The goal of the center is the advancement of knowledge and practice through research, teaching, and engagement. We strive to build a deeper understanding of how social, technical, and policy research can better integrate scientific understanding with the design, implementation, diffusion and evaluation of information and communication technologies used in digital governance and related domains. In the academy, social science research often neglects confronting fundamental changes in information and communication technologies and their implications for central streams of theory and research. As a consequence, a generation of graduate students are without adequate intellectual guidance and support thereby weakening future research capacity in this domain. In the computer and information sciences, inadequate attention to the social properties and implications of social, political and other non-technical dimensions of governance and civil society continues to signal the importance of cross-disciplinary approaches to digital governance.
Our location in a land grant, public university is a source of pride at a time when reducing social inequalities is a central challenge. The mission and goals of NCDG align strongly with the UMass Amherst strategic plan for 2018-2023. As a forward-looking center oriented toward research, teaching and service, NCDG fosters new research, curriculum and courses, and outreach to practitioners in government and nonprofits as well as to businesses whose work bears on digital government.
Destination of Choice
Supporting Student Success and Expanding Career Opportunities. NCDG has played a role, and continues to do so, in expanding career development opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students by connecting them to research on emerging, pressing challenges related to technological change. During the past few years, undergraduates associated with NCDG have found summer and post-graduate jobs in part on the basis of their NCDG experience. One recent graduate used her experience to land a job at a Boston area nonprofit organization as a digital information specialist. Another undergraduate used his experience with NCDG to secure a summer position at a major good government organization in Washington, DC, and then, after graduation, travelled to Ukraine with the Peace Corps working on new business startups, including their digital and social media needs. NCDG’s extensive network of graduate schools, government entities, nonprofit and research organizations at the state, national and international levels has been of enormous use to UMass students and faculty. Similarly, NCDG engaged research and outreach provides experiential opportunities for students in the Commonwealth and beyond.
Partner of Choice in Advancing and Applying Knowledge and Innovation to Better Society
NCDG focuses on cutting edge research areas including artificial intelligence and machine learning, smart cities, and coproduction of knowledge in multistakeholder arrangements to pursue emerging challenges in the digital space. It provides a community and sandbox for social scientists and other faculty working in areas of study that remain under-represented in traditional disciplinary research and in public policy. NCDG researchers have robust relationships with external partners that can be leveraged to “strengthen our entrepreneurial ecosystem” through education, engagement with practicioners and by attracting investment from those eager to advance digital democracy and government. For example, NCDG’s Director has been an appointee to the Massachusetts Governor’s Council on Innovation; an expert advisor to the Arab League Digital Government Strategy; and serves on the board of directors of the National Academy of Public Administration, which is transforming its portfolio of research and engagement to respond to a set of Grand Challenges, including artificial intelligence, privacy and cybersecurity, transformation of the workforce, and the resilience of cities.
Graduate students affiliated with NCDG have increased prospects for academic appointments and professional engagement. For example, one former graduate student whose dissertation focus was digital government now heads a Department of Economics and Finance at the Estonian Business School, and is also Head of Research at the Foresight Center, a think tank at the Estonian Parliament. Another former graduate student who was a visiting NCDG doctoral fellow from Brazil is an advisor to the Executive Secretariat of the Brazilian Internet Steering Committee which interacts formally with ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, a global, multi-stakeholder organization that coordinates several Internet systems and underlying protocols.
Community of Choice
NCDG provides a welcoming community for students, faculty and staff fostering diverse perspectives. The Center has hosted visiting scholars, post-doctoral and pre-doctoral researchers from approximately 20 different countries, including many developing countries. Historically, NCDG has been part of efforts in the Commonwealth to broaden opportunities for computing education through its role in the National Science Foundation supported Commonwealth Alliance for IT Education, which worked with a variety of community colleges to expand opportunities and training with particular attention to diversity and inclusion.