Data Governance as a Collective Action Problem

Olivia Benfeldt, John Stouby Persson, Sabine Madsen

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


While governing data as an organizational asset has clear benefits, mobilizing an organization to implement data governance remains elusive for practitioners. On that account, this paper examines why governing data is difficult in local government organizations. Based on a literature review and an empirical case study, we establish the inherent challenges and build on the notion of collective action to theorize the problem of data governance. Following an engaged scholarship approach, we collect empirical material through six group interviews with 34 representatives from 13 different Danish municipalities. We extend existing data governance research with our problem triangle that identifies and explicates the complex relations between six distinct challenges: value, collaboration, capabilities, overview, practices, and politics. We demonstrate the value in theorizing data governance as a collective action problem and argue for the necessity of ensuring researchers and practitioners achieve a common understanding of the inherent challenges, as a first step towards developing data governance solutions that are viable in practice.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInformation Systems Frontiers
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)299-313
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Data governance
  • Collective action
  • Local government
  • Engaged scholarship

Cite this