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Public servants urged to take lead on digital disruption



EU backed think tank urges city and regional governments to build skills and create environment for wider transformation

Senior public officials have been urged to take a more active approach to promoting the digital transformation of cities and regions, including the appointment of some public servants as ‘digital ambassadors’

The call has come from the Strategic Policy Forum on Digital Entrepreneurship, an EU backed think tank that is promoting the agenda throughout Europe, in a new blueprint aimed at public officials wanting to support digital transformation.

The section aimed at city managers says that local authorities have to overhaul the way they work to create the right environment for more wide reaching change in their areas. Effectively, the public sector could set the example for private sector innovation.

It says they need to identify bottlenecks in the local digital ecosystem, and develop close relations with local entrepreneurs and innovators. This should be accompanied by support for test bed projects, such as life testing of advanced analytics from technologies such as video and e-sensors.

They should also aim to build up digital talent within their organisations, providing training and organising boot camps for policy makers with little grasp of the technology’s potential. This should help to establish officials in the role of digital ambassadors, and win support for implementing new ideas in-house.

In addition, as the amount of data from sensors and other devices increases, officials need to create the right procedures and policies for it to be transferred and used efficiently.


The blueprint also highlights four attributes needed for transformation: accelerating the take-up of big data and establishing competitive digital platforms; providing the workforce with digital skills; using cities and regions as launchpads for transformation; and the toolkit for decision makers to become ambassadors.

The Strategic Policy Forum said in an accompanying statement: “With the rise of the internet and broadband network technologies, cities and urban regions are increasingly seen as key environments for innovation. They are the ecosystems that allow local stakeholders to meet, co-create, develop new products and services, and design new living and working scenarios.

“Yet, cities and regions must carefully be designed and organised if they are to nurture the modernisation of businesses and give a significant boost to the European economy. The blueprint for cities and regions as launchpads for digital transformation identifies four attributes that can help local stakeholders to truly help their cities and regions to go digital.”

It added that two more reports are due for release next month: one on reskilling the workforce, the other to provide a “digital compass” for policy makers.

Image by Manfred Majer, CC 2.0 through flickr

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