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Research and Advances

Value conflicts and social choice in electronic funds transfer system developments

During the last few years, computer-based systems which automate the transfer and recording of debits and credits have begun to be implemented on a large scale. These systems promise both financial benefits for the institutions that use them and potential conveniences to their customers. However, they also raise significant social, legal, and technical questions that must be resolved if full scale systems for Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) are not to cause more problems for the larger public than they solve. This paper examines the incentives for EFT developments and the social problems they raise in the context of conflicts between five different value positions that are often implicit in analyses of proposed EFT arrangements. These conflicts reflect the relative importance of certain problems for specific groups. The value positions implicit in EFT proposals help to organize analyses of market arrangements, system reliability, and privacy of transactions. These topics are analyzed in this article and related to the value positions held by concerned parties. Last, the ways in which the public can learn about the social qualities of different EFT arrangements and the pace of EFT developments are both discussed in the context of social choice.
Research and Advances

Automated welfare client-tracking and service integration: the political economy of computing

The impacts of an automated client-tracking system on the clients, caseworkers, administrators, and operations of the welfare agencies that use it are reported. The major impact of this system was to enhance the administrative attractiveness of the using agencies in the eyes of funders rather than to increase their internal administrative efficiency. This impact is a joint product of both the technical features of the computer-based system and of the organizational demands placed upon different agencies, administrators, and caseworkers. It illustrates the way “successful” automated information systems fit the political economies of the groups that use them.

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