Quarterly highlights collection 3rd May – 31st July 2022
In this quarter’s highlights collection, we feature three articles that provide a range of insights from different contexts on the politics of governance.
In our first featured article: How the governance of and through digital contact tracing technologies shapes geographies of power, authors Heidrun Åm and Ingrid Metzler explore case studies on digital contact tracing apps in Norway and Austria, which were developed to help manage the COVID-19 pandemic. They followed these apps as they were designed, launched, assessed, contested, stabilised, and redesigned, exploring which actors shaped each stage and how. Given the importance of technology in the governance of society, the authors were keen to understand the implications of governance through apps for democracy and power. They introduce the concept of ‘citizenship-by-design’ to describe the —arguably new — phenomenon that citizen’s rights and duties become defined through, and inscribed in, technologies. Their findings lay the groundwork for a future research agenda that investigates the implications of these technologies for the distribution of political power and responsibilities.
From technological governance, our focus shifts to healthcare in our second featured article on How policymakers employ ethical frames to design and introduce new policies: the case of childhood vaccine mandates in Australia. The authors explore routine childhood vaccination against a backdrop of the last decade when governments globally have been making it harder for parents to opt out of vaccinating their kids. They focused on “No Jab, No Play” policies in Australian states, which prevent unvaccinated children from enrolling in childcare and early education.
Childhood vaccination promotes many important social benefits, including the protection of children and other vulnerable people, and the protection of societal and economic functioning. But early education is also important to the current and future well-being of children, and especially to disadvantaged children. Through a series of interviews, the authors of Australia’s new vaccine mandates acknowledged the greater need that disadvantaged children have for care and early education, and consequently created policy exemptions for such children based on social disadvantage. The article authors conclude by recommending that moral and ethical questions should be asked of those designing and implementing COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
Our final article maintains a lens on governance in healthcare in its analysis of the boundaries of health and social care in policy and media reform narratives.
The Dutch Long Term Care reform (LTC-reform) was one of the most significant changes in domestic governance in decades in the Netherlands. The reform consisted of dividing tasks that previously were the responsibility of one stakeholder, across three stakeholders, demanding the implementation of new boundaries between these actors. The LTC-reform was supposed to make the care system both more efficient and of higher quality.
However, the authors’ analysis revealed two contrasting narratives surrounding the LTC reform. One was the government’s epic tale, which focused on saving the healthcare system from disaster while, in the process, making it more efficient, contemporary, and ‘better’. The second, narrated by the media, was a tragedy centred on how the LTC reform would eventually lead to the demise of the care system.
In conclusion, the authors share the implications of these epic and tragic narratives on the configuration of actors across the health and social care system, drawing out important implications for policy design and its local implementation.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our theme on governance for this quarter’s collection. Look out for our next collection in August showcasing our new special issue on Transformational Change in Public Policy.
You can read the original research in Policy & Politics
How the governance of and through digital contact tracing technologies shapes geographies of power
Ingrid Metzler and Heidrun Åm
Analysing boundaries of health and social care in policy and media reform narratives
Sarah van Duijn, Duco Bannink and Henk Nies
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