Beyond broadband, Digital Transformation requires Policy Labs, Open Roles, Soft Laws, Policy Prototyping and Talent. The pandemic accentuated the need for flexible, mission-centric governance. Governments are now using agile sprints to tackle legacy development tasks and pandemic disruptions of the old orthodoxy. While 73% of Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) countries have a Digital Transformation strategy (IDB-OECD, 2017), only 7% of the citizens completed a government transaction using the internet in 2017. In a 2018 IDB study, Roseth et al, showed that in only 3 of the 26 countries examined, could more than 50% of transactions commence digitally. In the UN 2020 Digital Services Ranking, six LAC countries are among the global top fifty and ten fell between fifty-one and one hundred.
‘Digital Transformation and Public Employment: The Future of Government Work’, an IDB study, in 2021, reveals that LAC countries ‘have not viewed digital transformation as a key input for public strategic workforce planning’ (p. 3), and talent acquisition. The word ‘talent’ is imprecise. Search teams now focus on assessing measurable skills and values of candidates by first conducting a skills gap analysis to identify the hiring needs. The result is a skills-based job description that leans forward into a structured interview process with simulated real world job tasks grounded in working-knowledge. Skills based job descriptions are fragile. Built to break. Not last forever.
Good talent acquisition policies transform the appointment process from an as-needed function to a pre-emptive function that creates candidate pipelines for future staffing requirements. It allows governments to recruit employees with unique profiles, especially those who have the agility to blossom beyond the function for which they are being recruited. Talent acquisition teams improve the brand position and network of the government by increasing the quality of hire for open roles.
Canada’s ‘Talent Cloud’ shifted focus towards a skills and project-based model by developing a marketplace of cross-sector talent that state departments could tap into for specific projects. A spinoff project, Free Agents, allowed a select group of public servants to flow freely across departments based on their interests and skills. Australia introduced a digital marketplace that enabled government agencies to identify and hire digital specialists, seek project-specific quotes, and receive tailored training in digital technologies.
Soft laws also help government agencies to keep pace with rapidly changing technologies, like the 2016 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration guidelines for autonomous vehicles in the US. These guidelines have been revised four times to keep pace with new technologies. New Zealand published a government algorithm charter in 2020. This cloud of principles guides the use of algorithms and data by government agencies. Over two dozen government agencies have committed to the charter.
While not legally binding, Soft Laws permit governments to adapt quickly and offer necessary signposts to public and private sector initiatives without stymying innovation. Soft Laws include guidelines, standards, and ethical frameworks, which take less time to implement than official legislation. The European Commission developed the better regulation toolbox, which built out advices and tools for commission services to consider throughout the policy and legislative process—from new proposals to reviews of old legislation.
The UK government’s Policy Lab uses human-centred design, data, and digital tools to explore transformative solutions to complex problems at central and provincial government levels. Traditional policymaking lacks iteration, a prototyping outlook, and a pinpointed focus on users. Policy prototyping allows the state to test models. The IDEO’s Ecolab, Harvard University’s Digital Kennedy School Initiative and Stanford University’s Cyber Initiative have collaborated to develop eight policy prototypes for the future of work using human-centred design tools. One prototype, iterated during a make-a-thon, designed enhanced machine interfaces that protect the rights of workers who interact with intelligent machines. Policy prototyping, with its iterative short sprints, diverse teams, and design thinking tools such as user personas and journey maps, bring to light inventive policy solutions encompassing collaborative intelligence.
User-Centred Policymaking writes multiple voices into a palimpsest of users ahead of enactment. The European Commission used this approach to redesign how commission documents can be shared with citizens. During a five-day design sprint, customer journeys were used to understand user needs, develop prototypes, and pressure-test the designs. The Commission has undertaken similar use case research to design its future digital visa application policy that will inform the EU’s new digital Schengen visa policy. The UK Ministry of Justice established a User-Centred Policy Design unit to involve users at every point in the policymaking process. The unit has worked on policies aimed at creating rehabilitative prisons, and reducing the recidivism rate among young offenders.
Ireland’s Innovation Policy Simulation for the Smart Economy models the Irish economy, giving decision-makers a chance to simulate policy effects ahead of implementation. Denmark makes it obligatory to assess whether new legislation is digital-ready using seven principles developed by the Danish Agency for Digitisation, supplemented by five principles for agile regulation. The agency is responsible for the use of digital welfare technology in the public sector. Digital-ready policies are designed to be future-proof, interoperable, and less burdensome for public administrators, citizens, and businesses. These policies are developed in an agile manner for open roles in talent clouds.