Public Administration in 21st Century

21st Century and Public Administration

In public administration theory and practice, the 21st century has been marked by a shift of emphasis from efficiency to effectiveness. That’s why Public Administration in the 21st century is of utmost importance. Yet, for the public administration and “government” to work “capacities to govern” must be developed. They include capacities related to setting strategic direction, building the capacity to implement policy, and building new ways of financing public goods and services, as well as, absorbing funds and managing programs.

An Unfinished Business

Today, at the beginning of the 21st century, the formation of public administration as an interdisciplinary academic field seems certain. Still, it is unfinished business due to the need and demands to make it more of a harder social science, one that is closer to management science, economics, or even psychology.

Future Brings a Different Role

The wisdom of managing states and communities in the 21st century relies on manifold disciplines and multiple sources of knowledge. The information era and the immense technological advancement with which our nations struggle necessarily create higher levels of accessibility, availability, and transparency to the public. The emergence of e-government is no more a fantastic dream but a blatant reality.

Public administration is moving through reforms and changes that are aimed at downsizing, privatization, de-bureaucratization, higher professional managerialism, and above all strict dedication and aspirations to become a better science by improving measurement tools and adhering to positivism and empiricism.

Public Servants and Future

Professionals in public service in the future are expected to think independently, be entrepreneurial in developing new services, and be innovative in developing new ideas or approaches to existing services.

In facing new situations, they will have to be dynamic and proactive, that is, anticipate change and take action to prepare for change. In dealing with the public, they will have to be facilitative, assist clients in terms of their needs and support, and provide services that help the public help themselves.

Future of Public Administration

There will be changed conditions under which public managers will operate in the future, some of the areas of knowledge, skills, and attitudes that they will be required to possess, and some of the pathways public managers might explore to move toward the future.

A technological shape-up

There will be an extraordinary explosion of new knowledge and technological innovations, especially in the areas of information sciences, genetics, materials, instrumentation, automation, and space. Our public managers will wade into an age of extraordinary technological change and have to accommodate themselves and the institutions to dramatically different bodies of knowledge and technological innovations.

Not an option, but a necessity

Our public managers will not only have to cope with and employ their expanded knowledge and technological capacity, but they will also have to learn to use this knowledge and technological capacity for the benefit of society.

In the technological world of the future, there will be even greater temptations for them to be captured by technology, to fall prey to “technological imperative,” and to allow rational technical interests to supersede human concerns and those of values.

Finding ways of employing advanced technologies to enhance rather than restrict their capacity for leadership, creativity, and personal responsibility will be a serious challenge.

Information is power

In the future, knowledge and information will prevail. And if the information is power, then those who have information will indeed have power. But who will have the information? Information will be increasingly centralized and controlled and marketed through traditional economic and political processes.

It will be widely distributed throughout society, so that increasing rather than decreasing numbers of people will have information and in turn have power. Such a possibility will lead to “the twilight of hierarchy,” to be inevitable.

Changing into knowledge (brain) workers

Combining these issues, we can safely predict that the knowledge or information that our public managers will be able to access will be tremendous, to the point that the quantity of information will no longer be the most important issue.

Rather the key question will be how to organize this information for human purposes. This means that public administration will have to learn to organize information in a fashion that will facilitate the pursuit of important public purposes. The great challenge will be to organize information so that we can enhance the process of democratic decision-making, consensus building, and of dialogue and deliberation.

Working at the speed of thought

There’s no question that we will have the capacity to organize information for dramatic new public purposes and to restructure our structures of governance in dramatic ways. But what will our choices be?

Imagine a computer in Islamabad that could reach out into every home, so that on any occasion that a major policy decision was required, an appropriate message could go out to all the citizens and their answers could guide public policy – a process that would approximate pure democracy.

Global Thought Process

The globalization of society is obvious today, though in twenty-five years or so, we may experience trans-globalization or beyond, as the frontiers of the oceans and space are extended even further. Already we are thinking more in global terms. However, our managers are still thinking in terms of traditional institutions operating in a new global context.

They are not yet asking how they reconfigure businesses and governments to carry out a global vision. How do they encourage businesses and governments to assume global responsibilities rather than those defined in terms of one’s self-interest? For example, how Pakistan move toward sustainable development and environmental justice on a global basis?

The emerging forms of governance

One obvious casualty of the global age may be the nation-state, replaced not necessarily by a new global or interplanetary federation but possibly by new forms of governance far beyond those we can imagine today.

The new language of ethics, citizenship, and public interest

In the future, our public administration should know the importance of “responsibilities” rather than “functions” of government. While a large part of the current worldwide debate over privatization or outsourcing speaks to the question of which “functions” belong where, the new debate will necessarily focus on public responsibilities and speak in a language of ethics, citizenship, and the public interest.

Reinventing Government

In reinvented government or the new public management, customers shall replace citizens – or, to put it differently, the integrative role of citizenship has been reduced to the narrow self-interest of customership – in government as in business.

The new public manager – builder of networks

Indeed, we think the job of all public managers will increasingly be more than directing or managing our public organizations. It will be not merely “steering” or “rowing” but “building the boat.” The new public manager will construct networks of varied interests that can work effectively to solve public problems.

In doing so, it will be the job of the public administrator to promote pluralism, create opportunities for constructive dissent, preserve that which is distinctive about individuals and groups, and provide an opportunity for diverse groups to share in establishing future directions for the community.

The administrator will play a substantial role in diminishing polarization, teaching diversity and respect, building coalitions, resolving disputes, negotiating, and mediating. The work of the top public managers will thus be – to build community.

Inside out and upside down

There are two broad areas that public managers will need to explore to fashion a response to the trends. These emerging trends will turn public management both “inside-out” and “upside-down.” Public management will be turned “inside-out” as the largest internal focus of management in the past is replaced by an external focus, specifically a focus on citizens and citizenship.

Public management will be turned “upside-down” as the traditional top-down can orientation of the field is replaced – not necessarily by a bottom-up approach, but by a system of shared leadership. In the past public administration has been largely focused on what happens within the public bureaucracy. The future will require that it dramatically focus its attention on the world outside, particularly the world of citizens and citizenship.

Accountability, delegation

Accountability will still be important but a degree of flexibility needs to be encouraged to fit local situations or conditions. There will be an emphasis on reducing how long it takes to carry out a service or the complexities involved in the service. Public employees should be given the power to take action appropriate to their level. This delegation will have to be guaranteed ethical standards and discipline. Public service must also emphasize equal opportunity and treatment for all citizens.

Vision & long-term strategies

It will be important for Public Service agencies to create a vision of what is expected in the future. Along with a vision of the future Pakistan’s public administration will require appropriate visions and long-term strategies to accomplish the challenging objectives they will face in the 21st century.

Pakistan in the 21st century

It is simply impossible for Pakistan to meet the challenges of the 21st century with the bureaucracy, regulations, and systems of the 19th century. Implementing policy effectively is ultimately as important as making the right policy.

Today the question that what constitutes good governance, and how can it be achieved, is not rare. The forces of globalization, liberalization and the revolution in information technology have shattered many a myth hitherto held sacrosanct about the government and more specifically concerning its primary institution of governance—the public administration.

The world is altogether different today

Here and now, the government can no longer afford to support rigid, bureaucratic, reactive, rules-driven administrative organizations. Today’s administrative systems are flexible, consultative, result-oriented, and proactive, at the same time encouraging and supporting creativity and innovation from the bottom up in order to govern and provide services to the citizens at large.

Junking the old Rut

There’s a popular realization about the rethinking of the ways the government conducts its business. Other nations are now more bent down for innovative solutions and creative solutions to complex environmental and global problems. Consequently, public administrators in Pakistan must now pay attention to issues inventively rather than tackling them with an outmoded style.

Culture of excellence

As the public administration of Pakistan renews itself, it knows it is the actions of public servants, and in particular, of those who lead others, that will foster a healthy, dynamic workplace and a culture of excellence.

Its commitment to shared values and excellent public service will help determine how well it performs and, consequently, how effectively it can continue to inspire confidence in public service. As it moves forward, it will look at its past with pride, and at its future with hope and expectation.

Futuristic Homology

The people of Pakistan yearn for a professional, non-partisan public administration to function properly. It only takes a moment’s reflection to see that public administration is an important part of the glue that keeps the country together.

The point is that it is playing an extremely important role and does not let anyone tell otherwise. It desperately needs to improve accountability, strengthen its culture of teamwork, promote leadership, and make excellence its benchmark. Its progress on renewal will be steady, its actions concrete and coordinated, and our success measured by sustained results.

The Roadmap

Through research, interviews, events, and reports, Pakistan should define and outline:

The reasons for change

  • How large are the economic and human losses from today’s confusing system and perverse incentives?
  • The case for focusing the state on broad distribution issues and harnessing the power of choice, competition, and provision in insurance/saving provision
  • The gains in terms of greater responsiveness, more positive incentives, and increasing demand for saving/insurance services

What can be done?

  • Practicalities of extending personal and employer action into specific benefit areas such as health, incapacity, long-term
  • The commercial appetite of providers and employers to share the burden
  • Overcoming practical barriers such as risk management, taxation, incentives

The political route

  • Public acceptability of a new state/employer/individual partnership
  • Designing the tax and incentive structures needed to change.

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