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Government as a Platform: A Historical and Architectural Analysis

December 06, 2016 by Bendik Bygstad, Francis D'Silva

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A national administration is dependent on its archives and registers, for many purposes, such as tax collection, enforcement of law, economic governance, and welfare services. Today, these services are based on large digital infrastructures, which grow organically in volume and scope. Building on a critical realist approach we investigate a particularly successful infrastructure in Norway called Altinn, and ask: what are the evolutionary mechanisms for a successful “government as a platform”? We frame our study with two perspectives; a historical institutional perspective that traces the roots of Altinn back to the Middle Ages, and an architectural perspective that allows for a more detailed analysis of the consequences of digitalization and the role of platforms. We offer two insights from our study: we identify three evolutionary mechanisms of national registers, and we discuss a future scenario of government platforms as “digital commons”.