A new era for public sector reporting: technology and digitization in service to meet user needs
Information technology effects are nowadays evident in, literally, all aspects of social and economic life. Digital technologies, and especially emerging technologies such as social media, big data, Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing, blockchain and artificial intelligence (AI), can affect data production and dissemination. The relation between digital technologies and accounting has already attracted considerable interest in the private sector, while in the public sector, there is a dearth of relevant studies (Agostino et al., 2020; Agostino et al., 2021). The use of technology in public sector reporting has covered so far a few possible research topics. Early studies focused on the web as a means through which citizens would get regular accurate information on public finances (Caba Pérez et al., 2005) and its consideration as a tool that the public could use to continuously assess government agencies through everyday interaction (Rodríguez Bolívar et al. 2007). More recently, there are studies that have assessed citizens' preferences regarding the way the information is presented. More specifically, there are research works dealing with popular report presentation (Cohen et al., 2017), whether smart cities adopt IT-enhanced means in relation to financial or non-financial reporting (Cohen and Karatzimas, forthcoming) or whether the use of infographics increases financial statements understandability (Cohen et al., 2021). In the last years, the implementation of emerging technologies on the public sector is opening new avenues for changing both the roles of stakeholders and the way these stakeholders reach the financial and non-financial reporting. Indeed, the use of technology as a facilitator for both financial and non-financial reporting to meet user needs shows significant prospects. Currently, big data attract public administration interest related to users’ needs (Ju et al., 2018; Ingrams, 2019), while the use of social media by administrations to bring reporting to citizens’ mobile phones and tablets is escalating (Giacomini et al., 2021). AI and the IoT are further placed on the service of various users (de Sousa et al., 2019; El-Haddadeh et al., 2019).
This special issue focuses on how emerging technologies and digitalization could impact on the stakeholders role in the production and shaping of financial and non-financial reporting in the public sector as well as on the development of good practices in this area. The new era challenges the content and the suitability of the traditional lengthy pdf. reports that are available on the websites which, up to now, are a direct transfer of the paper-world to the digital one. The capacity of stakeholders to participate in the co-production of information and the alternative ways of visualization (on demand) make information more comprehensive. Technology advancements make people get accustomed to interactive tools and personal digital assistants to answer their queries on several matters on the spot and users of financial information usually browse through data at their own pace and not in a predefined order through tablets and mobile phones. This way, report narrations based on artificial intelligence or the use of chatbots may be features of future reporting. However, these dimensions are likely to affect not just the format of reporting per se to meet the user needs but also the content of the reporting irrespectively of the type of the reports, e.g. financial reports, environmental reports, popular reports, integrated reports, etc.
List of Topic Areas:
- Financial reporting (including popular reporting and integrated reporting) by adopting technology and digitization for multiple stakeholders;
- Non-Financial reporting (e.g. sustainability and environmental reporting) by adopting technology and digitization for multiple stakeholders;
- Challenges in terms of IT knowledge and skills for accountants and auditors;
- Public Sector reporting and big data;
- The impact of the implementation of emerging technologies (Artificial Intelligence, IoT, Blockchain, Big Data,...) on both public sector reporting and auditing;
- Digital divide and the implementation of the digitization on public sector reporting;
- Citizens' rights to information access in different electronic formats and channels.
Athens University of Economics and Business, Dept. of Business Administration - Greece
Athens University of Economics and Business, Dept. of Accounting and Finance - Greece
Manuel Pedro Rodríguez Bolívar
University of Granada, Dept. of Accounting and Finance - Spain