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Research projects

"The computer says no!" - a study about public sector legitimacy and citizen trust in e-government

About this project

Project information

Project status



Karin Hedström

Research subject

Research environments

In the Little Britain sketch "The computer says no" a little visits girl the hospital with her mother. The girl has a doctor's appointment to remove her tonsils. When she and her mother arrive at the hospital, they are greeted by a receptionist who insists that the girl is booked for a hip replacement, and not there to remove her tonsils. It says so in the computer - "The computer says no!". This episode shows what can happen between citizens and officials when the computer is assigned the role of decision-maker. In our project, we want to examine what happens when IT is assigned the role of administrator and decision maker for public sector services. An increasing number of public sector services is "handed over" to a computer. For example, the Social Insurance Agency has a clear policy to automate handling as well as decision making and thus increase automatisation. An efficient public (e)-government requires that citizens trust the government and feel that elected officials take their responsibility. The overall aim of the project is to analyze automation of case handling and decision-making with the help of IT in public services in relation to both the administrator's competence, discretion and the ability to take responsibility, and to the citizens’ different living conditions and life choices. We want, through our study, which is based on four ethnographic case studies within the Transport Agency, CSN, and the municipalities of Ydre and Örebro, provide a theoretical contribution that also have a bearing on practical models for a responsible e-government. The study is conducted in an emerging research group with political scientists and information systems researchers from Örebro and Linköping University with a focus on the consequences of the increasing use of IT in public administration and democratic governance.

Research funding bodies

  • The Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare (FORTE)