Digitizing Discretionary Practices in Public Service Provision: An Empirical Study of Public Service Workers’ Attitudes

AbstractPublic service workers have traditionally enjoyed a wide freedom to make decisions about clients. With the increased use of ICT in public service provision, discretionary practices are influenced or replaced by computerized routines, known as digital discretion. Based on the assumption that public service workers are motivated by helping individual clients, this paper focuses on characteristics of public service provision that can explain their digital discretion acceptance. To find out, we surveyed public service workers (n=125) within several types of public service provision and used structural equation modeling (PLS-SEM). We conclude that professional motivations and the nature of public service provision make it difficult to completely digitize discretionary practices. Policy implications include paying special attention to the opportunities that technological innovations can create and the potential inability of public service workers to fully utilize digital tools due limited training and age.

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