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Digital Transformation at the Local Tier of Government in Europe: Dynamics and Effects from a Cross-Countries and Over-Time Comparative Perspective (DIGILOG)

English title Digital Transformation at the Local Tier of Government in Europe: Dynamics and Effects from a Cross-Countries and Over-Time Comparative Perspective (DIGILOG)
Applicant Steiner Reto
Number 200839
Funding scheme Project funding
Research institution School of Management and Law ZHAW
Institution of higher education Zurich University of Applied Sciences - ZHAW
Main discipline Political science
Start/End 01.05.2022 - 30.04.2025
Approved amount 637'736.00
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All Disciplines (2)

Political science
Science of management

Keywords (9)

digital government; machine learning; comparative public administration; dynamics of change; digital transformation; digitalization; local government; European municipalities; Artificial Intelligence

Lay Summary (German)

Das Forschungsprojekt DIGILOG beobachtet die digitale Transformation der Gemeinden in den Ländern des Europarats und fokussiert dabei insbesondere auf die Dynamik des Wandels und die Auswirkungen der Digitalisierung. Im Rahmen dieses Projekts wird eine öffentlich zugängliche Echtzeitplattform „Monitoring der digitalen Transformation in europäischen Kommunalverwaltungen“ aufgebaut.
Lay summary

Die digitale Transformation ist eine der wichtigsten Innovationen auf kommunaler Ebene. Sie führt zu grundlegenden Veränderungen bei der Leistungserstellung, bei der Arbeit der öffentlichen Verwaltung sowie bei der Gemeindeführung. Gerade die COVID-19-Pandemie hat gezeigt, wie wichtig eine gut vorbereitete digitale Verwaltung ist.

In der vergleichenden Forschung zur digitalen Transformation von Staat und Verwaltung wurde die kommunale Ebene bislang nur unzureichend untersucht und es gibt diesbezüglich keine systematisch aufbereiteten, international vergleichenden Daten. Diese Forschungslücke soll mit dem DIGILOG-Projekt geschlossen werden. Die Forschungsfragen des Projekts lauten: Inwieweit ist es in den europäischen Kommunalverwaltungen zu radikalen/schnellen oder sukzessiven/langsamen Wandel gekommen? Und welche Auswirkungen hat die Digitalisierung auf die lokale Selbstverwaltung in Europa?

Mittels quantitativen und qualitativen Methoden werden Daten für einen systematischen Vergleich generiert, basierend auf einer regelmässigen und automatisierten quantitativen Erhebung aller Kommunalbehörden in 47 europäischen Ländern, wobei maschinelle Lerntechniken und das sogenannten Web Crawling eingesetzt werden. Die wichtigsten Ergebnisse des Projektes erscheinen unter anderen auf einer öffentlich zugängliche Echtzeitplattform „Monitoring der digitalen Transformation in europäischen Kommunalverwaltungen“.

Das Forschungsprojekt wird aus europäischer Sicht politikrelevantes Wissen über lokale Digitalisierungsmassnahmen generieren, das dann zur Verbesserung der Politikgestaltung für die künftige Modernisierung des öffentlichen Sektors genutzt werden kann.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 02.04.2022

Responsible applicant and co-applicants


Project partner

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
162948 Local Autonomy and Local Public Sector Reforms 01.04.2016 Project funding


Digital transformation constitutes one of the most important innovations at the local level of government and is expected to reshape local service delivery, public administration, and governance in Europe fundamentally. Most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown the fundamental importance of a well-prepared digital administration to replace analog processes, not only but most urgently needed in times of physical distancing (Kuhlmann et al., 2020a). In many countries, local government is the most significant tier of public service delivery, ensuring proximity to citizens and a key player of digital transformation (Steiner et al., 2018; Kuhlmann, 2009, p. 21; Bouckaert/Kuhlmann, 2016).Against this background, it is a matter of concern and criticism that in current comparative research concerning the digital transformation of state and administration, local levels of government have been insufficiently investigated. Indeed, there is no systematic, cross-countries comparative knowledge available regarding the state of implementation and the effects of digital transformation at local government level in Europe. This collaborative research project is intended to remedy those deficits. Its first main research questions address the dynamics, scale, and pace of digital transformation in European local government, i.e., to what extent there has been radical/rapid revolutionary or gradual/slow evolutionary change and how and why these dynamics differ when considered from a cross-countries and inter-municipal perspective. The second main research question addresses the (intended and unintended) effects of digitalization on local self-government in Europe in terms of outputs (service delivery, organization, processes, and human resources), outcomes (performance and accountability), and impacts (citizens’ acceptance, governance, new cleavages). The independent variables include explanatory factors on the macro-level (institutional properties of the local government systems), meso-level (internal organizational arrangements and procedures), and micro-level (actor strategies, interests, motives).The project will generate coherent data for a systematic comparison using methodological triangulation, i.e., quantitative and qualitative methods. It will take the form of a regular and automated quantitative survey of all local authorities in 47 European countries (members of the Council of Europe), based on web crawling and machine learning techniques - this is a novel approach in the context of the social sciences - and qualitative research, namely case studies in selected European countries. Renowned scholars from the University of Potsdam, ZHAW, and the Vienna University of Economics and Business, with extensive experience in local government and comparative research, form the consortium of this project.Key deliverables of the project will be an openly accessible monitoring platform of digital transformation at the local tier of government, journal articles, an edited volume, and publications for practitioners. The real-time platform “Monitoring Digital Transformation in European Local Governments” is accessible to researchers and practitioners worldwide and contributes to a better understanding of long-term developments. The duration of the project being submitted to the SNSF/DFG is three years; however, by automating the process, the real-time platform will continue to exist and be updated regularly beyond this timeframe. The research project will yield policy-relevant knowledge concerning local digitalization measures from a European perspective, which can then be utilized to improve policymaking for future public sector modernization.