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Policies for Enhancing Public Trust and Avoiding Distrust in Digital Government During Pandemics: Insights from a Systematic Literature Review

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Part of the Public Administration and Information Technology book series (PAIT,volume 7)

Abstract

The coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19) has demonstrated the importance of the state capacity and public policy-making process in managing both the pandemic and the resulting crisis. Trust and/or distrust in the relationship between citizens and authorities can determine the success or failure of states in combating pandemics. The goal of this study is to provide insight into trust and distrust in digital government during pandemics by creating an overview of the scattered knowledge. Accordingly, the chapter creates an overview of the factors influencing trust and distrust in digital government in pandemics. The results showed that factors affecting distrust are mostly associated with problems in the interactions between citizens and public authorities, whereas factors affecting trust address governments’ policy responses and public compliance. The level of trust is a dynamic condition that can either be strengthened or broken. A single factor can result in trust for one person and distrust for another person. Surprisingly, trust and distrust can coexist at the same time. Governments must pursue a balance between trust- and distrust-related factors in times of pandemics to derive the dual benefits of trust and distrust.

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Correspondence to Ecem Buse Sevinç Çubuk .

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Appendix

Appendix

Context

Factors

N

Components

References

Health-related

Approach

5

Risk-based or evidence-based approach and medical treatments; scientific and nonscientific interventions for infection control

Siegrist and Zingg (2014), Doshi (2011), Tapia (2020), Gopichandran et al. (2020), Velan et al. (2013)

 

Perceived certainty of treatment method

3

Use of trial and error method in treatment; people’s perception about efficacy of medication; the death of human subjects

Singh and Ravinetto (2020), McNeill et al. (2016), Sears et al. (2020)

 

Vaccine hesitancy

2

Resistance or acceptance of vaccination; questioning the vaccination strategy; ordered pre-pandemic vaccines before the pandemic began

Puri et al. (2020), Sears et al. (2020)

 

Confidence in healthcare system

8

Confidence in healthcare professionals; adoption of ethical and pragmatic principles; offering routine primary care services and building resilient health system; experience of discrimination in health care in the past; cynicism about health systems’ current capacity; equity in distributing public health containment measures; independence of medical experts from governments; independence of scientific studies, country contexts

Claude and Hawkes (2020), Gopichandran et al. (2020), Freimuth et al. (2014), Silva et al. (2012), Chapple (2020), Henderson et al. (2020), Doshi (2011), Bangerter et al. (2012)

 

Public health messages

5

Tailoring health messages; crafting all messages carefully for both internal and external audiences;

Henderson et al. (2020), Retzlaff (2020), Nutbeam (2020), Freimuth et al. (2014), Chapple (2020)

 

Transparency in health facts

4

The transparent reporting of uncertainty information; on-time alerts, completeness, clarity of information in alerts and clear recommendations; supressing information on the number of cases and deaths

Retzlaff (2020), Wong and Jensen (2020), Holroyd et al. (2020), Gopichandran et al. (2020)

 

Individual experience

2

Direct experience with the pandemic; direct involvement with the issue

Freimuth et al. (2014), Devine et al. (2020)

 

Risk perception/perceived vulnerability and severity

4

The level of embracing the identity of being “at risk”; false sense of security in the human mind; individual susceptibility or vulnerability to the hazard, judgments about the overall severity or seriousness of a hazard

McNeill et al. (2016), Siegrist and Zingg (2014), Chathukulam and Tharamangalam (2020), Hartley and Jarvis (2020)

 

Response costs

1

Response costs of the medication (side effects, affective costs like fear of needles and time costs like inconvenience)

McNeill et al. (2016)

Administrative

Public communication

16

C2C communication; effective and appropriate communication; open and transparent communication; stating uncertainty; consistent messages; dialogue with the targeted audience without translators; clear and effective information and communication with the public in a timely manner; procedures and personnel to monitor social media and links with the public

Puri et al. (2020), Holroyd et al. (2020), Johnson and Goronga (2020), Silva et al. (2012), Tapia (2020), Gopichandran et al. (2020), Henderson et al. (2020), Retzlaff (2020), Nutbeam (2020), Gesser-Edelsburg et al. (2020), Freimuth et al. (2014), Wong and Jensen (2020), Sell et al. (2018), Balog-Way and McComas (2020), Hartley and Jarvis (2020)

 

Public spokespersons

5

Using narratives and leveraging celebrities; reliability of officials and spokespersons; variety in assigned spokespersons; use of a diverse set of experts as communicators

Puri et al. (2020), Holroyd et al. (2020), Freimuth et al. (2014), Siegrist and Zingg (2014), Balog-Way and McComas (2020)

 

Standardization

5

Adoption of ethical and pragmatic principles; lacking or unclear evidence-based guidelines; the lack of standardized measures; development of clear protocols and procedures; clarity of conditions for responsible data collection and processing at a global scale

Sheikh and Baig (2020), Tapia (2020), Doshi (2011), Henderson et al. (2020), Ienca and Vayena (2020)

 

Preparedness

6

Seeking alternative practices to solve crises; unpreparedness; government officials’ preparedness to play a visible role in the response; success in previous waves caused early relaxation; education of stakeholders and public; education of communities by public experts about realities, response plans, perceptions and concerns

Sheikh and Baig (2020), Whembolua and Tshiswaka (2020), Sell et al. (2018), Chathukulam and Tharamangalam (2020), Henderson et al. (2020), Johnson and Goronga (2020)

 

Citizen engagement

6

Encouraging citizen engagement and participation; community engagement in planning decisions; investment in community ownership and participation instead of imposing interventions on people; encouraging citizens to comply with security measures; community-based surveillance, community-based quarantine, community policing; citizens’ feeling disconnected, poorly informed or without a voice in designing policies

Gopichandran et al. (2020), Sell et al. (2018), Baum et al. (2009), Johnson and Goronga (2020), Baum et al. (2009), Ezeibe et al. (2020)

 

Effective decision-making process

9

Planned and fast decision-making; required time for decision; empathy into decision-making; disagreement among public officials over a policy recommendation; leadership and coordination across a range of stakeholders; cooperation across multiple levels of government; solid risk assessment; government’s stance

Nutbeam (2020), Velan et al. (2013), Johnson and Goronga (2020), Freimuth et al. (2014), Sell et al. (2018), Henderson et al. (2020), Singh and Ravinetto (2020), Wong and Jensen (2020), Balog-Way and McComas (2020)

 

Collaboration

4

Collaboration with stakeholders; collaborative decision-making rather than imposing naked governmental authority; social mobilization; community capacity

Henderson et al. (2020), Chapple (2020), Johnson and Goronga (2020), Balog-Way and McComas (2020)

 

Accountability

2

Public accountability

Silva et al. (2012), Ezeibe et al. (2020),

 

Transparency

7

timely information about level of risk, communicating openly, timely and honestly with the public, substantiating claims, openness about what can be investigated and accountability when things go wrong, openness about scientific uncertainty;

Henderson et al. (2020), Baker et al. (2020), Ezeibe et al. (2020), Ienca and Vayena (2020), Holroyd et al. (2020), Siegrist and Zingg (2014), Balog-Way and McComas (2020)

 

Distribution of public resources

2

Equity and fairness in the distribution of public resources; access to resources

Sheikh and Baig (2020), Silva et al. (2012)

 

Shared interests and values/Responsiveness

6

Prioritizing the public; shared values; responding to publics’ values in policy-making; entitlement failure; identification of needs of different population groups; being sensitive to needs and experiences of the community; failing to address people’s legitimate concerns

Henderson et al. (2020), Silva et al. (2012), Gopichandran et al. (2020), Chathukulam and Tharamangalam (2020), Johnson and Goronga (2020), Balog-Way and McComas (2020)

Political

Stigma and Marginalization

4

Gaining access to hard-to-reach or marginalized groups; fear of shame and stigmatization; need to avoid “othering” either victims or nonconformists

Johnson and Goronga (2020), Chapple (2020), Gopichandran et al. (2020), Balog-Way and McComas (2020)

 

Political history

8

Past experiences; ongoing political uncertainty; historic experiences, personal narratives and community memories triggering past anxiety and concern; lessons learned from similar experiences in the past; political corruption

Claude and Hawkes (2020), Gopichandran et al. (2020), Gesser-Edelsburg et al. (2020), Larson et al. (2019), Johnson and Goronga (2020), Chapple (2020), Ezeibe et al. (2020), Hartley and Jarvis (2020)

 

Credibility of authorities

6

Building the reputation and keeping promises; the existing level of trust in authorities; current distrust of governments and leaders; leadership

Henderson et al. (2020), Gesser-Edelsburg et al. (2020), Siegrist and Zingg (2014), Claude and Hawkes (2020), Johnson and Goronga (2020), Retzlaff (2020)

 

Lack of scientific information/ Misinformation

13

Asymptomatic cases, misinformation about the virus; fear of the unknown, particularly when coupled with changing or conflicting information; conspiracy theories; being independent from political pressure and populism

Whembolua and Tshiswaka (2020), Puri et al. (2020), Sears et al. (2020), Singh and Ravinetto (2020), Velan et al. (2013), Sell et al. (2018), Holroyd et al. (2020), Baum et al. (2009), Silva et al. (2012), Siegrist and Zingg (2014), Nutbeam (2020), Ienca and Vayena (2020), Balog-Way and McComas (2020)

 

Responsible data management

1

Use of data and algorithms in a responsible manner, data-protection regulations and respect for privacy and confidentiality; data collection proportional to the seriousness of the public-health threat, limited to what is necessary to achieve a specific public-health objective, and scientifically justified

Ienca and Vayena (2020)

Economic

National economy

2

Nationwide poverty; corruption; low investment in public health

Chathukulam and Tharamangalam (2020), Chapple (2020)

 

Risks of policies

1

Balancing competing risks by the government in implementing or lifting restrictions

Henderson et al. (2020)

Media/social media

Media content

11

Content moderation on social media; biased media hype; false narratives driven by social media; recontextualization; propaganda/intense exposure by media; open and transparent communication; misinformation; conspiracy theories; ideological isolation; social media strategy

Baker et al. (2020), Larson et al. (2019), McNeill et al. (2016), Velan et al. (2013), Gopichandran et al. (2020), Nutbeam (2020), Whembolua and Tshiswaka (2020), Puri et al. (2020), Sears et al. (2020), Singh and Ravinetto (2020), Hartley and Jarvis (2020)

 

Complexity

7

Facing more information than that laypeople can process; intense exposure by media; message exposure; rate of controversy and criticism; media bombardment; receiving conflicting or inconsistent info; public speculation

Siegrist and Zingg (2014), Velan et al. (2013), Henderson et al. (2020), Sell et al. (2018), Holroyd et al. (2020), Tapia (2020), Hartley and Jarvis (2020)

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Çubuk, E.B.S., Demirdöven, B., Janssen, M. (2021). Policies for Enhancing Public Trust and Avoiding Distrust in Digital Government During Pandemics: Insights from a Systematic Literature Review. In: Saeed, S., Rodríguez Bolívar, M.P., Thurasamy, R. (eds) Pandemic, Lockdown, and Digital Transformation. Public Administration and Information Technology, vol 7. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-86274-9_1

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