The Future of Public Administration

Future belongs to Flexible Public Sector rather than Machine Bureaucracies

As the world around us is changing with concomitant changes in politics, business, economics, and society, the field of public administration cannot be aloof from the need to innovate and change. As the public sector in many developed countries feels the need to move beyond the static and machine bureaucratic paradigm, the public sector in the third world and the developing countries is also in the throes of adapting to the broader changes happening in society.

With the increased awareness among the citizenry and the rapid spread of information along with use of technology and social media, the public sector in the west and the east has to wake up to the new realities and cannot be an ostrich or a fossil among the nimble and agile private sector. This is the key theme of this article that looks at the future of public administration around the world in an era of rapid change. There cannot be a more compelling case for proactive public sector rather than a reactive public sector as the future catches them and they can only survive by adapting to the future.

Need for Change and Innovation

The Great Recession of 2008 put paid hopes to the public sector in the west as the bureaucrats were suddenly faced with shrinking budgets, downsizing, and a general tendency to squeeze the public sector to get “more bang for the buck”. This meant that the public sector in the west had to innovate to cope with the broader changes in the countries. Innovation is often defined as the ability to create something new and find newer ways of doing things. This means that the public sector in the west had to find innovative ways to save money, cut down on costs, and generate more returns for their investments.

On the other hand, the public sector in the east had to contend with radical changes as the long-suffering masses who were frustrated with red tape and bureaucrats finally summoned the courage to use technology and protest to fight against them. Further, many governments in the developing world faced pressure to divest their stakes in the public sector and make the bureaucrats more accountable as they needed to generate funds for the other items on their agendas. The net result of all these pressures meant that the public sector in the east had to change fast as otherwise they would be faced with disruption and obsolescence.

Ways to Innovate and Change

The ways in which the public sector can innovate include using technology more proactively, collaborating and communicating within and with the external world, adopting a more humane approach to administration and attending to the grievances of the citizenry, and most importantly “walking the talk” which meant that they had to not only declare their intent but also have to act accordingly. In other words, merely having a gazette is not enough and the public servants have to follow it in the spirit of the law as well as the letter of the law. As for using technology and social media, the public sector and the public managers are gradually taking to IT to communicate and collaborate among themselves as well as with the external world. The other key imperative here is that public sector managers must not initiate a change and then give up midway because of resistance from vested interests and those with hidden agendas. Perhaps the biggest challenge facing public sector managers is that they plan to work but not work to the plan.

Some Recent Trends in Public Administration

In the United States, there has been a lot of criticism on the bureaucrats who were seen as holding up approvals and sanctions to the projects initiated by the private sector. Further, with outsourcing and Offshoring of many routine activities as well as the use of contractors to get the job done, the public sector in the United States has been forced to embrace innovation and change. As many experts aver, the government of the future is simpler, leaner, and more nimble rather than the behemoths that they are at the moment. The outcry against big government has reached such a crescendo that the Defense Department in the United States has more or less outsourced almost all peripheral activities and has only retained its core staff for the managerial and the combat functions. This example illustrates how the public sector in the United States is operating in the context of the changing governmental landscape.

The Government of the Future

The first item for the government of the future would be to remove the opaqueness and the secrecy surrounding its activities and instead embrace accountability and transparency as the motto. For instance, the government of the future is one where the citizenry is made aware of the decisions taken by it rather than hiding under archaic laws and regulations in the name of confidentiality. Apart from this, the government of the future is one that is proactive instead of reactive where it anticipates the changing trends and responds accordingly instead of knee jerk reactions to events and incidents. This means that the public servants have to be responsive to all the stakeholders including their superiors, the elected representatives, and most importantly the citizenry instead of favoring a particular section over the other. In other words, the government of the future would be responsive instead of secretive and accountable instead of resorting to blame game, and would be transparent instead of being opaque.


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