How do you use technology/policy to improve citizens’ lives? Tell us about your role or organisation.
As lead senior analyst responsible for the OECD work on digital government and government data, my role is to assist governments worldwide in designing and implementing strategies and initiatives that use digital technologies and data to improve citizens’ wellbeing. For the past two years, for example, we worked extensively with the Government of Argentina to strengthen the strategic capacity of the public sector to use digital technologies and data to improve service delivery.
The Government designed, developed and implemented a new government platform intended to make access to services easier. It integrates more than 1,000 websites into a single domain and as of today, has served more than 123 million users since its launch in 2016. As a complement, Mi Argentina, the dashboard that provides a single starting point of any interaction with Government, is used by three million citizens and the numbers keep growing as new services are added.
A third example is Chat Crecer, the virtual assistant or bot based on Facebook Messenger that works outside the health system and is designed to accompany women during their pregnancy and the baby’s first year with personalised information and reminders to attend pre- and post natal check-ups. The bot offers simple access to health information for women that are otherwise isolated from these services, as it is not constricted by being in a physical location and does not have any additional costs per user.
Chat Crecer stemmed from the intent to rethink a service in a way that could help reduce existing rates of maternal and infant mortality still appear to be high in Argentina, making it challenging for the Country to meet the related Millennium Development Goal.
All these examples are the results of intense collaboration of the UX team of the Government with different departments to design content focused on user needs, easy to understand and use, and to bring the sharing and integration of data, processes and services in the Argentinian administrations to levels unknown before.
What has been the most exciting thing that you worked on in 2019?
The 2019 has been the year when we dived at full speed into the design and development of measures that are meant to help governments transition towards fully digital governments. This means being capable to make strategic use of data; move towards the rethinking of processes that are digital by design and open by default; and to design and deliver public services that are driven by users’ needs and offered proactively.
The soon to be published Digital Government Indicators will hopefully become an important policy tool enabling governments to leverage the opportunities provided by the digital age to better serve their societies. For someone like me who has been engaged in policy making for two decades, thinking that I can contribute to helping governments make a more meaningful use of public resources to improve our lives is really exciting!
What is the best thing you have experienced in your career?
Working with high-level policy makers is very challenging, it can be very rewarding but at times also quite frustrating. This is why it is always a great satisfaction when in the concluding phases of a project a high-level authority thanks me for having helped him/her see what could be improved to improve policies, decisions and results.
But even though this recognition made me feel very rewarded in several moments of my career, I have to say the best thing I have experienced is my team. I was lucky to bring on board team members always extremely engaged, committed and honest. Managing my team, although quite hard at times, has turned being one of the best experiences of my career.
I was lucky to bring on board team members always extremely engaged, committed and honest.
If you were to share one piece of advice that you learned in 2019, what would it be?
In the course of 2019, I have engaged in numerous projects with several countries around the world. If there is one lesson I’d like to share, it is that there is no solution that fits all situations. This is not a new lesson to me as, coming from the development cooperation world, over ten years of working with the UN taught me to always remember how important it is not to fall into the trap of believing that what works in one place would necessarily work in another.
This is quite obvious when we think about North-South cooperation, or when we work with countries experiencing different levels of social, economic or digital development. Yet, even though it might seem less obvious in countries where the overall environment appears similar, digital government strategies and governance frameworks perfect for one country are not necessarily adequate in another, as specific contextual factors may require different approaches.
The same mix of ingredients does not necessarily lead to the same cake, you have to go out there and experience to understand that conceptual maps and ideas need to land into a specific reality to see if they can really work.
What tool or technique particularly interests you for 2020?
I am extremely fascinated by the potential of using the wealth of data available to improve how decision makers understand societies, gauge how to best serve them, correct their decisions and assess the real impact of their actions. Governments have so far underestimated the value of the data they produce, collect and can access.
Data represent a key strategic asset and I look forward to exploring and studying in 2020 growing examples of data-driven approaches across public sectors. This technique – not new to the private sector – still represents unchartered territory for many governments.
What are your priorities for 2020?
I look forward to finding ways to give to people in my private life the space and attention they deserve. When your work is your passion, like in my case, it is hard to maintain the right life-work balance, which instead you need to secure the level of energy required to continue doing your job with the same passion and commitment.
What is one challenge you would like to take on in 2020?
I would love to work more and more with local administrations. In our times, I think it is exciting to have the chance to work with cities in particular to enhance their capability to use digital opportunities and data, and to connect with the ecosystem of, for example, GovTech actors, to improve people’s quality of life.
What has been your fondest memory from the past year?
I am a professor at Science Po in Paris, where I teach a course on Digital and Innovative Government at the School of Public Affairs. The interaction and work done with the students, and realising how much they had enjoyed the class at the end of the semester represent one of the best memories of this 2019.
Helping the digital leaders of today is extremely rewarding, but helping build the digital leaders of tomorrow is a real honour, and I feel extremely lucky of having had the possibility to contribute to forming these brilliant individuals.