Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Panel Paper: Preparing Public Managers for a “Big Data” Era: An Examination of Information Technology Education in Public Management Programs in the United States

Friday, November 13, 2015 : 10:55 AM
Grenada (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Qian Hu, University of Central Florida
The meltdown of, the consumer website for the Affordable Care Act, is a recent example of e-government failures. The multifaceted challenge facing the is not unique to e-government practices, where design-reality gaps often exist. The federal government was critiqued for mismanaging the contracts and failing to coordinate with the technical teams to design and lunch the massive service website. From an educational perspective, this issue and many other e-government failures may reflect a neglected issue in our public management programs—lack of robust curriculum on information technology education for future public managers.

Existing e-government literature has focused on how information and communication technology can serve as platforms and infrastructure for improving public management, engaging citizens in governing processes, and transforming public services. However, few studies have systematically reviewed the current public management education to examine the readiness of public managers for utilizing information and communication technology for daily management practices. This study examines to what extent the graduate public management programs in the United States has prepared public managers for the “big data” era by analyzing current information technology education in the graduate programs. In particular, it addresses two questions: How public management educators perceive information technology infrastructure and the role public managers should play in e-government practices? How does the current curriculum educate public management students for governing in a digital age?

This study uses mixed methods to collect data, including a survey of school directors of Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPPA)-accredited schools and content analysis of syllabi on information technology-related courses. School directors are asked about their perspectives of challenges and opportunities presented by big data, management and leadership skills demanded by a digital government, and curriculum changes need to better prepare managers for a networked society. Content analysis is conducted to examine how current public management curriculum has incorporated information technology education and how the relevant courses addresses the management, politics and policy, technology, and implementation dimensions of e-government.  

This study focuses on the interactions between information, management, and policy in the context of big data by surveying school directors and analyzing curriculum. Findings from this study can provide recommendations for developing and improving curriculum covering the governing issues in a digital age.