Advances in information technology are not only changing the social landscape of society, they are significantly shaping the political world as well. Governance.com, edited by Elaine Ciulla Kamarck and Joseph S. Nye Jr., explores how decentralization of information sources and exchanges is creating new types of community and different roles for government.

The essays in this book -- the fourth in a series co-published by the Brookings Institution Press and Harvard University -- examine the impact of technology on basic institutions and processes of governance, including representation, community, politics, bureaucracy and sovereignty.

Nye and Kamark say the essays are meant to provoke thought and further research on ways the information revolution is transforming our institutions of governance. They were chosen for their balance between healthy skepticism toward those who read too much into the effects of IT and governance, and recognition that the Information Age is significant.

Nye's introduction places the information revolution in its historical context and in the context of other major forces -- globalization and marketization -- that are contributing to significant changes in governance around the world. Those changes, he argues, include a fundamental shift from big government to the process of political decentralization and diffusion.

Jane Fountain, author of Building the Virtual State, advances a theory on the structural transformation currently taking place within the government bureaucracy. This transformation, driven by IT, will require bureaucrats to develop a vastly different set of skills and expertise. Instead of basing bureaucracy on the management of files and generalized rules, bureaucracy will be driven by partnerships and networks, fueled by information.

Jerry Mechling, lecturer and director of the E-Government Executive Education Project at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, provides an excellent overview of e-government, in terms of what is possible and what still needs to be done to create Information Age governance.

Arthur Isak Applbaum and Dennis Thompson examine the Information Age from the perspective of Madisonian democracy; William Galston examines the Internet's impact on community and civic life; and Pippa Norris investigates the role of the Internet in political activism.

For CIOs who must grapple with the hard-nosed issues of making IT function in the public sector, these essays offer a window on the challenges and promises of 20th-century government.

Tod Newcombe  |  Senior Editor

With more than 20 years of experience covering state and local government, Tod previously was the editor of Public CIO, e.Republic’s award-winning publication for information technology executives in the public sector. He is now a senior editor for Government Technology and a columnist at Governing magazine.