Barbara Ubaldi, Head of Digital Government and Data Unit, OECD

By Yun Xuan Poon

Women in GovTech Special Report 2021.

How do you use technology/policy to improve citizens’ lives? Tell us about your role or organisation.

For over 20 years I have been helping governments design and implement policies and steer investments that support the use of digital tools and data to deliver better value to citizens and businesses. This led me to experience how challenging it is for policy makers to make sure that their decisions are impactful and sustainable in the long-run. The 2014 OECD Recommendation of the Council on Digital Government Strategies, and the 2019 OECD Digital Government Policy Framework and Digital Government Index are the standard, policy and measurement tools we have developed to help governments in this endeavour.

What was the most impactful project you worked on this year?

I would certainly say the recently adopted Recommendation of the Council on Enhanced Access and Sharing of Data that acknowledges the relevance of opening up data that are essential for the public interest. The aim is to foster the types of reuse and co-creation of solutions that enable to best address social and economic challenges. The Recommendation also acknowledges the key role that governments can play in leading efforts across the all open data ecosystem to make sure that we advance towards a more responsible access, sharing and re-use of data.

What is one unexpected learning from 2021?

I think that the most unexpected learning is that governments can really be digital – beyond the common critics, biases and misbeliefs – but that there are also an increased level of public scrutiny and general expectations on the governments’ capacities to secure an ethical use of digital tools and data, towards public services that are inclusive, fair and equitable.

What’s your favourite memory from the past year?

I found it amazing how my team was capable of leveraging the use of digital tools to bring our internal collaborations and work, as well as the interactions, cooperation and exchanges with national delegates to a level of unprecedented richness. In a world in which the yearly meetings and all our projects were run physically, we took up the challenge to “go digital”, and we succeeded because we believed in it and worked together. The delegates were excellent in accepting the challenge and helped us innovate many of our working practices and projects.

What’s a tool or technique you’re excited to explore in 2022?

As we are still bound to run many of our activities digitally, I would want to explore the full functionalities of the digital tools that enable us to improve collaborations and in a truly collaborative way.

What are your priorities for 2022?

Trying to maintain a good spirit and wellbeing in our daily work, and life more broadly, as we advance towards times that still seem to be characterised by uncertainty. We know we will not go back to what “normal” used to be, but we are unclear on what the new normal will look like. Under these circumstances, building on our strong beliefs, values, commitment and good relations will be essential to maintain a positive attitude in all aspects of our lives.

Who are the mentors and heroes that inspire you?

I have several, I would say, ranging from my father, sister and partner, to important friends and colleagues. I have learned that different people may know different aspects of you and having a mixed number of trusted voices is the best way to keep balanced.

What gets you up in the morning?

My enthusiasm and passion for what I do and for life in general.