UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose


Technological Capacity in the Public Sector: The Case of Estonia

Technological Capacity in Public Sector: The Case of Estonia

27 October 2017

Download working paper

UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose (IIPP) Working Paper Series: IIPP WP 2017-03

This working paper was also published as a journal article in International Review of Administrative Sciences.

Journal article reference

Lember, V., Kattel, R., & Tõnurist, P. (2018). Technological capacity in the public sector: the case of Estonia. International Review of Administrative Sciences, 84(2), 214–230. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0020852317735164


  • Veiko Lember | Marie Curie Research Fellow, Public Governance Institute, KU Leuven
  • Rainer Kattel | Deputy Director, Professor of Innovation and Public Governance, UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose
  • Piret Tõnurist | Policy Analyst, OECD


Lember, V, Kattel, R, Tõnurist, P. (2017). Technological Capacity in the Public Sector: the Case of Estonia. IIPP Working Paper Series, 2017-03.


Technology is clearly a critical factor in the lives of organizations, yet there are only few studies that deal with technology and public organizations. In this paper, we propose to understand technological change in the public sector, in particular how technology influences administrative capacity, through a new concept of technological capacity. We use the case of Estonia – internationally associated with a strong e-governance profile – as an exploratory case to answer two research questions: why and how technological change takes place in the public sector, and how does technological change influence administrative capacity in public organizations.

This paper argues that technological change in the public sector is not just a matter of technical skills, but technology changes fundamentally how public organizations function and how services are delivered. There are, however, key differences in the speed and direction of how technology’s impact unfolds in various organizations and services. Some organizations master to develop dynamic technological capacities and experience rapid and transformative changes, and others do not and accordingly go through incremental changes. Those organizations that exhibit dynamic technological capabilities manage well the ambidexterity challenge: to seek new solutions while managing to offer current services on a high level.