How do you use technology/policy to improve citizens’ lives? Tell us about your role or organisation.
GovTech Lab Lithuania, which I had the pleasure of initiating and I am now leading, seeks to open the public sector to innovative ideas and works as a connector between public sector challenges and the entrepreneur community. Our team at the Agency for Science, Innovation and Technology focus on three key activities:
- Help the public sector to identify challenges that can be solved by emerging technologies and match that with ideas in the entrepreneur community.
- Accelerate startups and SMEs #GovTech and #TechForGood space.
- Build the GovTech community in Lithuania and beyond.
We organize a GovTech Challenge Series, that starts with the identification of public sector challenge and finishes with Demo Day showcasing pilot solutions developed by startups and innovative companies, in cooperation with public sector institutions. We run it in batches, like an accelerator. In 2020 we delivered the second iteration of the GovTech Challenge series with 9 challenges and 9 solutions. Challenges that we help to solve can be any problem in the public sector, which requires an innovative scalable solution that could not be easily bought through a usual public procurement process. It could be from internal organizational issues to challenges with policymaking or policy implementation. For instance, Oxylabs, with a help of experts from the Communications Regulatory Authority of Lithuania (RRT) are building an AI solution that could detect illegal content on the internet (with an emphasis on child sexual abuse material), while a startup Codami has also developed an AI tool to detect hate speech on the internet. Others focus on fostering the potential of big data to make the right decisions around improving health at schools – Green Thyme is building Lithuania’s first intelligent public health monitoring system for the schools in Vilnius.
What was the most impactful project you worked on this year?
The most impactful projects are in two areas – mobilizing the entrepreneur community in dealing with the crisis and further developing our methods to connect the public sector, startups, and SMEs.
First, at the beginning of the lockdown in March, together with the key Lithuania’s startup ecosystem players we organized Hack The Crisis hackathon, which gathered more than 1000 entrepreneurs. Solutions, that were born during the hackathon were later adopted in the Lithuanian government (such as viLTe chatbot) or developed into successful startups, such as Mindletic, Teachers Lead Tech, or Uvireso.
Secondly, this year we launched our very first GovTech Co-create Accelerator, which is now part of the GovTech Challenge Series. As opposed to traditional accelerators, which are aimed at startups only, during our accelerator, public sector institutions, startups, and other innovative companies work together to co-create pilot GovTech solutions. We hope that this helps not only to create solutions that truly reflect public sector needs but also develop long lasting effects on the culture of innovation in the public sector.
What is one unexpected learning from 2020?
2020 was an unexpected year in itself. But for GovTech Lab, one of the most unexpected events was the development of CivTech Alliance, together with the CivTech Scotland team and similar teams in Australia, Barbados, US, Estonia, and other countries. Started from a quick trip to Edinburgh just before the lockdown and a workshop in the CivTech office, this has developed into a full-on community with weekly calls for the last 10 months, sharing insights into how all of us are dealing with the crisis, how we are engaging startups or motivating public sector to innovate. Such a support network in these uncertain times has made our own team more confident in our experimentation.
What tool or technique particularly interests you for 2021?
As a continuation of our GovTech Co-Create Accelerator, I would like to put even more focus on the “co-creation” part. I hope, that in 2021, as a GovTech Lab, we could create even more spaces with startups and the entrepreneur community to come together with public sector officials to work on very exciting GovTech solutions.
What are your priorities for 2021?
2020 was full experimentation and very fast growth for our team, so in 2021 my main focus is on maturing the processes that we created, refining, and scaling them. Three main priorities come to mind:
- Reaffirming GovTech as one of the strategic agenda items in Lithuania. In 2020, GovTech was included as one of the main sub-brands and communication elements of Lithuania’s branding abroad. Lithuania’s government also confirmed 7 million euros to pilot GovTech solutions. This is an incredible recognition for GovTech, however, next year will be focused on keeping GovTech on the agenda and ensuring that its full potential is truly understood.
- Building more GovTech ambassadors across the public sector. GovTech Lab is still a small team, and to make more strategic change in the public sector we need to have people who believe in the ideas of experimentation and opening up to startups. 2021 will be about finding more of these key people that could be our ambassadors in different institutions.
- Finally, to ensure that we have a big enough and diverse enough GovTech market, we want to focus more on growing early-stage startups. Therefore, we will focus on refining our “bottom-up” approach for scouting and accelerating startups with promising GovTech solutions without prior identification of a specific challenge from the public sector.
What advice would you give to women looking to start a career in GovTech?
Just go for it. GovTech is still a very much developing field, so there is a lot of space to create a community that is inclusive and welcoming to everyone.
Write a message for your future self.
Keep experimenting, innovating, and focusing on impact.