Pandemic-Driven Technology Adoption: Public Decision Makers Need to Tread Cautiously

Pandemic-Driven Technology Adoption: Public Decision Makers Need to Tread Cautiously

Pamela Robinson (Ryerson University, Canada) and Peter A. Johnson (University of Waterloo, Canada)
Copyright: © 2021 |Pages: 7
DOI: 10.4018/IJEPR.20210401.oa5
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Abstract

During the first six months of the COVID-19 pandemic, around the world, evidence is mounting as to the unenveness of impacts across communities. There are disproportionately more impacts on people who are elderly, economically marginalized, immunologically compromised, and members of racialized and equity-seeking communities. As part of the COVID-19 response, virus transmission mitigation efforts including the use of new technology tools like contract tracing apps are being explored. There are significant implications to the use of these tools, including how they impact different community members and exacerbate digital divide, exclusion, and surveillance issues. This article brings forward a citizen participation framework that is instructive for decision-makers charged with pandemic-driven technology adoption.
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2. Smart City Technology Challenges Apparent Before Covid-19

Drawing on our recent work on government technology adoption, several key themes have emerged through close work with Canadian local government partners that shed new light on how these technologies impacted communities. We found that new technology adoption often comes bundled with the expectations that there will be a positive change or improvement in how citizens relate to governments (Robinson & Johnson, 2016; Sieber, Robinson, Johnson, & Corbett, 2016). These expectations are often based on technology vendor hype, limited real-world testing, and often do not take into account complex implementation environments (Johnson et al., 2015). The high level of enthusiasm behind many civic technology projects underscores the lack of understanding that many technology vendors have of the challenging processes of government. For example, in formal planning situations, local governments have a duty to consult the public and meaningfully involve the public in decision making, through a variety of channels (Johnson & Robinson, 2014). This assumption that technology will solve whatever situation, whether it is the typical challenges of consultation, access to information, or better connecting government to the needs of its citizens, has long been critiqued in technology adoption literature (Rogers, 2010; Janssen, Charalabidis, & Zuiderwijk, 2012). The unintended consequences of technology implementation within planning have been demonstrated for decades, notably by Lee’s (1975) “Requiem for large-scale models”, that presented how the promised transformation of technology failed to materialize, and even created additional challenges to planning. Unfortunately, even as technology has progressed, the process of implementation and adoption remains fraught with challenges, and often goes poorly acknowledged by those innovators proposing new technologies for sale (Robinson & Johnson, 2016; Graham, 2020).

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