E-Regulation and the Rule of Law: Smart Government, Institutional Information Infrastructures, and Fundamental Values

Rónán Kennedy in Information Polity: “Information and communications technology (ICT) is increasingly used in bureaucratic and regulatory processes. With the development of the ‘Internet of Things’, some researchers speak enthusiastically of the birth of the ‘Smart State’. However, there are few theoretical or critical perspectives on the role of ICT in these routine decision-making processes and the mundane work of government regulation of economic and social activity. This paper therefore makes an important contribution by putting forward a theoretical perspective on smartness in government and developing a values-based framework for the use of ICT as a tool in the internal machinery of government.

It critically reviews the protection of the rule of law in digitized government. As an addition to work on e-government, a new field of study, ‘e-regulation’ is proposed, defined, and critiqued, with particular attention to the difficulties raised by the use of models and simulation. The increasing development of e-regulation could compromise fundamental values by embedding biases, software errors, and mistaken assumptions deeply into government procedures. The article therefore discusses the connections between the ‘Internet of Things’, the development of ‘Ambient Law’, and how the use of ICT in e-regulation can be a support for or an impediment to the operation of the rule of law. It concludes that e-government research should give more attention to the processes of regulation, and that law should be a more central discipline for those engaged in this activity….(More)