Chapter 2. Strengthening governance for a data-driven and digital government in Sweden

This chapter focuses on analysing institutional governance arrangements to identify windows of opportunity and provide policy recommendations to advance a data-driven public sector in Sweden. It discusses the leadership, policy levers, funding and human capital needed for enabling the Swedish government as a driver of change towards a data-driven public sector transformation.

    

Introduction

Despite the challenges for agile and co-ordinated decision making in the cultural context described in Chapter 1, the Swedish government has made important efforts in recent decades to find the “right” institutional setting to secure efficient decision making and provide leadership. First for e-government, and now for digital government, the government’s attempts shifted from co-ordination-based to agency-specific governance models. These efforts aimed to define an institutional arrangement that could fit within the organisational consensus-based ethos of the public sector. Yet, they also led to a plethora of positive and negative outcomes in terms of efficient design and delivery of policy results, and inter-institutional collaboration.

The new Agency for Digital Government (DIGG) will face the legacy of cultural, organisational and capacity challenges that other, now extinct, public bodies encountered to steer, lead and advance previous e-government agendas. Learning from previous failures will play a key role in terms of the success of the DIGG. This opens a window of opportunity to empower and equip this body with the right mandate, resources and policy levers to enable it to carry out its role.

Steering policy and securing cohesive actions, overcoming the resistance of agencies to cede to a certain extent their freedom of action, fostering a collaborative mindset for whole-of-government approaches and joined-up decisions, will be essential for the Swedish public sector to leverage the consensus-based culture to drive change and co-create public value. Enabling the DIGG to support the Swedish public sector in its progress towards these ways of working will help to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past in terms of institutional governance and move towards a full digitalisation.

The 2014 OECD Recommendation of the Council on Digital Government Strategies (OECD, 2014) (hereinafter, the “Recommendation”) provides a set of 12 strategic principles that OECD member and partner countries may consider in order to design and implement sound digital government policies and strategies (see Chapter 1) towards the digital transformation of the public sector, from analogue to digital governments (Figure 2.1).

The Recommendation, an OECD legal instrument, provides specific principles on the relevance of designing and setting sound governance models to lead and co-ordinate the implementation of digital government policies (Box 2.1). These provisions relate to the need of securing clear policy leadership, political support, stakeholder engagement, policy coherence (including embedding digital government as an element of broader policies), and monitoring and evaluating policy results and investments on information and communication technologies. Other relevant principles (such as Principle 3 on a data-driven public sector and Principle 1 on government openness and inclusiveness are also discussed throughout this document).

This chapter explores the current context in Sweden vis-à-vis the aforementioned principles. It focuses on analysing institutional governance arrangements to identify windows of opportunity and provide policy recommendations to advance a data-driven public sector in Sweden.

Figure 2.1. The digital transformation of the public sector
Figure 2.1. The digital transformation of the public sector

Source: OECD (2018), Open Government Data in Mexico: The Way Forward, https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264297944-en.

Box 2.1. OECD Recommendation of the Council on Digital Government Strategies: Governance and co-ordination

The [OECD] Council […] RECOMMENDS that, in developing their digital government strategies, governments should:

[Principle] 5. Secure leadership and political commitment to the strategy, through a combination of efforts aimed to promote inter-ministerial co-ordination and collaboration, set priorities and facilitate engagement and co-ordination of relevant agencies across levels of government in pursuing the digital government agenda.

[Principle] 6. Ensure coherent use of digital technologies across policy areas and levels of government, by:

  1. 1. engaging relevant stakeholders and other levels of government to provide input to the development of the digital government strategy

  2. 2. integrating the digital government strategy in overall public administration reforms

  3. 3. identifying the complementarity, alignment and mutual reinforcement between the digital government strategy and other relevant sector strategies

  4. 4. providing the institution formally responsible for digital government co-ordination with the mechanisms to align overall strategic choices on investments in digital technologies with technological deployment in various policy areas.

[Principle] 7. Establish effective organisational and governance frameworks to co-ordinate the implementation of the digital strategy within and across levels of government, through:

  1. 1. identifying clear responsibilities to ensure overall co-ordination of the implementation of the digital government strategy

  2. 2. establishing a system for “checks and balances” of government’s decisions on spending on technology to increase the level of accountability and public trust, and to improve decision making and management to minimise risks of project failures and delays.

Source: OECD (2014), Recommendation of the Council on Digital Government Strategies, www.oecd.org/gov/digital-government/Recommendation-digital-government-strategies.pdf.

Tracing the governance path for digital government in Sweden

Previous OECD work provides evidence on how different governance models delivered – or failed to deliver – policy results in Sweden. For instance, in the case of the Swedish Administrative Development Agency (Verva) – a central e-government policy co-ordination agency created in 2006 and abolished in 2008 – the agency didn’t fully achieve its co-ordination mandate in the face of organisational, cultural and capacity barriers (OECD, 2013) (Box 2.2).

Box 2.2. The case of the Swedish Administrative Development Agency

The Swedish Administrative Development Agency (Verva) was established in 2006 as one of the government’s central advisory agencies. Verva’s remit was to co-ordinate the development of central government in Sweden, while driving and promoting the country’s e-government development. Despite tangible achievements such as the creation of an access gate to all government e-services for citizens – the “Sverige.se” portal – Verva did not fully achieve its objectives.

A lack of co-ordination was observed at all levels (organisational, financial and legal), leading, among other drawbacks, to the partitioned and duplicated development of the public sector’s e-services. Verva was abolished in 2008, along with the central e-services portal.

As a response, e-government policy was subjected to a wide ranging review, which was expressed in the publication in January 2008 of the “Action Plan for e-Government”. The central aims of the action plan were to rationalise policy governance, make the Swedish administration the “world’s simplest administration” and take public services delivery to a higher level than that of mere provider-customer interaction.

This investigation led to the subsequent decision to establish the e-Government Delegation (E-Delegationen in Swedish).

Source: OECD (2013), Value for Money in Government: Sweden 2013, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264200685-en.

These barriers included, for instance, the unwillingness of large and established agencies to let Verva steer their internal strategic choices. Verva was a relatively small agency whose primary role was to provide guidance; it did not have a clear and solid mandate to steer, co-ordinate and manage the e-government policy. The decision to dismantle Verva in 2008 and establish the E-Delegation was also part of a broader political initiative to strengthen the government’s capacity to evaluate the results of e-government initiatives.

For instance, in 2008, the Swedish government commissioned an internal investigation (SOU 2008:221) to assess its long-term needs of tacit support across different public sector organisations, including the Swedish Financial Supervisory Authority, the State Treasury and Verva. The underlying rationale was the need to assess and increase the government’s capacity to act as the driving force behind public administration reform, particularly in the context of transformational reforms such as e-government.

The investigation concluded that Verva was tasked with the difficult mission of co-ordinating e-government initiatives in a public sector led by strong public agencies, which resulted in Verva’s inefficient use of considerable public resources that did not deliver the expected results. Additionally, it was not possible to expect an agency the size of Verva to play a decisive role in the development of e-government. As a result, the focus was moved from centralisation to co-ordination and federation, placing major public sector actors like the Swedish Tax Agency and the Social Insurance Agency as the backbone and champions of policy developments. Combining a greater management role for government with a “federative” approach where public sector organisations could play a key role was judged to be more realistic.

As an effort to address these challenges, the Swedish government explored and pursued the implementation of consensus-based governance models such as the E-Delegation (which evolved into the eSAM; see Section 3.3 in Chapter 3).

“The E-Delegation was set up by [the Swedish] government within the Ministry of Finance (and later moved to the Ministry of Enterprise) for a limited time to boost and streamline e-government efforts” across public agencies. This included the co-ordination of “IT-based development projects of government agencies and specific IT standardisation issues”, and the assessment of “their impact on citizens, the business sector and public administration employees. The E-Delegation [had] a staff of eight” (OECD, 2013).

Yet, the E-Delegation lacked the leverage to play a relevant role in the context of the agency-oriented Swedish public sector. Its mandate was limited to advisory and non-binding roles, without strong decision-making power so that it was slow to take decisions and was too rigid (e.g. in terms of recommending frameworks, standards and guidelines). While it could navigate in the given context sufficiently enough to produce some of the current common digital enablers for the public sector, the consensus-oriented design of the E-Delegation hampered faster development and delivery of policy results.

In terms of implementation, the E-Delegation failed to propose harder policy levers to the government. This hindered its capacity to take coherent action in terms of deploying common enablers across the broader public sector, e.g. through laws and regulations or central funding. From its conception, the E-Delegation faced a problem of design.

The Swedish Agency for Public Management carried out an evaluation of the E-Delegation in 2014 (Statskontoret, 2014), concluding that it had successfully functioned as a supportive body to other agencies by supplying technical guidelines and frameworks, but that it was less successful in supporting the government in the coherent implementation of the e-government policy.

At the same time, the evaluation noted that the government offices (e.g. ministries) had shortcomings in co-ordinating the e-government policy. There was a lack of resources at the Ministry of Enterprise (seat of the E-Delegation) and the planned policy co-ordination failed when in 2011 the smaller initial group of state secretaries in charge of e-government was replaced by a larger group intended to bring about the overarching digital agenda for Sweden.

The undefined nature of the allocation of responsibilities and accountability resulted in an unclear organisation and weak implementation of the mandate, and in insufficient constructive collaboration between the E-Delegation and the government offices at the level of the political leadership. These critical factors resulted in the E-Delegation providing a governance model that was less efficient than originally intended.

Figure 2.2. Governance for e-government and digital government in Sweden
Figure 2.2. Governance for e-government and digital government in Sweden

Source: Information provided by the Swedish Ministry of Finance.

The E-Delegation was dismantled in 2016, and the funds were transferred to the central government budget in order to strengthen the capacity of the government offices (e.g. ministries) to prepare necessary government decisions and build capacity to lead the digital transformation of the public sector. This implied a shift from a delegated model to one focused on the stronger role of the government as a driver of change. This model benefited from the reallocation of financial resources from the E-Delegation to the government. The same year, responsibility for digital government was transferred from the Minister of Digitalisation back to the Minister of Public Administration.

One noteworthy particularity is the division of responsibilities in terms of public sector information and open government data (see Chapter 5) that has taken place since 2011.

In 2011, responsibility for e-government policy was moved from the Minister of Public Administration to the Minister of Digitalisation. However, responsibility for the more legally related PSI-related questions remained with the Minister of Public Administration, while the promotion of open data was moved to the Minister of Digitalisation. In 2016, the responsibility for PSI and open data was joined-up again under the responsibility of the Minister of Public Administration.

Establishing a new institutional governance for digital government

The current institutional model for digital government in Sweden is therefore the result of the division of policy co-ordinating roles in the context of the broader Swedish digital agenda.

By 2018, co-ordination of the overall digital agenda for the country was a cross-sectoral responsibility with a (still) complex governance model (Figure 2.3). Political leadership in terms of digitalisation was distributed among the then Ministers for Housing and Digital Development, the Minister for Public Administration, and the Minister for Enterprise and Innovation, which grants the digitalisation agenda with political support.

On the one hand, co-ordination of the digital government programme was the responsibility of the Ministry of Finance, specifically the Minister for Public Administration, supported by the Division for Digital Government. As a result, digital government was located under the public administration policy umbrella.

On the other hand, the Minister for Housing and Digitalisation at the Ministry of Enterprise and Innovation was responsible for the overall digital economy and digital society agendas, which includes industrial and business innovation.

Figure 2.3. The Swedish digital agenda: Key ministries for cross-sectoral responsibility for digitalisation policy, 2017
Figure 2.3. The Swedish digital agenda: Key ministries for cross-sectoral responsibility for digitalisation policy, 2017

Following a 2016 assessment on the co-ordination of the digital government agenda, the Swedish government decided it would benefit from the creation of a new digitalisation authority within the Ministry of Finance.2 In 2017, the government decided to create the Agency for Digital Government (DIGG) by September 2018 with responsibility for supporting the government towards the implementation of a more cohesive and co-ordinated approach to the digitalisation of the Swedish public sector.

The DIGG became operational on 1 September 2018. It is the result of a political initiative from the Minister of Public Administration and is in charge of supporting the implementation of the digital government policy in Sweden, and identifying and capitalising on the opportunities brought about by the digital era for the public sector to better respond to the demands of the Swedish population.

This institutional setting follows examples observed in other OECD countries where policy co-ordination roles are attached to agency-led governance models (e.g. Denmark, Italy and Portugal), while others have opted for co-ordination units within ministries or centre of government units/bodies (e.g. Canada, Mexico and the United States) (Table 2.1).

Table 2.1. Units or bodies leading the work on digital government: Selected OECD countries and Uruguay

Country

Unit

Location

Canada

Chief Information Officer Branch

Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat

Denmark

Agency for Digitalisation

Ministry of Finance

Estonia

Undersecretary of State Information Systems

Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications

Korea

National Information Society Agency

Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Science and ICT

Mexico

Digital Government Unit

Ministry of Public Administration, with the support of the Coordination of the National Digital Strategy at the Office of the President

New Zealand

Government Chief Digital Officer

Department of Internal Affairs

Portugal

Agency for Administrative Modernisation

Presidency of the Council of Ministers

Spain

Direction of Information and Communication Technologies

Ministry of the Presidency

United Kingdom

Government Digital Service

Cabinet Office

United States

Office of e-Government and Information Technology (Chief Information Officer)

Office of Management and Budget, White House

Uruguay

Agency for Electronic Government and Knowledge and Information Society (AGESIC)

Office of the President

Source: Based on OECD (2016), Digital Government in Chile: Strengthening the Institutional and Governance Framework, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264258013-en.

Even though the establishment of agencies is often seen as a solution to secure the level of co-ordination, horizontality and agility required for digital government, previous OECD work assessing institutional governance models for digital government found evidence that successful steering and co-ordination of policy design, co-ordination and implementation is not linked to specific governance structures.

Instead, success is related to the mandate, powers and resources allocated to the entity in charge of digital government. Specific characteristics of the public sector and the overall government structure and context (e.g. organisational culture, high-level political support, governance evolution, unitarian vs. federal models), may require alternative governance models to enable the leading role and empowerment of these bodies (e.g. mandate, financial levers and financial autonomy, capacity to regulate) (OECD, 2016).

In April 2019, the creation of the new Ministry for Infrastructure brought together broader digitalisation issues (including digital government) under one single leadership role, including moving the DIGG from the Ministry of Finance to the Ministry for Infrastructure.

Getting it right: Setting up an efficient institutional model for digital government in Sweden

When the peer review mission for this Review took place in 2017, the creation of the DIGG was at the core of the political decisions in Sweden and therefore attracted considerable attention in the discussion with the OECD Secretariat.

Expectations on the new digital government agency were high among public sector stakeholders in Sweden, and two specific aspects created some concerns.

The first relates to the fact that there is a long history of strong public sector agencies across the Swedish public administration with significant independence and operational mandates. This has at times contributed to silo-based approaches and has not necessarily supported strategic coherence across the public sector or cleat and a strong whole-of-government leadership.

Second, as discussed above, the agency-led model is not new to Sweden, and has been experimented with before (see previous section), with unsatisfactory results due to the lack of a strong mandate and of adequate policy levers. It is also not clear how open and participatory the design process for the new agency was nor to what extent the inputs of public sector organisations concerning their needs were taken into account.

The OECD peer review team concluded and agreed on the need to ensure that all efforts invested in putting the DIGG to work must bring public sector institutions and champions on board to ensure ownership and buy-in.

Given its responsibilities (see Box 2.3), the challenge will be to leverage the potential role of the new agency beyond its co-ordination responsibilities as a real driver of the digital and data-driven public sector transformation.

The Swedish government has the advantage of establishing an agency building on lessons learnt from the past. This is a golden opportunity to design an agency that is well equipped in terms of mandate, power and resources. This implies providing the agency with the necessary resources – including the human capital that Verva seemed to have fallen short of – and empowering tools, such as the right soft and hard policy levers to drive forward the digital government agenda. Also, a new approach might be needed in order to leverage the DIGG’s role as an enabler and platform for digital innovation and public value co-creation within the public sector. Previous attempts to address governance challenges did not go beyond the mere improvement of inter-agency IT-centred co-ordination.

OECD work on e-government, digital government and open government data (see OECD [2018]; [2017a]; [2016]; [2003]) has explored and assessed how a sound governance framework (which includes institutional and organisational set-up, legal and regulatory basis, policies, policy levers) is an underlying requirement to advance successfully digital government and open data policies, and contribute to policy sustainability in the long term. The OECD Recommendation of the Council on Digital Government Strategies (as highlighted above) has reinforced this key message. As a result of this analytical and normative work, the following common characteristics of sound institutional governance models for digital government can be identified:

  • Strong leadership (e.g. the right level of authority to provide a clear vision for digital government; reach, convene and engage stakeholders; address resistance to change, and increase public sector organisations’ buy-in and ownership; and move towards collaboration and value co-creation).

  • Mandate and empowerment (e.g. soft and hard policy levers).

  • Financial autonomy and funding mechanisms (e.g. funding mechanisms to support strategic digital projects and secure alignment of these projects with the overall digital government policy guidelines).

  • Human capital (e.g. capacities to steer and provide guidance, establish partnerships with key actors, promote skills and competency development across the public sector, attract adequate talent, promote the strategic use of digital technologies and key enablers).

Box 2.3. Sweden: Main responsibilities of the Agency for Digital Government

The Swedish government has tasked the Agency for Digital Government (DIGG) with the following responsibilities (Swedish Government, 2018):3

  • Co-ordinate, develop and provide a national digital infrastructure for the public sector, and promote its use. For instance, through the standardisation of information exchange within the public sector for efficiency and innovation.

  • Help the government develop policies for digitalisation and IT within the public sector, and to work for a more digitalised public sector.

  • Manage public eID and e-Signature infrastructure and tools.

  • Provide and administer electoral systems in accordance with the Electoral e-ID Systems.

  • Responsible for the Swedish connection points (nodes) for cross-border identification.

  • Promote the use of the government-wide infrastructure for secure electronic mail.

  • Co-ordinate issues of common standards, formats, specifications and similar requirements for the public administration’s electronic information exchange.

  • Promote electronic procurement processes in public administration.

  • Participate in and promote national and international standardisation work within its field of activity.

  • Promote open and data-driven innovation as well as the availability of open data and reutilisation of public administration documents.

  • Promote the user-friendly development of common digital services.

  • Encourage that information and services provided digitally by the public administration are available to all persons regardless of their abilities.

  • Support the public administration in the case of digital investments of major or strategic nature.

  • Fulfill the co-operation obligations that apply to Sweden as a member state in accordance with Article 12 of the eIDAS Regulation.

  • Conduct the work on digitising the public administration in a manner that ensures the protection of security sensitive activities and information security in general as well as the protection of personal integrity.

  • Adopt responsibilities currently under the mandate of other public bodies such as the Swedish Tax Agency, the Swedish Financial Authority, the Expert Group on Digital Investments, the National Archives, the Swedish Agency for Growth, and the National Post and Telecom Agency.

Leadership

There is a gap in terms of clear leadership for digital government in Sweden. This may result not only from the constantly evolving structure of responsibility observed in terms of institutional arrangements over the past years, but also due to the high level of organisational autonomy – that prioritises verticality – and the consensus-based culture of the Swedish public sector – which may not favour the institutionalisation of such a leadership role.

As mentioned earlier, the Ministry of Entrepreneurship and the Ministry of Finance shared institutional responsibilities in terms of digital policy design (e.g. infrastructure, private sector innovation and digital government). Yet, the OECD found evidence that the strategic leadership for digital government and open data is not clear regarding the definition and co-ordination of the digitalisation of the public sector, and more specifically of the digital government agenda. This results in the lack of direction for policy implementation.

Some OECD countries have created positions such as chief information officers or chief digital transformation officers, with the objective of addressing leadership and co-ordination gaps (OECD, 2017a). In Sweden, key stakeholders agreed on the need to balance the existent decentralised and vertical policy implementation model with a clear high-level strategic leadership to support and steer co-ordination, collaboration and coherency. This is essential to spur the levels of integration and horizontality required by a public sector that needs to be increasingly connected and synergetic if Sweden is to maintain the same levels of productivity and efficiency in the digital government era.

The establishment of a clear leadership role for digital government requires consensus and agreement from all the relevant political and institutional players in order to reduce the risk of institutional resistance and favour co-operation and support. The creation of such a leadership role is also to be understood in terms of how it would fit existent accountability structures within the public sector.

Leveraging a mix of soft and hard policy levers

As highlighted above, mandate, powers and resources are all equally important ingredients for the successful governance for digital government. Therefore, the establishment of the leadership role with a clear mandate should be complemented by the provision of adequate enabling policy tools (e.g. hard and soft policy levers). They should empower the leader to govern the digital government agenda and support the coherent implementation of digital government efforts across different policy areas and levels of government. These levers range from the use of common standards and guidelines and reward-based systems to incentivising intrinsic motivation (soft policy levers), to the adoption of hard policy levers, such as legal instruments and conditioned funding (OECD, 2017b).

Sweden’s culture of consensus and the tradition of using regulatory instruments such as letters of instruction provide an ideal starting point. The culture of consensus provides an opportunity to foster greater collaboration and public value co-creation, particularly if collaborative efforts can be geared towards, and linked to, the achievement of common and shared goals. A more value- and result-oriented collaborative approach, together with the availability of the adequate collaboration spaces for value co-creation and experimentation, should drive policy decisions and implementation driven by data and lead to a system of knowledge and engagement that can spur more efficient system thinking.

Yet, in the Swedish context, the empowerment of the new agency requires finding the right balance between the use of hard and soft policy levers in order to motivate collaboration while ensuring and/or enforcing policy coherence. The DIGG could use hard policy levers already available in the Swedish public sector while being inspired by best practices across OECD member and non-member countries (see Box 2.4).

The government can use regulatory instruments such as the letters of instruction to guide cross-sectoral policy implementation by agencies (like the DIGG) in line with the digital government objectives.

For instance, in Uruguay, the Agency for Electronic Government and Knowledge and Information Society is the governing body of digital government with both executive and regulatory powers. The agency is located within the Office of the President and reports directly to the President through the Pro-Secretary of the Presidency. It issues regulations and administrative decisions in the field of its competence and has a dedicated fund to provide technical and financial support for ICT projects in the public sector. While having the power to impose sanctions, this tool is rarely used as it is perceived as inadequate or harmful in general terms for healthy governance and collaboration dynamics (OECD, 2016[5]).

Funding as a policy lever

Securing regular funding for policy co-ordination bodies contributes to developing a governance framework that safeguards policy sustainability. In addition, it also opens a window of opportunity to use funding as a policy lever to foster the alignment of digital government initiatives with overarching policy guidelines, objectives and standards.

The 2018 Budget Bill (budgetpropositionen)4 included the establishment of the DIGG and its funding model as one of the projects of high strategic relevance. The Swedish government allocated a budget of SEK 102 million (roughly EUR 10.2 million) under the 2018 Budget Bill for 2018, EUR 8.6 million for 2019 and EUR 8.71 million for 2020 (Figure 2.4A).

According to the provisions of the bill, these funds are expected to cover the agency’s management expenses necessary to co-ordinate and support inter-agency digitalisation efforts (increasing from 16% to 35% of the total budget for 2018-20). The budget also included ring-fenced funds for: the development of the national digital infrastructure (ranging from 64% to 45% of the total budget for 2018-20); and advancing the open data policy (roughly 20% of the total budget for 2018-20) (Swedish Government, 2017).

The funding model described above represents an important policy lever to support the digital transformation of the public sector in line with practices observed in other OECD countries (Box 2.4).

The allocation of a specific budget for the development of the digital infrastructure and open data can help tackle challenges related to IT infrastructure legacy challenges and increase control over high-risk and strategic ICT projects. For instance, aligning agencies’ efforts in relation to the updating of strategic IT infrastructure for the public sector, overcoming challenges in the use of common building blocks (eID, soft infrastructure) (see Chapter 1), establishing data governance (see Chapter 3) and fostering open data (see Chapter 4).

Figure 2.4. Funding model for new digitalisation agency
Figure 2.4. Funding model for new digitalisation agency

Note: Original figures in Swedish crowns.

Source: Based on data provided by the Swedish Government (2017), Budgetpropositionen för 2018 (2018 Budget Bill) (in Swedish), www.regeringen.se/rattsdokument/proposition/2017/09/prop.-2017181 (accessed on 26 March 2018).

Box 2.4. Levers for digital government co-ordination across OECD member and partner countries

Portugal

In Portugal, the Agency for Administrative Modernisation has substantive powers in terms of allocation of financial resources and approval of ICT projects. It manages the administrative modernisation financing programme which is composed of EU Structural Funds and national resources. This gives the agency important leverage to ensure implementation, as approval of funding for digital government projects through this programme is conditioned on compliance with existing guidelines.

Similarly, every ICT project of EUR 10 000 or more must be approved by the operational e-government network that is chaired by the Agency for Administrative Modernisation, which verifies compliance with guidelines, the non-duplication of efforts, and compares the prices and budgets with previous projects in order to ensure the best value for money.

Norway

In Norway, the co-ordination of digital government policies and public sector reform is the responsibility of the Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation with the support of the Agency for Public Management and eGovernment (Difi), an internal body within the Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation.

The ministry exerts its digital government co-ordination role through different mechanisms, including a Digitalisation Memorandum (Digitaliseringsrundskrivet), which is distributed to all ministries in Norway (including the Office of the Prime Minister). The memorandum provides a set of strategic actions to be implemented by ministries in line with the objectives of the national digital government policy. Once published, it is the ministries’ responsibility to ensure the implementation of these directives within the policy area under their responsibility.

The 2016 Memorandum required public sector institutions to follow specific policy guidelines related to digital by design and user-driven services, digital mailboxes, electronic invoicing, and open government data. The Memorandum also recommended the use of cloud-based solutions and private provision of digital solutions.

Ministries and agencies are required to use a best practice project management model for projects with a total cost of more than NOK 10 million in order to ensure the cost-efficiency of ICT projects. In this line, the Memorandum recommends the use of Difi’s “Project Wizard” project management platform.1 The Agency for Financial Management’s guidelines for cost-benefit analysis and benefits realisation have been embedded within the framework of Difi’s platform.

The Memorandum also recommends seeking advice from the Digitalisation Council in order to improve the benefits and reduce the costs for ICT projects with a total cost equal to or higher than NOK 10 million. The Memorandum also defined Difi’s co-financing mechanism as an effort to reinforce Difi’s capacity to better pursue a systemic quality management approach for ICT projects. The agency is now empowered to provide an additional budget (up to 50%) for ICT projects with a total cost ranging from NOK 5 million to NOK 50 million, but Difi’s co-funding is limited to a maximum financial contribution of NOK 15 million.

1. www.prosjektveiviseren.no.

Source: Adapted from OECD (2017a), Digital Government Review of Norway: Boosting the Digital Transformation of the Public Sector, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264279742-en.

Efficient results demand good financial planning, spending and implementation. Challenges also remain in Sweden terms of the efficient prioritisation, monitoring, and ex ante and ex post evaluation of ICT investments by public agencies, as well as in relation to the role the new agency will play in this regard.

The Agency for Digital Government is expected to take a leading role in terms of the assessment, monitoring and evaluation of digital projects and ICT investments in the public sector. This poses a challenge, as information gathered during the OECD mission to Stockholm point to the fact that while the organisational culture within the public sector is highly driven by efficiency, there are important deficiencies in terms of use of common business case methodologies across public sector institutions (e.g. only major agencies like the Tax Agency and the Employment Agency are good at developing cost-benefit analysis), common standards for project management, tools for ex post investment evaluation and measures to correct potential failing projects (e.g. when a project fails, only the leading agency can decide to cancel it).

The Swedish National Financial Management Authority works closely with the 70 larger agencies to achieve more efficient investments in ICT projects through project monitoring and evaluation. Yet, with a public sector that, according to figures from the National Statistics Office, is composed of 350 public sector organisations, the challenge is not only to provide further guidance, but also to foster a cultural change through the use of common tools and creating capacities to foster – or enforce – an evaluation culture that supports public sector accountability and strategic decision making. Such change management can help reinforce trust in government’s capacities to efficiently use public resources to deliver quality services and better value.

A trust agenda driven by efficiency can, for example, be supported by efforts aimed to: achieve systemic change through the use of common tools and mechanisms improving strategic approaches to financial decisions; for example, use of a common business case methodology, and enforcing compliance with digital government policy guidelines and strategic objectives set by the government.

The prioritisation of investments at the agency level should also be aligned with broader policy priorities and with those guidelines and standards currently in place or to be developed by the new agency (Box 2.5).

Box 2.5. Crowdsourcing knowledge in United States: Leading and prioritising investments on strategic IT infrastructure

In 2016, the former Chief Information Officer in the United States proposed guidance for public comment mainly targeting public agencies in the country. The overall goal was to identify and prioritise IT infrastructure requiring an upgrade. This exercise was highly driven by policy goals related to the modernisation of the public sector in balance with the management of cybersecurity risks.

This exercise also aimed to align agencies’ efforts and use traditional accountability systems between the Office of Management and Budget and public agencies to inform and prioritise ICT investments. For instance, as part of the yearly exercise where agencies submit the current and future status of technology portfolios (known as enterprise roadmaps), agencies identify areas of opportunity in terms of technology developments and investments.

These inputs were later used by the Office of Management and Budget to develop specific criteria (risks, impact) that agencies could use to identify systems requiring “modernisation, retirement or replacement”, inform the Office of Management and Budget on these needs, and use this information to inform its budgetary planning. By taking this approach, the goal of the Chief Information Officer was to ensure that ICT investments were aligned with those policy priorities of the central government, as well as with its own needs.

This initiative was also in line with the efforts of the central government to identify and protect “Federal information systems, information, and data for which an unauthorized access, use, disclosure, disruption, modification, or destruction could cause a significant impact to the United States’ national security interests, foreign relations, economy, or to the public confidence, civil liberties, or public health and safety of the American people” (Office of Management and Budget, 2016) – known as federal high value assets.

Sources: Scott, T. (27 October 2016), “Laying the foundation for a more secure, modern government”, blog, https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/blog/2016/10/26/laying-foundation-more-secure-modern-government; Office of Management and Budget (2016), “Memorandum for heads of executive agencies” (M-17-09), https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/whitehouse.gov/files/omb/memoranda/2017/m-17-09.pdf.

In the second half of 2017, the Swedish government created an expert group on IT investments as an effort to guide investments on ICT projects, but this body plays an advisory role as it does not count on enforcement powers nor policy levers to steer investments in public sector digitalisation. It is also intended to provide advice only for those projects with a threshold of or superior to SEK 20 million (approximately EUR 2 million). This function is now part of the DIGG.

Human capital

The effective capacity for analysis, preparation and implementation of digital government decisions within the Ministry of Finance increased from 3 to 15 public officials between 2015 and 2017.5 The DIGG, for its part, is expected to reach a workforce of 70 or more public officials in its first years of operation (Swedish Government, 2018).

For perspective, when launched in 2011, the UK government’s Digital Service had a workforce of 173 full-time equivalent (FTE) staff, which increased to 653 in 2015-16, and was expected to reach a peak of 911 staff by 2016-17, as per budgeted FTE figures. Staff numbers were expected to decrease to 780 from its peak by 2019-20 (UK National Audit Office, 2017). In Uruguay, AGENSIC, the agency in charge of the digital agenda, had a staff of roughly 250 employees by March 2016 (AGESIC, 2016). Norway’s E-government agency (Difi) has a total of 300 employees distributed between Oslo and the municipality of Leikanger (Difi, 2018).

Additionally, the location of the DIGG outside Stockholm (in the city of Sundsvall) will require special efforts to ensure that its mandate, working methods, culture and job profiles are interesting enough to attract, and retain, a skilled workforce, particularly in light of the thriving digitally related start-up ecosystem in Sweden. The contribution of the agency will be determined by the availability of a workforce of the right size, but also by the talent and skills available among these human resources. They should be able to provide technical and strategic support to effectively communicate key messages at all levels (from technicians to managers and politicians), and deliver policy goals.

In a broader sense, it is necessary to scale up skills and competencies at the individual level in order to build up the overall competences of the agency to enable it to keep up with the promises and high expectations, to fulfil its mandate, and support the accomplishment of the goals of the digital government agenda. Additionally, connecting the demand, or need, for specific skills within the agency with the goals of the digital government agenda will be fundamental to achieve these objectives.

It would be advisable, for instance, to maintain an agile approach to enable the agency to identify what skills are required, build these skills in house or attract them if needed.

For instance, in Chile, the creation of the GovLab (Laboratorio de Gobierno, a body originally located within the Chilean Economic Development Agency, Ministry of Economy) followed a design thinking approach to determine the skills needed inside by the Lab in line with the achievement of specific policy goals and its mandate. An ad hoc group of consultants and experts in different areas was convened to work specifically on one (the first) project of this body and in order to use this project to identify what core skills and competencies were needed by default within the Lab (OECD, 2017b).

Indeed, such an approach should not be exclusive to the agency, but should be adopted more broadly across the public sector and in line with broader public employment policies and to support the continuous and agile evolution of the workforce in line with the needs of a digitally transformed public sector.

References

AGESIC (2016), “Personal”, webpage, Agencia de Gobierno Electrónico y Sociedad de la Información y del Conocimiento, https://www.agesic.gub.uy/innovaportal/v/93/1/agesic/personal.html?idPadre=19.

Difi (2018), “Organisasjon og leiing”, webpage, Norwegian Agency for Public Management and eGovernment, https://www.difi.no/om-difi/organisasjon-og-leiing (accessed on 5 April 2018).

OECD (forthcoming), “The digital transformation of the public sector: Helping governments respond to the needs of networked societies”, OECD, Paris.

OECD (2018), Open Government Data in Mexico: The Way Forward, OECD Digital Government Studies, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264297944-en.

OECD (2017a), Digital Government Review of Norway: Boosting the Digital Transformation of the Public Sector, OECD Digital Government Studies, OECD Publishing, Paris, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264279742-en.

OECD (2017b), Innovation Skills in the Public Sector: Building Capabilities in Chile, OECD Public Governance Reviews, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264273283-en.

OECD (2016), Digital Government in Chile: Strengthening the Institutional and Governance Framework, OECD Digital Government Studies, OECD Publishing, Paris, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264258013-en.

OECD (2014), Recommendation of the Council on Digital Government Strategies, OECD, Paris, www.oecd.org/gov/digital-government/Recommendation-digital-government-strategies.pdf.

OECD (2013) Value for Money in Government: Sweden 2013, OECD Publishing, Paris, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264200685-en.

OECD (2003), The e-Government Imperative, OECD e-Government Studies, OECD Publishing, Paris, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264101197-en.

Office of Management and Budget (2016), “Memorandum for heads of executive agencies” (M-17-09), Office of Management and Budget, Washington, DC, https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/whitehouse.gov/files/omb/memoranda/2017/m-17-09.pdf.

Scott, T. (27 October 2016), “Laying the foundation for a more secure, modern government”, blog, https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/blog/2016/10/26/laying-foundation-more-secure-modern-government.

SOU (2008), Ett stabsstöd i tiden: Betänkande av Stabsutredningen (SOU 2008:22), Statens Offentliga Utredningar, Stockholm, https://www.regeringen.se/49bb38/contentassets/560e204274c4480384250ee84802256b/ett-stabsstod-i-tiden-sou-200822 (accessed on 15 November 2018).

Statskontoret (2014), “Delegerad digitalisering: En utvärdering av E-delegationen”, www.statskontoret.se/globalassets/publikationer/2014/201412.pdf (accessed on 15 November 2018).

Swedish Government (2018), “New authority for digitizing the public sector to Sundsvall” (in Swedish), www.regeringen.se/pressmeddelanden/2017/12/ny-myndighet-for-digitalisering-av-den-offentliga-sektorn-till-sundsvall (accessed on 23 March 2018).

Swedish Government (2017), Budgetpropositionen för 2018 (2018 Budget Bill) (in Swedish), www.regeringen.se/rattsdokument/proposition/2017/09/prop.-2017181 (accessed on 26 March 2018).

UK National Audit Office (2017), “Digital transformation in government”, report by the Comptroller and Auditor General, UK Cabinet Office, 30 March, https://www.nao.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Digital-transformation-in-government.pdf.

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