I have just come back from presenting at the Oman Competitiveness Festival (OCF14). I spoke alongside many local Omani experts, as well as an array of excellent others from across the UK and Europe - from Reform, Behaviour Insights Team, Collaborate and Snook, to Bethnal Green Ventures, Aspire Trust, Localis, Universitat Pompeu Fabra and INudgeYou.
In setting up the conference, the Oman Government wanted to examine the issue of public services innovation, particularly the use of open data to create digital public services and support decision making and transparency. The conference also looked at the ways in which governments today, regardless of their location, need to engage with their citizens - ‘co-production’ and ‘user designed public services’ were common terms.
Supporting smart developers to innovate with data for social and economic impact was seen as a positive measure to be encouraged, and as in the UK, there is a role for the education system to support this vision, with a skills pipeline of developers, data analysts and designers. This starts at school and works its way up through to University and start-up incubators - there needs to be a joined-up ecosystem to support the innovators.
Looking at the excellent example of Helsinki City Council and Forum Virium, I believe the following ingredients are important to success:
I came away from the conference realising that although we all have very distinctive cultural differences, whether you are Scottish, Omani, Spanish or Dutch, our ambitions are very similar. We all want a voice in democracy. We want transparency. Data provides knowledge and this knowledge can be both useful and powerful.