The vestiges and vanguards of policy design in a digital context
This article explores the opportunities, challenges and expectations that the digital context of design and new digital era policy instruments, such as open data, big data, robotics and crowdsourcing, present to policy designers operating in today's governments. Adopting an instruments perspective, the article identifies four characteristics of digital era policy design before detailing three issues that must be addressed to ascertain the promise and pitfalls of digital era policy design. First, we argue that scholars and practitioners alike must investigate how traditional constraints on the ideal of rational, evidence-driven policy design—long acknowledged in the “analogue design” literature—will fade or be exacerbated in the digital age. The article next confronts the reality that new digital designs and instruments will rarely emerge in a policy vacuum, but rather will be layered onto existing policy designs and complex policy mixes with sticky legacies that will be more or less amenable to digital design approaches. Finally, the article argues that while scholars and practitioners have been quick to presume that the digital age will foster a more collaborative model of state-to-non-state cooperation, digital era policy design may ultimately marginalize or eliminate citizens altogether from the design process, raising important questions about the as of yet little understood democratic implications of digital era policy design.