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Cross-agency coordination in the shadow of hierarchy: 'joining up' government geospatial information systems

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Government agencies striving to make geospatial information systems interoperable and cost-effective often appear to function as a self-regulating network shaped only by internal trust and reciprocity. However, recent public management research suggests that external steering of a network, exercised by authoritative bodies through hierarchical means, may invigorate cross-agency coordination. The two case studies of federal geospatial coordination in Canada and the USA confirm this emerging theory of network-hierarchy dynamics. In these countries, the central budget agency (CBA) is influencing resource flows and accountabilities within a federal geospatial network of government agencies, which in turn affects how these agencies deliver 'joined up' services. The CBA relies upon three types of tools: the shaping of network governing structures, promotion of uptake of new management information systems, and the use of evaluation (scrutiny) to solidify accountabilities of the network. Since these tools cast a shadow of hierarchy upon the network, they may be viewed as counter to the voluntary ethos of networks. However, the case studies suggest that the CBA's actions appear to confer legitimacy to the network—resulting in a seeming contradiction—greater central control, more vigorous, distributed geospatial coordination.
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Keywords: Cross-agency coordination; Joined-up government; Metagovernance; SDI implementation

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: International Institute for Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation, 7500 AA, Enschede, The Netherlands 2: Centre for Geo-Information, Wageningen University and Research Centre, 6700 AA, Wageningen, The Netherlands

Publication date: February 1, 2009

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