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31 March 2021 #57

Hello friends, welcome. 👋🏽👋🏻👋🏾

This week, NHS Providers published Building a digital strategy – “a guide for board leaders: from those who are directly involved in digital transformation, to others who have an oversight role and want to feel reassured that the strategy is on track”. It includes loads of prompts from ‘what makes a successful strategy’ to questions board members can ask to help evaluate a proposed strategy. Hat tip to Chris Fleming and Public Digital expert Dan Sheldon, who wrote many of the words. 

And, we’re still hiring. We’re looking for:

  1. Digital practitioners or policy/strategy analysts to become a Digital Transformation Delivery Lead.
  2. A Business Development Director to help us present ourselves to the world creatively, challenging the norms of traditional consulting.
  3. Also, a financial planner.


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Ways of working

📊 ‘How to do data visualisation’ is a sensible and well-explained guide. It lists useful tools (Excel?!) and warns against ‘whizz bang interactives’ as a blanket solution for reaching everyone you need to. Author and Public Digital expert Gavin Freeguard was Director for Data and Digital Government at the UK’s Institute for Government until very recently – quite the role to hold during a pandemic where demand for data viz has been high and the standard of it varied. More Gavin: a nice collection of data-related newsletters

🐚 Here are 6 small-scale projects or ‘sandboxes’ that respond to international school closures due to the pandemic, for example: how can we provide distance-learning to deaf children?  Lovely examples of working quickly, iteratively and openly from EdTech Hub with our agile comms expert Giles Turnbull.  

🔥 Introduction to ‘levers’ for digital service groups is a thorough write-up of a talk Tom Loosemore gave at last year’s Digital Services Convening (thanks Lauren Lombardo). It explains how the UK’s Government Digital Service influenced monumental change through ‘levers’ such as spend controls, agile comms, and the ability to bring in experts quickly by bypassing arduous procurement processes. 

📖 Developer Nick Colley has unearthed and digitised a form design book first published by the UK Government in 1945. He shared the relic on Twitter. The preface states: “It is hoped that this will serve both as a guide to the newcomer to forms work and as an aide-mémoire to the experienced officer.” The verdict from forms and survey specialist Caroline Jarrett? The tech advice is outdated. Unsurprising. Design guidance? Still bob on.

🍲 More meaningful work from Common Knowledge – this time helping a food co-operative work out how people can “work locally and support one another through solidarity not charity, everyday government by the third sector, and liberal, conditional generosity.” This post details the collaborative design sprint in response to Cooperation Town’s current organising model

💓 Love this two-part post from Connie van Zanten10 things I hate about Agile’ (not just because of the 90s romcom reference). Guessing many get wound up by point 3: “When ‘being agile’ gets confused with using an agile framework to manage your work.” To be shared with stakeholders and digital people alike...

Things to do, not just read

📝 This event hosted by Doctor Ginny Redish looks ace. Three techniques to test a *paper* document’s usability – I wonder how often offline parts of services are overlooked.

🌆 The Mayor of London has set an innovation challenge and for innovative, creative London-based citizens to support the recovery from the impacts of covid-19 through a design-led, collaborative approach. Have a look at the three innovation briefs.

🇪🇸 Reminder: Public Digital is co-hosting an 8-week programme on digital transformation in the public sector with IE Publictech Lab, part of IE University in Spain. The course will be delivered in Spanish and is aimed at those who lead digital transformation programmes in public administrations in Latin America, the Caribbean and Spain. Details in Spanish are here.

State of technology

📈 The Atlantic explains why America’s pandemic experts failed. In a nutshell: “For months, the American government had no idea how many people were sick with covid-19, how many were lying in hospitals, or how many had died. And the Covid tracking project at The Atlantic, started as a *temporary volunteer effort*, had become a de facto source of pandemic data for the US.” The piece details why we’re still thinking about pandemic data in the wrong ways. Admirable reporting (and activism).

✅ ‘Digital public goods’ refers to software, data sets, AI models, standards or content that are open source, do no harm, and contribute to sustainable national and international digital development. This is the first post in an upcoming series by Digital Public Goods Alliance that looks at the funding – this time, funding technologies.

💉 Lots being said about the pros and cons of vaccine passports. This podcast episode by Coda looks at how they may contribute to more global inequality; this piece from a Norweigen perspective says they would be reminiscent of authoritarian regimes; and this story says Russians are arranging to buy counterfeit vaccination documents through Telegram because there is so little trust in Russian-manufactured jab Sputnik.

😐 This piece on responsible AI at Facebook focuses on Joaquin Quiñonero Candela, Facebook’s Director of applied machine learning, who “got FB hooked on AI and now he can’t fix it”. Good exploration of the complexity of the individual versus the business “good people genuinely trying to do the right thing. But they're trapped in a rotten system.” Twitter reaction and commentary here.

😕 Sticking with Facebook algorithms, the Citizen browser project shows what different demographics see. Scroll down to see what Trump and Biden supporters were shown during the week after the capitol riots or what women and men were shown after Biden’s inauguration.

Digital government

2 new digital strategies 

  1. Scotland’s strategy aims “to equip the country for technological transformation post-coronavirus and for building an ethical digital nation”. 

  2. Wales’ digital strategy is a good start (“design for users”). Here’s the proposed delivery plan

💭 Digital transformation needs a narrative by Caribou Digital shows the fuzziness of how ‘digital transformation’ is understood and is being discussed in the international development community which focuses a lot on inclusion: “If we don’t have inclusion, transformation is irrelevant.”

🇹🇬  The Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) recently published a collection of co-authored State of digital transformation reports taken from talks at the third annual Digital Services Convening we co-hosted with them last June. Highlight? Togo’s digital response (a mobile cash transfer programme designed in-house and launching within 10 days which distributed nearly US$20 million to 15% of the population over 3 months). 

🇨🇦  Remember how we all said that the pandemic would speed up digital transformation in governments? This is a thoughtful piece on how, for Canada, that has not been the case. Professor Amanda Clarke asks a group of federal public servants leading digital government efforts if covid-19 is triggering the kinds of administrative reforms needed? No, is the answer.

👍 The pandemic has catalysed digital transformation in parliaments around the world. Policy analyst Marianne Piccinin Barbieri labels countries as being ‘thriving’, ‘half-way digital’ and ‘analogue’ and picks out themes for success and notes the barriers.

News from Public Digital

A favour, please?

Fill in this survey to help steer this year’s FWD50 conference for digital transformation which takes place in November. Your answers will help influence the topic covered and who’s invited. Thanks kindly.

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