Technological choices have the potential to shape the social, political, economic and ecological outcomes of a service delivery system. Large-scale and capital-intensive services can be prone to a lack of accountability and transparency, whereas small-scale, low-tech systems may lend themselves to more democratic participation and environmental sustainability. But there is nothing automatic or deterministic about technology (or scale), and there is a need to explore more closely the relationships between technological choice and the ‘publicness’ of a service. Renewable energy sources may, for example, open up new opportunities for locally controlled electricity services, weakening the grip of big firms on energy production, but it is equally true that the push for solar and wind power over the past decade has seen a rush of small- and large-scale capital into greenfield developments in a de facto privatization of the renewable energy sector.
The MSP is investigating the theoretical and practical linkages between technology and public service delivery, both in practice and in terms of future options.