Photo of Mariana S Gustafsson

Mariana S Gustafsson

Associate Professor

A highly digitalized society places new demands on our democracy and requires new forms of governance in the public sector. Practical and theoretical knowledge of these is an important key to understanding the digital society we live in today.

A better public administrationbased on knowledge of digitalization

To continue governing and managing an increasingly digitalized society in an effective, legally secure and legitimate way is a challenge today. We need deeper understanding of the phenomenon and practical knowledge about how local and regional authorities think and work to face these challenges, where they look for opportunities and how they work to materialize them in order to meet the high demands that come from the knowledge intensive and digitalized society.

Public administration in digital society

My research interest is to understand what happens with public administration and governance in the digital society. I want to understand how the technological society in democracy evolves by studying the effects of digitalization in the public sector. I want to understand whether and how public administration transforms when public servants and citizens use complex technical information and tools to access, manage and implement public services. I am also interested in how 'technology' is conceptualized in political science research on digital society and how the concept is used to analyze the progress of reform in public administration.

Automated Decision Making in Social Services

My current research addresses institutional, organizational and professional tensions that accompany introduction of robotic process automation (RPA) in the Swedish income support services and administratio. Scandinavian welfare services are undergoing advanced digitalization in a context rife with diversified client needs and demands. Automation models are sought and implemented in Swedish public administration. In Income support services, the Trelleborg model (currently disseminated in 14 municipalities), made possible a shift of time and personnel resources to coaching the clients. In Kungsbacka municipality, 12 out of 16 social workers have resigned in protest, questioning that robots could make individual assessments of their clients’ needs, the shift to a labor market perspective from social care, the fear for losing the professional identity and the lack of dialog. These outcomes show that one single model of automation is no solution for all. The aim of this study is to uncover tensions and effects of RPA in social services upon organization of work, provision of services and interaction among professions. Three research questions are proposed: 1. How implementation of RPA transforms organization of work, provision of services and professions in Income support. 2. What policy and practice implications do the results show? 3. How can theory explain RPA processes in in Income support? The research is financed by FORTE programme for applied welfare studies. 

Stakeholder Involvement and Citizen-centric Public e-Services: An international collaboration for knowledge exchange

Digitalization of public services entails various challenges of adoption and use by the stakeholders. How governments address these challenges affects citizen trust.  Estonia, Sweden, Ukraine and Belarus governments shared the challenge on how to sustain trust and legitimacy when certain e-services are more used than others, or some regions are front runners, while others lag. Stakeholder involvement and citizen-centric public e-services are critical. We aim to cooperate with researchers, practitioners and stakeholders for sharing knowledge on citizen-centric digitalisation of public services for increased trust and legitimacy. We set up for 2 minipilots to map the problem in the different contexts, to engage stakeholders through minipilots, workshops and feedback discussions. These will result in setting up of a work structure and partnership for two new R&D project applications. The outcomes shall serve as an incremental, bottom-up process for reforming public services. The project is financed by Swedish institute.



Olga Matveieva, Tetiana Mamatova, Yevgen Borodin, Mariana S. Gustafsson, Elin Wihlborg, Serhiy Kvitka (2024) Digital Government in Conditions of War: Governance Challenges and Revitalized Collaboration between Local Authorities and Civil Society in Provision of Public Services in Ukraine Proceedings of the 57th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, p. 2002-2012
Vasil Navumau, Mariana S. Gustafsson, Olga Matveieva (2024) Citizen engagement mediated by digital technologies during the Russian invasion of Ukraine and civic unrest in Belarus Emerging citizen agency for democratic rights


Johanna Sefyrin, Mariana S. Gustafsson (2022) Repair of Unstable Sociomaterial Relations: A Study on Librarians' and Social Workers' Practices in Addressing the Needs of Their Clients HUMAN CHOICE AND DIGITAL BY DEFAULT: AUTONOMY VS DIGITAL DETERMINATION, HCC 2022, p. 36-46 Continue to DOI
Mariana S. Gustafsson (2022) Quality and Results in Income Support: Automatization of decision and case management
Ahmed Kaharevic, Helena Iacobaeus, Mariana S. Gustafsson (2022) Ideology and technology mediated participation: Digital citizenship ideals in the Swedish welfare state
Olga Matveieva, Vasil Navumau, Mariana S. Gustafsson (2022) Adoption of Public e-services versus Civic Tech Services: On the Issue of Trust and Citizen Participation in Ukraine and Belarus Electronic Government, EGOV 2022, p. 15-30 Continue to DOI
Mariana S. Gustafsson (2022) Integration of RPA in Public Services: A Tension Approach to the Case of Income Support in Sweden Service Automation in the Public Sector: Concepts, Empirical Examples and Challenges, p. 109-127 Continue to DOI




Short summary


  • 2022 - Associate professor
  • 2018 - 2022 Assistant professor in Political Science, Director of studies, Linköping University
  • 2017 - 2018 Postdoc
  • 2013 - 2017 PhD in Political Science, Linköping University
  • 2012 - 2013 Expert in project FUSe, Linköping University
  • 2009 - 2012 Analyst, Oxford Research, Kirstiansand, Norway
  • 2007 - 2009 Research Assistant, Lärande Lund, Lund University
  • 2003 - 2006 Research Assistant, Pedagogiska institutionen, Lund University


  • 2017 PhD in Political Science, focuss on e-Government, Linköping University
  •  2002 - PolMag, Master of European Affairs, Lund University
  • 2001- MA, Political Science, Central European University, Budapest

I currently teach

  • Political Science Methods
  • Comparative Perspectives on Political Systems
  • Supervision of essay-writing 


  • Political theory
  • Institutional theory and analysis