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Nine big messages on digital government that public sector leaders should understand

Much has been promised about the potential of digital technologies to positively transform the work of government and the wider public sector. This is often called Digital Government. I've recently prepared an overview for public sector leadership teams on what digital government is, how it’s often (mis)interpreted, and how they can think about the role that digital technologies might play in their own organisations.

I'd welcome your feedback on this draft overview (Google slides), which I hope to turn into a more comprehensive guide in due course. In it, I critique the tendency for organisations to take the label 'digital government' too literally, focusing on the technology first, rather than the ways of working they wish to enable.

Below I've extracted nine key messages I feel all leadership teams should understand about the enabling role of digital.

Are these the right messages? What's missing? I'd welcome your feedback in the comments below, in the document itself, or on Twitter.

Technology should be an enabler, not the driver of public sector innovation
The most exciting development is not that any specific technology has reached maturity, but that we can broadly take for granted that technology can do whatever we want it to do
We’ve seen exponential levels of innovation in the technologies available to the public sector, but almost no innovation in the structures and processes to which they are applied
You will achieve more if you have operational excellence and very basic technology than the most advanced technology and a bad process
If you’re optimising an existing function, look at how digital tools can improve the entire end-to-end process, rather than bolting on a nicer front face to an old way of working
The level of transformation that digital technologies can enable is primarily down to how much of the process or way of working you are willing to change
Organisations cannot expect agile projects to succeed if they insist on keeping older forms of project management, governance, budgeting and procurement
Public sector technology teams should focus on being smart, demanding customers to the best innovations the market can provide, and set clear standards for the tech they will buy or develop
Responsibility for creating the environment in which digitally enabled projects can thrive sits squarely with leadership teams

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Eddie Copeland

Eddie Copeland

Eddie Copeland

Director of Government Innovation

Eddie Copeland is Nesta's Director of Government Innovation, responsible for leading projects concerning city data analytics, behavioural insights, digital government, collaborative ...

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