GDS was pleased to welcome a group visit from the Norwegian Government last week. The following is a guest post from Heather Broomfield, Open Data manager at Difi – the Norwegian agency for Public Management and eGovernment.
Last week a delegation from Norway visited GDS to see how they are realising their goal of ‘delivering their digital products that meet peoples needs’. Prior to travelling we were all familiar with Martha Lane Fox’s DirectGov 2010 report and particularly liked the ‘Revolution not Evolution’ motto. We wondered to what extent this was being realised. In GDS change is in the air from the second you walk in the door, it didn’t take us long to realise that something really different was happening here. A few hours in the building made it clear that this revolution is actually taking place. ‘Revolution not evolution’ is not just a fancy line in a public document.
Our group included the State Secretary for Government Administration, Reform and Church Affairs, representatives from Oslo municipality, ICT Norway, Difi – the Norwegian agency for Public Management and eGovernment and the Norwegian Meteorological Institute.
Digitising transactional services has been a major focus in Norway for a long time and we have been very successful here. However, we are currently bringing our service delivery a step further in order to vastly improve digital communication with our citizens – putting the user more in focus. Our mandate for this is provided by the Norwegian Government’s recently launched ‘Digitalisation Program’. ‘ Digital first choice’ is now at the forefront of Norwegian Public policy. In order to continue our journey in realising this, GDS was an obvious place to learn and share experience with.
We have so many ‘Takeaways’ from our visit, four of the key ones are included here.
The GDS Design Principles have attracted a lot of attention in Norway, particularly in Difi. We are hoping to adopt them within our organisation and were very excited to hear more about these and see how they were implemented within the organisation. From our discussions on the day it is clear that these are adopted and abided by within everything GDS does – again not just fancy terminology.
Public sector organisations are often tempted to rely on internal resources – but why when there is such a wealth of knowledge out there which we can avail ourselves of? GDS recognises this and is a great example of open innovation in the public sector. Openness pervades the entire organisation. The value of social tools is maximised to engage with external communities – be these external developers who have a bug fix or a citizen with some input about gov.uk. A win-win situation – Government innovation is greatly enhanced and the citizen is engaged.
Cooperation within the public sector
Building the network of trust extends not only to external users, but also internally within the entire public sector. GDS has a single point of contact within each public sector organisation. Members of other public bodies are actively encouraged to participate in the process. Rather than steam rolling through changes in the system, GDS endeavours to cooperate and bring about the cultural change throughout the public sector and not just within GDS itself.
We may fail but we fail small
To create change we are not always going to avoid risk, as a natural extension to this we must operate in an environment which can tolerate a certain amount of failure. By adopting the iterative, open approach these failures are minimised – we may fail but if we do we fail small! By accepting that no solution will be flawless the first time round, room is made for errors and time allowed to make corrections.
Whether it’s ‘Digital by Default’ in the UK or ‘Digital First Choice’ in Norway, our goals are the same. We may have different challenges and opportunities – such as culture, demography or budgets. However, learning from each other, collaborating and most of all knowing that we’re not alone in driving this change in our respective countries is vital. Thank you GDS for sharing with us and inspiring us to keep pushing forward with creating this change and ensuring that ‘Digital First Choice’ is not just fancy terminology here in Norway. You guys are living the dream!