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GovTech Baltic Leaders 2021: A Public Sector Innovation Festival Embracing the Ethos of GovTech

After an intense 2-year break caused by the pandemic, “GovTech Baltic Leaders” international conference came back on September 9. The one of its kind GovTech conference in the Baltic Sea region gathered leading policy makers, IT companies and startups, investors and GovTech enthusiasts to hear about what’s happening and what next is waiting for GovTech in Lithuania and around the world.

Over the last two years, GovTech surged from a niche market to a global phenomenon, increasingly talked about by tech startups, accelerators, and policymakers alike. This year’s conference explored how can we embrace the ethos of GovTech – to enable unexpected connections, fail quickly, change often, and grow exponentially but sustainably.

The four thematical tracks of the conference – enable, fail, change, and grow – each asked for different questions to be answered. Enable – what can drive innovation in the public sector? Fail – how to add experimentation to public servant DNA? Change – what’s next for digital government? Grow – are GovTech startups the raising stars of the ecosystem?

One of the most important means to enable innovation in the public sector is a strong willingness of governments to partner with a private sector, highlighted Kimberly Johns, Global Lead for GovTech at World Bank. “As part of our research on global GovTech maturity index we found that 70 countries include private sector collaboration in their strategies for public sector modernisation. We are seeing this not only in European countries, but also in India, Uganda, the Philipines, Sri Lanka, Marocco“.

Although to fail often means to fall, during the „GovTech Baltic Leaders 2021” it was decided to embrace the failure that brings growth – by exploring the experimentation element in the public sector. Despite experimentation not always bringing the best outcomes instantaneously, it teaches some lessons when encouraged. “We don’t think that you can learn experimentation, you can’t learn experimentation like skills in a class. You learn it by doing. If you want to transform the institution you need to work on skills and capacities. GovTech projects are the great tool to do this. When designing a GovTech program you should complement the practice with solid frameworks and theory. Start-ups are great mentors and teachers, it‘s not only about their solutions. It‘s about the way they work and a type of skills they have”, said Idoia Ortiz de Artiñano Goñi, Founder of PublicTech Lab at IE University.

Even though the public sector is often seen as a slowly changing thing, bringing fresh, new ideas is crucial to encourage change and innovation in the public sector. The world faced inevitable change during the coronavirus pandemic. However, it also brought some of the fastest innovative solutions to the public sector. “It’s really fascinating to see how actually the priorities align so quickly during pandemic. I think one of the biggest insights working in the public sector in the UK especially is how quickly were able to align priorities to respond the most urgent problems. We probably have never seen before ever this transformation that absolutely alignment of priorities. We saw that projects or things that could be take months or years, the solutions were found in two weeks built on common technologies on existing work they could be reused,“ said Ben Holliday, Executive Director at FutureGov.

GovTech ecosystem would be incomplete without startups whose one of the main focuses of the business is growth. GovTech startups are not ordinary startups – they often not only worry about their business, but also teach governments to pursue innovation and accept non-conventional partnerships to achieve best results. “We also need to educate, to champion and to inspire people inside the government, who have the ability to bring new technology and innovation in. We need to help them to unlock and unblock the procurement processes which stop the innovation even when it’s waiting for new technology companies to come. And we need to provide similar amount of information to government technologies companies which want to engage with governments”, emphasised Alexander de Carvalho , Co-founder and CIO of PUBLIC.

This year, the ”GovTech Baltic Leaders 2021” conference gathered 67 speakers and more than 800 participants from all around the world. If you have missed the livestream of the event, make sure to check the event recordings on the GovTech Lab Lithuania Youtube channel.

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