Graduate Theses & Dissertations

Rewiring the State
ABSTRACT Rewiring the State: The Privatization of Information Technology in the Ontario Public Service (1972-2003) David Rapaport Senior managers in the Ontario Public Service (OPS) and neo-liberal public policy advocates rationalize the privatization of Information Technology (IT) as an organizational quest for new efficiencies, specifically efficiencies imported from market economies. The findings of the research for this study indicate that IT privatization frequently results in inefficiencies, dependencies and a loss of core skills. The explanation for widespread IT privatization must be sought elsewhere. This study researches and depicts two related IT developments. The first development is the evolution of IT privatization from the earlier practice of body-shopping, i.e. the hiring on contract of IT consultants to the more complex public private partnership. This evolution is a reflection of the maturation of privatization. Body-shopping informs the alienation of IT skills from the public sector, the shaping of a labour hierarchy based on skills distribution, and the foundation for the public-private partnership. The second development, the evolution of OPS management attitudes towards IT privatization, is a reflection of growing neo-liberal hegemony. Archival research indicates middle management disdain towards excessive IT privatization in the early 1980's; particularly its high costs, loss of skills and growing dependency on external private sources. By the ii late 1990's, parliamentary committee transcripts indicate IT management acceptance of more excessive IT privatization. As neo-liberal practice became more accepted and as governments and central ministries pressured line ministries through budgetary and organizational controls, IT managers accepted their new roles as authors of RFP's and tenders of public sector work. The IT service providing industry gladly bid on contracts and acquired the new skills required for future IT projects, exacerbating the provision/dependency cycle. Furthermore, the new technologies provided an ideological smokescreen of technological necessity to conceal the market forces that promoted and benefitted from IT privatization. "Why do managers in the Ontario Public Service privatize the production of Information Technology systems?" The dissertation has two tasks when answering this central question. First, it must refute the efficiency arguments. Second, it must formulate an answer within the context of neo-liberal state transformation, new investment strategies of IT service providing corporations and a restructured IT labour hierarchy. Author Keywords: neo-liberalism, New Public Management, Ontario, privatization, public private partnership, public sector

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