Justyna Orłowska, Director, GovTech Poland

By Medha Basu

Women in GovTech Special Report 2019.

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

GovTech Polska, which I have the privilege of heading, is a cross-ministerial task force operating under and reporting to the Prime Minister of Poland. We are tasked with driving Poland’s innovation policy with respect to areas such as SME-friendly procurement, innovative consultations, hackathons and international relations.

Simply put, we’re the ‘Gov’ in ‘GovTech’. Encouraging entrepreneurs, academics and other innovators to be the ‘Tech’ is our goal.

What has been the most exciting thing that you worked on in 2019?

Where do I start… 2019 was probably the best year so far for GovTech in general, and GovTech Polska in particular. Not only have we opened a new track of ‘Nationwide Brainstorms’ – a new way to involve the citizens in policymaking – but we have already exported it abroad to destinations as unlikely as Nigeria.

We have (again) put together Europe’s largest hackathon and passed the largest GovTech-related piece of legislation in the history of our region.

The most exciting though was, as ever, meeting the wonderful entrepreneurs in the private sector, intrapreneurs in the public sector and seeing them work together – this never fails to impress me.

What are your priorities for 2020?

2020 is looking even more promising than 2019 (or we’re just getting older).

On one hand, we’re looking forward to engaging in a plethora of new projects now that we have established ourselves on the international scene. From more inclusive public consultations (for legislation), to cybersecurity; from supporting Poland’s young talents to a participatory budget; and finally from building dedicated software tools to giving the public sector a way to share them freely between one another. We clearly will be busy next year, mostly with things no one seems to have ever tried before.

On the other hand, at the same time we will just carry on doing what we always used to – bring the public sector together with entrepreneurs, innovators, citizens, academics (a long list follows) and trying to ensure that what will come from these meetings will be of benefit to the community as a whole. I suppose the priority would be to ensure we keep on achieving that.

What is one challenge you would like to take on in 2020?

I know ‘GlobTech’ probably doesn’t have that great of a ring to it, but I have always been a strong believer (and last year has shaped me even more so) in bringing GovTech to a wider, international stage. I have met officials and innovators from dozens of countries by now and everywhere, the understanding of GovTech is different, and yet not contradictory.

From building e-services, to holding workshops and trainings, we all seem to be heading towards the same goal of a modern, citizen-friendly administration, although we seem to always take different roads there. It would be a pity if all these paths were never mapped nor shared with anyone else, but to do that, we need to cooperate more closely across the borders and continents.

I like to think that we’re trying to do our part – by signing agreements, training other countries’ officials, translating and freely sharing our best practices etc., but with almost 200 countries out there and USD 400 billion in global GovTech valuation, you can’t shrug off the feeling that you’re only scratching the surface.

Is that a challenge I wish to take on alone? Certainly not, but if enough of us do, I really think that everyone would benefit.

What has been your fondest memory from the past year?

The hardest one for last – I like to think that the whole year will eventually blur into one memory, but certainly a fond one and one that fills you with motivation for the challenges of the years to come.