trillion Public-Sector Opportunity, San Jose, CA: Cisco.Google Scholar
  4. Brooks, C., 2017a. Chart of Disruptive Technologies on the Horizon.
  5. Brooks, C., 2017b. IoT Pose A Threat To Anything And Everyone Connected. [Zugriff am 15 September 2017].
  6. Brundage, M. et al., 2018. The Malicious Use of Artificial Intelligence: Forecasting, Prevention and Mitigation, s.l.: s.n.Google Scholar
  7. Burgess, M., 2017. What is the Internet of Things? Wired explains.
  8. CA Security Council, 2016. Leading Certificate Authorities and Microsoft Introduce New Standards to Protect Consumers Online.
  9. Christensen, C. M., 2018. Key Concepts: Disruptive Innovation.
  10. Cukier, K. N. & Mayer-Schönberger, V., 2013. Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think. 1st Hrsg. New York: Houghton Mifflin.Google Scholar
  11. Deloitte, 2017. 2017 Tech Trends: The Kinetic Enterprise, s.l.: Deloitte University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Dupont-Aldiolan, F., 2017. The Top Five Technological Innovations of 2017 So Far.
  13. EC Expert Group on Public Sector Innovation, 2013. Powering European Public Sector Innovation: Towards A New Architecture, Brussels: European Commission (DG Research and Innovation).Google Scholar
  14. E-Governance Academy, 2017. National Cyber Security Index.
  15. Ernst & Young, 2015a. Cybersecurity and the Internet of Things, s.l.: Ernst & Young.Google Scholar
  16. Ernst & Young, 2015b. Insights on Governance, Risk and Compliance: Cybersecurity and the Internet of Things, London: Ernst & Young.Google Scholar
  17. European Commission, 2017a. Digital4Development: Mainstreaming Digital Technologies and Services into EU Development Policy, Brussels: European Commission (DG International Cooperation and Development).Google Scholar
  18. European Commission, 2017b. Horizon 2020: Work Programme 2016–2017. Part 20: General Annexes, Brussels: European Commission.Google Scholar
  19. Forrester, 2017. The Top Technology Trends To Watch: 2018–2020.
  20. Frenkel, S., 2017. Hackers Find ‘Ideal Testing Ground’ for Attacks: Developing Countries. New York Times, 02 July.Google Scholar
  21. Frey, C. B. & Osborne, M., 2013. The Future of Employment: How Susceptible Are Jobs to Computerisation, Oxford: Oxford University.Google Scholar
  22. Gartner, 2016. Gartner Identifies the Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2017.
  23. Gartner, 2017a. Gartner Identifies Three Megatrends That Will Drive Digital Business Into the Next Decade.
  24. Gartner, 2017b. Gartner IT Glossary: Cloud Computing.
  25. Gartner, 2017c. Gartner Says 8.4 Billion Connected “Things” Will Be in Use in 2017, Up 31 Percent From 2016.
  26. Gartner, 2017d. Gartner Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2018.
  27. Gartner, 2018. Research Methodologies: Gartner Hype Cycle.
  28. Hammond, K., 2016. 5 Unexpected Sources of Bias in Artificial Intelligence.
  29. Hern, A., 2018. Fitness tracking app Strava gives away location of secret US army bases. The Guardian, 28 January.Google Scholar
  30. Hewitt-Page, D., 2013. Technology and the Nation-State: Governing Social Complexity.
  31. Howlett, M., Ramesh, M. & Perl, A., 2009. Studying Public Policy: Policy Cycles and Policy Subsystems. 3rd Hrsg. New York, NY: Oxford University Press (Canada).Google Scholar
  32. Hutson, M., 2017. Even Artificial Intelligence Can Acquire Biases Against Race and Gender.
  33. IDC, 2017. IDC Future Scape: Worldwide IT Industry 2018 Predictions.
  34. ITU, UNESCO, 2017. The State of Broadband 2017: Broadband Catalysing Sustainable Development, Geneva: UN Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development.Google Scholar
  35. ITU, Cisco, 2016. Harnessing the Internet of Things for Global Development, Geneva: International Telecommunications Union (ITU); Cisco.Google Scholar
  36. ITU; IoT Forum, 2017. International Declaration on the Internet of Things for Sustainable Development, Geneva: ITU, IoT Forum.Google Scholar
  37. ITU, 2017. Global Cybersecurity Index (GCI) 2017, Geneva: International Telecommunications Union.Google Scholar
  38. Jann, W. & Wegrich, K., 2007. Theories of the Policy Cycle. In: F. Fischer, G. J. Miller & M. S. Sidney, Hrsg. Handbook of Public Policy Analysis: Theory, Politics, and Methods. Boca Raton, FL: Taylor & Francis, pp. 43–62.Google Scholar
  39. Kelly, J. E., 2015. Computing, cognition and the Future of Knowing, Somers, NY: IBM.Google Scholar
  40. Kurzweil, R., 2005. The Singularity Is Near. 1st Hrsg. New York, NY: Viking.Google Scholar
  41. Leitner, C., Hrsg., 2003. eGovernment in Europe: The State of Affairs. Maastricht, European Institute of Public Administration.Google Scholar
  42. Mazzucato, M., 2015. The Entrepreneurial State: Debunking Public vs. Private Sector Myths. 2nd Hrsg. New York, NY: Public Affairs.Google Scholar
  43. McKinsey Global Institute, 2017. A Future that Works: Automation, Employment and Productivity, Brussels/San Francisco/Shanghai: McKinsey Global Institute.Google Scholar
  44. MIT Media Lab, 2017. Society in the Loop: Programming the Algorithmic Social Contract.
  45. Moore, G. A., 1991. Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling High-Tech Products to Mainstream Customers. 1st Hrsg. New York, NY: HarperCollins.Google Scholar
  46. Morgan, S., 2016. Cyber Crime Costs Projected To Reach $2 Trillion by 2019. Forbes, 17 January.Google Scholar
  47. Morris, C., 2018. Iceland Expects to Use More Electricity Mining Bitcoin Than Powering Homes This Year. Fortune, 13 February.Google Scholar
  48. NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence, 2017a. No Modern Nation Can Ignore Threats in Cyber Space,
  49. NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence, 2017b. Tallinn Manual 2.0 on the International Law Applicable to Cyber Operations to Be Launched.
  50. New and Castro, 2015. Why Countries Need National Strategies for the Internet of Things.
  51. OECD, 2017. Embracing Innovation Government: Global Trends, Paris: Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.Google Scholar
  52. Pariser, E., 2011. The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You. New York: Penguin Press.Google Scholar
  53. Rajou, N. & Prabhu, J., 2015. Frugal Innovation: How to do more with less. 1st Hrsg. London: The Economist.Google Scholar
  54. Rogers, E. M., 1962. Diffusion of Innovations. 1st Hrsg. New York, NY: Free Press.Google Scholar
  55. Rothkopf, D., 2015. The Paradox of Power in the Network Age.
  56. Schumpeter, J. A., 1911. Theorie der wirtschaftlichen Entwicklung. 1st Hrsg. Leipzig: Duncker & Humblot.Google Scholar
  57. Searle, J., 1980. Minds, Brains, and Programs. Behavioural and Brain Sciences, 3(3), pp. 417–457.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Soper, S., 2017. Amazon Web Services Errors Disrupt Big Part of the Internet.
  59. Stempel, J. & Finkle, J., 2017. Yahoo says all three billion accounts hacked in 2013 data theft.
  60. Tapscott, D. & Tapscott, A., 2016. Blockchain Revolution: How the Technology Behind Bitcoin Is Changing Money, Business, and the World. New York, NY: Penguin Random House.Google Scholar
  61. The Economist, 2017. Fuel of the Future: Data is Giving Rise to a New Economy. The Economist, 06 May.Google Scholar
  62. U.K. Government Office for Science, 2015. Artificial Intelligence: Opportunities and Implications for the Future of Decision Making, London: U.K. Government Office for Science.Google Scholar
  63. UNDP Global Centre for Public Service Excellence, 2015. Foresight: The Manual, Singapore: United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).Google Scholar
  64. UNDP, 2012. Governance for Peace: Securing the Social Contract, New York, NY: UNDP.Google Scholar
  65. UNDP, 2016. The Social Contract in Situations of Conflict and Fragility, New York, NY: UNDP.Google Scholar
  66. United Nations, 2015a. Responsive and Accountable Public Governance: 2015 World Public Sector Report, New York, NY: United Nations.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. United Nations, 2015b. Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, New York, NY: United Nations.Google Scholar
  68. United Nations, 2016. The Sustainable Development Agenda.
  69. United Nations, 2017. UN Moves to Tap Transformative Power of Science, Technology and Innovation to Achieve Sustainable Development Goals.
  70. US Government Accountability Office, 2017. Internet of Things: Status and Implications of an Increasingly Connected World, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Accountability Office.Google Scholar
  71. US Government, 2016. Artificial Intelligence, Automation and the Economy, Washington, DC: U.S. Government, Executive Office of the President.Google Scholar
  72. Vinge, V., 1993. The Coming Technological Singularity: How to Survive in the Post-Human Era. The Whole Earth Review, 1993(04).Google Scholar
  73. Womack, B., 2017. Equifax Says Cyberattack May Have Hit 143 Million Customers.
  74. Wong, J. C., 2017. Former Facebook executive: social media is ripping society apart. The Guardian, 12 December.Google Scholar
  75. World Bank, 2016. World Development Report 2016: Digital Dividends, Washington, DC: World Bank.Google Scholar
  76. World Economic Forum, 2017. Shaping the Future Implications of Digital Media for Society: Valuing Personal Data and Rebuilding Trust, Cologny (Geneva): World Economic Forum.Google Scholar
  77. Zeleny, M., 2009. Technology and High Technology: Support Net and Barriers to Innovation. Advance Management Systems, 1(1), pp. 8–21.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Economics and Public Administration (CEPA)LondonUK

Personalised recommendations