Future Concerns of Public Administration

Public administration has experienced an accelerated pace of change in recent years in all areas, from government services to non-profits and other non-government organizations. Technological advancements and social trends have impacted the development of policy as well as the methods for its roll-out and implementation – both locally and globally.  Because of this, some trends and concerns have emerged that will likely help shape the continued change in public administration in the future.  Here are some of the more prominent ones.

The increase in both the power and accessibility of technology has been fundamental to almost all of advancements in both the development and administration of services.  The democratization of information has also emboldened citizens with access to knowledge, and an outlet through which to share it.  Technology has been revolutionary, and has inspired revolutions.  Ensuring fair and equal access to technology and the information that it helps to spread will be one of the most fundamental challenges of the future.  Threats to net neutrality, as well as economic barriers to access are two of the primary concerns that public administrators of the future will have a hand in addressing.

With changes in politics, business, economics, and society as a whole, public administration must similarly adapt.  An increasingly informed population, the immediate spread and accessibility of information, and the use of technology and social media will require the public sector to respond to new realities and keep up with a nimbler and more agile private sector.  It must be flexible enough to adapt proactively rather than catching up retroactively.

Similarly, with limited resources and greater austerity, the public service must continuously innovate to find new ways of delivering not only existing services but those that respond to new needs.  Saving money, trimming costs, and delivering a greater return on investment will become increasingly necessary for a service’s survival.

Governments of the future will need to embrace greater accountability and transparency, abandoning their secrecy.  For example, making citizens aware of decisions and actions rather than obfuscating them behind prohibitive regulations will contribute to building and maintaining trust and confidence – particularly in an age where state secrets are regularly revealed online, à la Wikileaks.

Finally, anticipating and responding to changing trends proactively rather than with knee jerk reactions to events and incidents will require public servants to be responsive to stakeholders, superiors, their elected representatives, and most importantly the citizens they represent. In other words, public administrations of the future should be responsive instead of secretive, accountable, and transparent instead of being opaque.

If you want to learn more about public administration and where it’s headed, consider University of Southern California’s Sol Price School of Public Policy’s Master of Public Administration program.