Poster Paper: Hacking the Bureaucracy: Policymaking in the Age of the Smart City

Thursday, November 7, 2019
Plaza Building: Concourse Level, Plaza Exhibits (Sheraton Denver Downtown)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Lauren N. McCarthy, George Mason University

Policymakers spend considerable time determining the level of regulation to impose on new technologies to allow for innovation without stifling creativity. Rarely is the opposite considered. Considering this the paper asks: what do policy process models predict with regards to the implementation of a new technology? Further, does the introduction of innovative/new technology in the public realm change the policy process? Generally, local levels of government focus on administrative level decisions, but in the age of smart cities and rapid technological change, city governments have become more active in the policy process, setting guidelines and rules of play for a host of innovative technologies. The smart city process is appealing to policy makers for the promise of problem mitigation, drawing wide appeal, yet a dissonance exists between the desire for “smart cities” and the preparedness of local policy makers to development, implement, adapt and respond to the host of technologies flooding the market and the streets. All this considered, this paper seeks to better understand the extent a ‘novel’ technology affects the policy (decision-making) process in a bureaucratic setting such as a city or county government.

In order to investigate to what extent the introduction of an innovative technology affects the policy process, policy process models are applied to determine if current understanding of the policy process captures the dynamics of a period of rapid technological change. For the purposes of this paper, privately owned shared mobility services are used to represent an application of a novel technology. Shared mobility is predicted to have had effect on the policy making process and is relevant to understanding the future of policy making in an age of rapid technological change. Three public policy process models are tested: (Kingdon 1988) Multiple Streams Approach; Punctuated equilibrium model of policy change (Baumgartner and Jones 1991, 1993); Advocacy Coalitions (Sabatier 1988, 1991; Sabatier and Jenkins-Smith 1993). These three models were chosen after a review of literature of relevant policy process papers. As the introduction of these “shared mobility” services manifested as an external ‘shock’ to many municipalities, the process does most closely follow punctuated equilibrium theory. However, based on preliminary findings none of the policy process models take into account an unexpected external technological change prompting quick turnaround in policy creation. Therefore, the findings illuminate both gaps in the existing theories and identify what has actually happened, what is happening, and what, if anything, has changed over time since the introduction of the ride hailing platforms to bikeshare to dockless devices.