Digital transformation used to be a question of sound public management. Today, it has become essential to the economic, democratic, and geopolitical survival of European democracies.
European governments are facing not one, but multiple crises: war in Europe, rapidly rising living costs, overburdened healthcare systems, and a still-worsening climate crisis.
While technology is not a silver bullet, best-in-class digital solutions can help European governments and their citizens weather the storm. In this whitepaper, we argue that capitalising on the opportunity provided by best-in-class digital solutions requires European governments to adopt a new relationship to technology.
This relationship is premised on collaborative ways of working, public officials equipped with the skills for the future, new market engagement models, and a modernisation of the core digital infrastructures of government. For each of these four areas, we identify and outline the key changes necessary and provide examples of existing best practice.
We intend for these recommendations to act as a high-level roadmap orienting European governments towards those transformations which are most important for creating, buying, implementing, and scaling best-in-class digital solutions in this time of crisis.
In a final section, we give eight examples for impactful digital approaches to facing the climate, cost of living, healthcare resilience, and international security crises that become enabled by these recommendations. We also highlight GovTech companies offering valuable solutions in these areas.
Adopting a new relationship to technology:
Ways of working
- European governments should create, formalise, and equip cross-departmental crisis teams to better address the complex challenges facing them.
- European governments should adopt an integrated approach to public service delivery that begins with high-level policy objectives and results in tested and user-friendly digital tools facilitating the achievement of those objectives at scale.
- European governments should work to introduce and scale internal mechanisms such as innovation awards and funds that incentivise public officials to take leadership of impactful innovation projects.
Upskilling for the future
- European governments should equip leaders with the knowledge and experience necessary to run innovation and digital transformation projects according to industry best practices, leveraging agile methodologies and regular feedback processes and to quickly iterate outputs and ensure collaboration on eye-level.
- European governments should ensure that basic proficiency with digital collaboration tools, data, and cyber secure behaviour exists across teams, equipping public servants to participate in new ways of working and allowing them to use the latest technologies in a secure way.
- European governments should ensure that public servants have a foundational understanding of new solutions and technologies, enabling them to more proficiently navigate rapidly-changing technology markets.
Engaging the Market
- European governments should adopt a broader portfolio of engagement models to improve awareness of existing solutions on the market, leverage collaborative problem-solving with innovative suppliers, and diversify their supplier base.
- European governments should deploy newly tested procurement mechanisms such as subsidy contracts and design awards to more effectively work with innovative providers once they have been identified, and leverage DPS to enhance supplier competition and access.
- European governments should rapidly introduce new digital procurement platforms, procurement guidance and best practice performance metrics to enhance the efficiency of procurement processes for suppliers and buyers alike.
- European governments should map and link data assets that currently sit within distinct departmental databases and other tools through standardised API infrastructures, in order to unlock cross-departmental collaboration and policymaking.
- European governments should catalogue and open up API infrastructures to support the development and implementation of innovative solutions by outside parties, leveraging API management tools and privacy-enhancing technologies to ensure data privacy compliance.
- European governments should establish clear processes, guidelines, and frameworks for leveraging cloud-based solutions, and modernise their on-premise servers for use cases where cloud hosting is unfeasible.