New Public Management and Smart Local Governance in the Era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution: Lessons From Namibia

New Public Management and Smart Local Governance in the Era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution: Lessons From Namibia

Eric Yankson
Copyright: © 2025 |Pages: 20
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-6684-7366-5.ch016
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The application of new public management to the assessment of smart local governance in the knowledge economy is an emergent area of scholarship in sub-Saharan Africa. This article thus employs the concept of new public management based on the framework of the fourth industrial revolution to evaluate the defining attributes of Namibia's local government system with the view of delineating important lessons for technologically-oriented public administration. Specifically, it identifies eight broad themes that configure new public management in smart local governance: e-government, knowledge management, participatory geographic information systems and decentralised governance, agency and innovation, performance management and administrative efficiency, policy and organisational learning, public accountability, and public-private partnerships. The article observes that technology tools and the effective management of information or knowledge systems constitute preeminent mechanisms for promoting local government efficiency in contemporary times.
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Public management entails the systematic or scientific running of public organisations with the aim of attaining certain desired outcomes (Colon & Guérin-Schneider, 2015). This concept ties in well with local governance which seeks to manage local authorities or institutions to ensure effective transfer of powers from the national to the sub-national level (Oviasuyi et al., 2010). Due to the inherent relationships between public management and local governance, much research regarding their inter-linkages has occurred over the years.

With specific reference to Africa, the terms public management and local governance have attracted appreciable scholarly attention. However, the application of new public management (in particular) to local governance in the region could benefit from more focus. This is important given the need to enhance governance efficiency and improve service delivery to residents. Thus, this chapter assesses the implications of new public management for smart local governance in the era of the fourth industrial revolution based on a case study of Namibia (in Southern Africa). Specifically, it seeks to address the following questions: What are the conceptual relationships between new public management and smart local governance in the era of the fourth industrial revolution? How has smart local governance been defined by the principles of new public management? What are the implications of new public management for smart local governance based on lessons from the Namibia case study? The choice of Namibia emanates from its appreciable progress with respect to governance, science, technology and innovation since independence. The study is qualitative in nature and relies on document and discourse analyses, as well as interviews to make its observations. Before delving further, the chapter dissects definitional or conceptual discourses regarding new public management, smart local governance and the fourth industrial revolution. It then provides a brief contextual overview of Namibia to undergird the discussion.

The concept of new public management entails a break from the extant administrative ethos of bureaucracy, centralisation and elitism. This traditional paradigm which was mostly prominent in the early and middle parts of the 19th century sought to address the limitations of urbanisation and industrialisation. During this period, politicians were the primary actors in setting organisational goals with technocrats only playing a secondary role. Moreover, citizens were passive beneficiaries in the decision-making process which was dominated by public actors. Government agencies were the main institutional vehicles for providing public services (Bryson et al., 2014). From the 1980s and 1990s, new public management emerged as an alternative conception to traditional public management. This new approach, unlike the previous ethos, simultaneously emphasised efficiency and effectiveness in service delivery. The goal was to overcome inherent failures in the existing paradigm of government (Bryson et al., 2014).

New public management entails the application of private sector principles to enhance the quality of public service delivery. The goal is to create a more citizen-oriented approach which seeks to minimise waste (Iacovino et al., 2017). The concept is also associated with the devolution of power, a more prudent use of scarce resources, better governance transparency, as well as a monitoring and evaluation system (Colon & Guérin-Schneider, 2015). It involves the provision of performance-based incentives to increase levels of productivity. Moreover, it promotes competition either through internal markets in the public sector or contracting out to the private sector. It also separates the provision of public services to promote agency and assignment of roles to other organisations with the goal of ensuring better quality (Lapuente & Van de Walle, 2020).

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