Public Policy Instruments and Their Impact: From Analogue to Electronic Government in the Bus Services of São Paulo
Datasets usually provide raw data for analysis. This raw data often comes in spreadsheet form, but can be any collection of data, on which analysis can be performed.
This article deals with the relations between public policy instruments and production practices of objects related to government action. It demonstrates that the materiality of the instruments built to make a public policy object legible to its operators has independent effects on the relations among private operators, bureaucrats, and the public sector. Based on the bus service provision policies in the city of São Paulo between the 1980s and the 2000s, it shows that transportation policies are structured around the dilemmas and conflicts associated with the production of reports and databases. This article suggests that everyday practices and instruments, especially those associated with the documentation of operational performance, are key dimensions to understand the limits and potential of both state capacities and the regulation of companies’ profits. Because of its materiality, documentation practices and document pathways, operate as devices and artifacts which structure opacities, asymmetries of information, and power struggles between the state bureaucrats and private companies in the construction of service legibility. This article concludes that the transition from the governance through analogue instruments to the governance through electronic instruments is characterized by more transparency and greater regulatory potential over the private sector.