Digital increasingly a whole-of-government approach: UNDP’s Future of Gov awards shortlist announced

By Si Ying Thian

UNDP announces the shortlist for the 2023 Future of Government Awards, recognising those who have led digital transformation in their organisations, and notes some key trends in government digitalisation worldwide.

Joe Hooper, UNDP's Director of the Global Centre for Technology, Innovation and Sustainable Development, says that the Future of Government Awards sheds light into emerging digital government priorities and trends. Image: UNDP.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) have announced the shortlist for the 2023 Future of Government awards.


Out of more than 300 nominations, from over 50 countries, a shortlist of ten was announced for each of the four award categories, including digital advocates of the year, open source creation, open source adaption, and leadership award.


This second edition saw nomination submissions double, up from 150 nominations from 52 countries last year, and the addition of a new awards category.


Speaking to GovInsider on the Awards’ objectives, Joe Hooper, UNDP’s Director of the Global Centre for Technology, Innovation and Sustainable Development, says that the Awards can provide insights into emerging digital government priorities, trends, and solutions.


“Sharing these innovations can help governments connect with each other too,” he adds.


Additionally, in co-designing the awards concept with the Amazon Web Services Institute and Public Digital, they believe that recognising and celebrating success can be empowering and “make teams stronger and reach for bigger objectives.”


Hooper tells us more about the global trends that stood out last year, with regards to digital government, and sheds light on the key considerations taken by the selection committee in assessing digital governments for the Awards.

Greater diversity in digital solutions and delivery outcomes


With winners to be announced in mid-February, Hooper shares that, one of the trends he has observed so far is that digital solutions are permeating throughout government.


“We’re seeing digital taking more of a whole-of-government function and approach,” he says.


“We’re not just seeing submissions from digital teams but also from policy teams, those working on frontline service delivery, as well as operational teams and other essential parts of national and local governments.”


The digital permeation throughout government is evident in its shortlist, as nominees come from a broad array of government bodies – from line ministries, sub-national authorities and cities, agencies, departments and more.


For example, under the digital advocates of the year category, the nominees range from digital government and GovTech agencies in Papua New Guinea, Madagascar, and Bhutan, to individual programmes and projects such as the “Tekwill in Every School” programme to equalise IT education opportunities in the Republic of Moldova and the Digital Identity Directorate team in Brazil.


There is a sheer diversity of outcomes in which digital tools are being applied – from justice, to health, to broader public service delivery, Hooper shares.


Another broad trend he is seeing is the diverse range of technologies utilised in digital governments. “Some of the nominees are revelling in the space of AI, blockchain, and the like, while others use more widely available or accessible tech,” he says.

Impact and scale as the key criteria


The selection committee for the Future of Government 2023 awards is made up of 17 members, coming from multilateral organisations, industry associations, policy advisors and former government leaders.


While the criteria differ across the award categories – for instance, technology-related criteria may be more applicable for open source awards – the key considerations that will be taken into account include impact, behaviours and potential for scale.


“For impact, we’re looking for real, applied, and impactful uses of digital tools, technologies, and approaches.


“[Next, recognising] behaviours championing digital transformation, finding new ways of tackling problems - and new ways of thinking and working, including boldness, iterative thinking, and learning from failure. Particularly as digital transformation is often no longer about low-hanging fruit, but about deeper and systemic change.


“[And lastly,] potential for scale is the demonstrated potential for the digital project, programme, or initiative to be scaled up across, within and beyond the country,” Hooper explains.


The winners for the Future of Government Awards 2023 will be announced on 15 February 2024. Register here to attend the online awards ceremony.