Digital by design: Strengthening co-ordination and skills to foster digital transformation

As rapid digital transformation changes all aspects of life, citizens expect their governments to provide services and policies that deliver on the promises of the digital age. A strategic approach to the use of digital tools and data in the public sector is fundamental to ensuring digitally competent government in an increasingly global and digital society.

The Digital Government Index (DGI) assesses the maturity and implementation of governments’ digital policies. The digital by design dimension considers how far governments exploit the full potential of digital technologies from the outset when formulating policies and designing services, regardless of the channel used. In 2019, OECD countries scored more evenly in this dimension than in the other five, with an average of 0.09 out of 0.16 (see two-pager on “Digital Government: Progress towards digital competence and maturity”). This reflects the efforts made in the previous decades to increase the digitalisation of the public sector (e-government).

Cross-government co-ordination of digital government policies is one aspect covered in digital by design, as it is fundamental to breaking down bureaucratic siloes that impede the coherent and integrated use of digital tools and data across the public sector. In 2019, 21 out of 29 OECD countries (69%) had formal co-ordination bodies at central or federal level for government ICT projects, such as councils of chief information officers (CIOs) or other related bodies. However, they have limited responsibilities, in most cases acting in advisory rather than decision-making roles. On average, they had five responsibilities, three advisory ones (such as developing, co-ordinating or monitoring the implementation of national digital government strategy) and two decision making ones (e.g. ex ante revisions and evaluation of ICT projects or prioritising/approving projects). There are wide variations between countries, with Korea and Japan assigning all ten advisory and decision-making responsibilities to their co-ordination bodies, and Lithuania allocating only one. In most countries co-ordination bodies have more advisory responsibilities than decision-making ones, although in Austria, Colombia and Israel the opposite is true (Table 10.2).

Digital talent and skills are fundamental for an effective and sustainable digital transformation of the public sector. Most OECD countries surveyed (22 out of 29, or 76%) have strategies for the development of both user skills (e.g. email management) and professional digital skills (i.e. initiatives to attract and maintain specialists in digital technologies in the public sector) among civil servants. However, only 12 (41%) have conversion processes to increase the number of ICT professionals, and 11 (38%) have partnerships with higher education on internships for ICT careers. In addition, only 18 (62%) focus on digital complementary skills (i.e. increasing awareness of the opportunities, benefits and challenges of the digital transformation of the public sector) (Figure 10.3).

The DGI found few training initiatives for public professionals in areas such as data analytics in policy making and service delivery (8 countries or 28%), artificial intelligence (9 countries), and usability and accessibility (6 countries each). Examples of such a comprehensive training approach for the public workforce are the GDS Academy in the United Kingdom and the School of Public Service in Canada (Online Figure G.37).

Further reading

OECD (2020), “Digital Government Index: 2019 results”, OECD Public Governance Policy Papers, No. 3, OECD Publishing, Paris,

OECD (2020), “The OECD Digital Government Policy Framework: Six dimensions of a digital government”, OECD Public Governance Policy Papers, No. 02, OECD Publishing, Paris,

OECD (2021), “The OECD Framework for Digital Talent and Skills in the public sector” OECD Working Papers on Public Governance,

Figure notes

Data are not available for Australia, Hungary, Mexico, Poland, the Slovak Republic, Switzerland, Turkey and the United States.

10.2. Countries with no co-ordination body show as having assigned no (zero) responsibilities to such bodies. The OECD average does not include countries with no co-ordination body.

Figure G.37 (Training initiatives available for civil servants, 2019) is available online in Annex G.

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