Virginijus Sinkevicius, Lithuania’s Minister for Economy and Innovation, writes a guest article for us on the launch of Lithuania’s GovTech Lab: an initiative to foster and support the GovTech ecosystem in Lithuania. 

Many believe that being an old democracy is an advantage for a state. I have the opposite view. Lithuania is a relatively young democratic country and that gives us ambition to innovate and employ a challenge-solving attitude to make changes faster, both in the public sector and in society. 

While change in society and business is talked about often, we recognise that it must also be embraced by the public sector. In order for government to become a 21st century institution, we have to become more flexible and to create processes for government to partake in compartmentalised experimentation. We’ve taken steps towards creating an innovative public sector environment with the launch of Lithuania’s GovTech Lab, which aims to encourage young, innovative businesses and academics to develop, test and commercialise solutions that solve public sector challenges.

The GovTech Lab, an initiative led by the Ministry of the Economy and Innovation and the Create Lithuania program, aims to foster the country’s burgeoning GovTech ecosystem and to serve as a competence centre intended to enhance the innovativeness of the public sector. The Lab encourages startups, SMEs and academics to test their technology-based ideas with the public sector under real-time conditions. Lithuania currently has about 600 startups, some of which are leading GovTech startups like Trafi and Oxipit

We have already observed part of the potential that the GovTech Lab holds. For example, the Lab is helping shift cultural norms inside government. We recognise that expertise in emerging technologies does not necessarily lie within the public sector, and the Lab allows institutions to raise challenges that they do not have answers to. Additionally, the Lab serves as a connector between the public, private and third sector that encourages us to look at public sector problems differently. Strengthened networks for the sharing of knowledge facilitate the creation of new solutions that maximise societal benefits and make the government more efficient and open. 

During the GovTech Lab’s challenge series, public sector institutions distill and announce a challenge that can be solved more efficiently with an innovative technology-based solution and that is not necessarily available on the market. Four public sector institutions signed a memorandum of understanding and will be the Lab’s pioneer collaborators in the challenge series. These institutions include: Ministry of the Economy and Innovation, Bank of Lithuania, Lithuanian Energy Company Group, Lithuania Travel, Kaunas 2022 (the agency overseeing Kaunas’ preparations to become Europe’s cultural capital that year). 

During a meeting with the CEO of Google Sundar Pichai, I invited him to join this initiative in Lithuania. I invite readers of this article to join as well. We recognise the importance of learning from international best practices and sharing our insights along the way to create innovative solutions in government that bring meaningful change across borders.

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