„Aus dem Unterricht des CAS Digital Masterclass 2020 mit Manuel Nappo berichtet Yvonne Bosshard Bernhard.

Digitalisation within the public sector: Get inspired from private initiatives and exploit the limited margins of manoeuvre!

Working for the Federal Administration, my primary interest to do the Digital Masterclass CAS was to step outside the «public administration bubble» and to get an insight of «what is going on out there» with regards to digitalisation and innovation.

Due to the corona situation, our class started the CAS with the study tour. The tour was highly inspiring and brought me to the following question. What could I do to help implement or boost digitalisation and innovation effectively within my organisation / subject area?

The Common Problem

The problem I often experience in the public administration is that people tend to think first of all the constraints which could come up. Thinking out of the box is not always encouraged or very common.

Of course, there are more constraints to be considered compared to private initiatives or companies. The public administration can only implement what is foreseen in a law. Also, our data bases and tools have more and more interdependencies, especially withing my area where we work closely with the EU. Nevertheless, there is room for improvement within the current legislation on the one side. On the other side, the public administration has the power to propose law amendments. Ideally, the public sector should accompany digital and societal transformation rather than lag behind them.

The Insights of the Study Tour

During the study tour we had the opportunity to visit a few projects which have a link to the public sector or a parallel to my organisational structure. Thus, they where especially inspiring for me:

Eurapco: innovation lab of an alliance of 8 cooperative insurance companies from 8 European countries, including the Swiss company Mobiliar.

Climate View: Software for a city’s climate mission; helps to set clear targets and actions and to visualise the transition.

Kry: biggest online health care platform in Sweden, also expanding to other European countries.

My two main take homes from the whole study tour, but in particular from the three projects above (for more info about the different sites and start-ups visited, also see blog post by Daggi):

Innovation can come from inside bigger organisations! 🙂 Ideally the management fosters innovation by appointing a dedicated unit as it is the case with Mobiliar/Eurapco. If not, instead of waiting for it to happen, bottom up initiatives should make it happen.

– Digitalisation creates new options to tackle current challenges. Climate view and Kry (but also other start-ups we visited) were impressive examples to me and had a strong focus on the user experience. Something my area should focus on more!

What I Want to Do

From these main take homes, my concrete action shall be the following. We’ll have to initiate a project soon to replace our current application processing tool. Instead of initiating this project « as usual » and see it as a simple technological upgrade of the current tool, my plan is to gather a few open-minded people to create a vision about the « ideal application processing tool» from a user’s perspective first. Once having this vision, we can oppose it to all the real (and supposed) constraints. I probably won’t manage to disrupt the current application process from my position. But with this approach, I am sure we’ll be able to improve our current system remarkably with regards to seamless processes, accessibility and user experience as a whole.

Thank you Manuel and Oliver for this eye opening and interesting study tour!

P.S.: Digitalisation is fun and keeps young! 🙂