DIGI Launches Transformation: How Innovation and Technology Can Help Us Reinvent Institutions Beyond the Pandemic

Online Event Series Explores How Technology Can Be Harnessed to Upgrade Institutions
Blog Post
May 22, 2020

On May 21, we launched Transformation, a groundbreaking online event series examining how innovation and technology can reshape institutions in a post-pandemic world. Each month, we’ll be bringing together key leaders who are revolutionizing the structures that power our societies. The series will explore breakthroughs that are making economic and governance systems more efficient, transparent, and accountable.

For our inaugural event, we welcomed Beth Simone Noveck, Chief Innovation Officer for the State of New Jersey and former Deputy Chief Technology Officer of the United States, Sheila Warren, Head of Blockchain and Data Policy for the World Economic Forum, and Brian Whittaker, Acting Executive Director of 18F, a U.S. government agency at the leading edge of digital transformation. Together, the panelists helped us identify five principles to keep in mind when deploying transformational technology solutions in the public sector:

  • Design with users in mind: A tool is only effective if people can use it. Civic innovators should balance the needs of citizens, government administrators, and other participants to maximize the benefit their solutions deliver.
  • Build for reuse: Building open source solutions enables other governments to copy and adapt existing software rather than starting from scratch. Reusing successful tools saves time and resources and creates more opportunities for data sharing and collaboration.
  • Data matters: Clean data is a prerequisite for effective digital solutions. Governments need to think through how data is transmitted and stored. Doing so has huge implications for privacy, security and digital rights, and ultimately maintaining citizens’ trust.
  • Agility and flexibility: Agility is critical for effective crisis response. Building flexibility into technology facilitates inter-agency collaboration, enables better use of existing infrastructure, and allows leaders to break up big problems into a series of smaller solutions. All of these tactics can deliver big benefits to citizens.
  • Communicate and collaborate: Public sector digitization projects benefit from partnerships with the private sector, academia, and civil society. Governments need independent organizations to serve as translators between the technologists and policymakers. These partner organizations can help define and maintain a project’s scope so everyone involved stays engaged and aligned.

Governments at the forefront of public sector innovation are delivering some of the most effective responses to the pandemic. These leaders are leveraging high-quality digital systems to track transmission, communicate with citizens, and channel information, people, and resources to address the crisis. In partnership with New America’s Public Interest Tech Program, we deployed the Pandemic Response Repository, a collection of open source digital resources to help governments develop solutions to the pandemic more quickly, efficiently, and transparently.

We look forward to working with partners around the world in the months ahead to explore how digital technology can strengthen public institutions. Please join us for future online sessions on how to utilize open source solutions and develop digital public goods. We’re anticipating conversations on themes including digital identity, payments, civic participation, public benefits, taxation, and procurement. Please let us know if there are other topics you’d like us to consider. Send us a tweet at @DIGI_NewAmerica, follow us on Twitter, or subscribe to our newsletter. We look forward to working with you to solve the monumental challenges facing institutions worldwide.