n Journal of Public Administration - Improving effective governance outcomes with electronic decision support tools

Volume 37, Issue 4
  • ISSN : 0036-0767



The objective of this paper is to summarise the need for and potential applications of selected user-friendly, state of the art electronic policy decision support tools to promote more successful strategic policy decisions that in turn will improve sustainable service delivery outcomes in the public sector.

Recent international research findings on good governance indicate the following trends : a general acceptance that a strategic management approach focused on committed actions to achieve realistic implementation objectives, is needed to improve service delivery outcomes; this necessitates effective information use and management; a dramatic world-wide increase in the availability of digitised policy related data and high power capacity computer systems to manipulate that data; a resultant dramatic increase in the reliance on electronic management information systems in well developed and relatively successful policy systems to monitor, co-ordinate and implement and assess the effectiveness of policy implementation programmes, and an increasing reliance on more user-friendly and less technically complicated and more visual and command driven electronic decision support systems to optimise multi-criteria policy decision-making in order to promote effective policy implementation and service delivery.
In many developing countries, the current state of affairs with regard to the above strategic trends in more developed countries, is not good. The main problems are : frequent incidences of policy failure, attributed primarily to ineffective or bad policy implementation; weak policy implementation capacity and service delivery results; low levels of policy decision-making-related knowledge, experience and skills, especially electronics and management information systems, and low appreciation of utility and potential of such aids; information gaps and uncertainties cause a general policy paralysis which should be transformed into policy activism in order to improve policy implementation and service delivery results.
In order to improve the positive impact of public policy outputs in developing states, the success of public policy-related decisions in government need to be significantly increased. The experiences of different nations where electronic decision support tools have been used or are in use, to achieve a better success rate with public policy design and implementation, are important in this regard. Complex policy decisions with multiple policy objectives that may be contradictory, need to be prioritised in terms of different, potentially perhaps even contradictory decision criteria. The adoption and use of more user-friendly but effective electronic decision support systems will not necessarily guarantee policy and service delivery success. It is assumed that these decision aids will, however, maximise the potential for improved or more successful results if they are applied appropriately and effectively.
Elementary electronic decision support tools can be used effectively to improve the success rate of public services delivery, by increasing the nature and scope of accurate information available to inexperienced policy decision-makers about strategic choices regarding policy-related issues, problems, options, strategies, costs, benefits, risks, probabilities and/or priorities. No integrated package of this nature currently exists. If developed, it could be beneficial to public policy outcomes especially in the developing world, to expose such officials to the utility of DSS tools.

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