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Critical Infrastructure at the Dawn of a Techno-Organizational Shift

Accountability and Public-Private Governance

Time: Mon 2022-03-28 13.00

Location: Kollegiesalen, Brinellvägen 8, Stockholm

Video link: https://kth-se.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_awvCMt_dQj6JTQ0gA6yEHw

Language: English

Subject area: Industrial Economics and Management

Doctoral student: Lindy Newlove-Eriksson , Industriell ekonomi och organisation (Inst.)

Opponent: Professor Staffan Furusten, Stockholm Centre for Organizational Research (SCORE), Stockholm University

Supervisor: Thomas Sandberg, Industriell ekonomi och organisation (Inst.); Professor Jan Hallenberg,

Abstract

How public-private governance affects accountability for safety in the realm of critical infrastructure is the focus of this doctoral thesis. Case studies of previously under-researched crises and their cascading affects across infrastructures and governance systems, comparative analysis of public-private governance (PPG) of infrastructures such as space and urban rail junctions, and analysis of wider sets of policies and doctrine pertaining to critical infrastructures and their governance are presented.

This work further conceptualizes a contemporary techno-organizational shift, observed increasingly in mixed and integrated public-private structures and evident not only in governance, but in infrastructures themselves (seen for example in development of dual use-satellites, and in urban rail interchanges combining public transportation with consumption and leisure). Moreover, this thesis develops the concept of “patchwork PPG”, which aids unpacking the complexity of governance, addressing specifically the blurred boundaries of internal-external, public-private and domestic-international.

It is also found and demonstrated that accountability can be negatively affected when governance is fragmented, particularly when there exists a patchwork of several PPG constellations, with membership and mandate changing over time. Fragmented governance of infrastructural mega-projects has given rise to the misconception that the rise of private authority in terms of ownership and command and control also implies that private actors have attained/maintain accountability. Further, mega-projects entail lengthy timeframes, implying a loss of continuity and institutional memory, which in turn puts accountability at risk.

I draw on a large multidisciplinary body of past theory and research, including social science crisis research, organizational and governance theory, industrial economics, sociological risk analysis, and science and technology studies (STS). Methodologically, a structured and focused case study approach is employed, building on document analyses and, particularly in one case, personal interviews. Finally, I propose that effective accountability management implies acknowledgment of formal responsibility, that critique is actively and constructively taken on board, and mistakes admitted, without resorting to resignation/s or blame games. Commitment to explorative reflexivity is necessary to truly learn from mistakes, near misses or full-blown crises to implement reform, better tailor preparedness, and allocate resources for responsible management of holistically-viewed infrastructure projects, from conceptual, operational, augmentational through to retirement or reinvention stages.

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