The Double Darkness of Digitalization: Shaping Digital-ready Legislation to Reshape the Conditions for Public-sector Digitalization

Ursula Plesner*, Lise Justesen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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In recent years, policymakers have begun to problematize how legislation stands in the way of the digitalization of the public sector. We are witnessing the emergence of a new phenomenon, digital-ready legislation, which implies that, whenever possible, new legislation should build on simple rules and unambiguous terminology to reduce the need for professional (human) discretion and allow for the extended use of automated case processing in public-sector organizations. Digital-ready legislation has potentially wide-ranging consequences because it creates the conditions for how public organizations are digitalized. The processes, practices, choices, and responsibilities for drafting digital-ready legislation, however, are not well-described or debated. Digital-ready legislation is a dormant issue. This paper develops the notion of the “double darkness” of digitalization to account for this. Based on a qualitative study, the paper investigates how digital-ready legislation as a sociotechnical arrangement is shaped by policy tools and by a complex, collaborative process where responsibility for legislation is fragmented. It argues that although the policy tools are aimed at making actors responsible for digitalization and creating clarity about the process, actors seem to be reluctant to take on the responsibility for making political decisions related to digitalization.
Original languageEnglish
JournalScience, Technology & Human Values
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)146-173
Number of pages28
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022

Bibliographical note

Published online: March 9, 2021.


  • Digital-ready legislation
  • Public sector
  • Accountability
  • Policy tools
  • Digitalization
  • Distributed agency

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