GovTech Lab initiative, the first of its kind in Lithuania, focuses on encouraging and promoting innovation in the public sector.
GovTech Lab initiative addresses weaknesses within the slow procurement procedures in the public sector by organizing the Challenge Series, a process that identifies the challenges facing public sector institutions and connects these institutions to proper technological solutions by involving academics, as well as the public and private sectors.
Overview of the innovation initiative
Between 2011 and 2015, 56.4% of procurement contracts for IT services in Lithuania were limited to 20 businesses. Only one company entered the competition for 60% of these contracts. These statistics reveal issues related to vendor lock-in. It is difficult for any new company in the market, especially small ones, to compete for government procurement contracts. This problem is exacerbated by the lack of skills, such as the poor cooperation between ministries and the limited knowledge of the public sector workers of modern technology, in addition to the segmentation of the business ecosystem in a way that hinders the flow of knowledge from other industries to the public sector.
GovTech Lab initiative offers a new holistic approach to modern technology in Lithuania. First, GovTech Lab uses a bottom-up approach and seeks to educate central and local public employees on the nature of the available technology and the advantages of applying modern technology in the government's activities, in addition to the ethical aspects that should be taken into consideration. The initiative involves the organization of the GovTech Forum, in cooperation with the Bank of Lithuania and the Ministry of Economy and Innovation. This Forum provides relevant lessons and allows communication with a network of public sector officials to enable the transfer of knowledge between different public institutions and facilitate the implementation of innovative technological projects. Second, GovTech Lab also uses a top-down approach by sending its team members to consult with government leaders on ways to promote innovation. Until now, the team has visited more than 20 public institutions.
Third, GovTech Lab seeks to make its initiatives open to all citizens through events that encourage them to express their opinions and submit their comments directly to public sector employees and through procedures providing equal opportunities for small businesses to find solutions for the challenges the government is facing. Moreover, Digital Lithuania Meetup encourages all community members to participate in these forums to meet with public officials in person. The Challenge Series also triggers specific processes that encourage companies of all sizes, academics, and other individuals to collaborate and engage in building and strengthening the capabilities of the government of Lithuania.
The Challenge Series is the most innovative part of GovTech Lab. It works as an innovation on the typical procurement process, to deal with the rapid pace of technological progress in the modern era. The series begins with a call for challenges: Public sector institutions in Lithuania are invited to present a challenge that can be resolved with one of the modern technological means. Challenges are then selected based on their type, importance, and commitment of the public institution that submitted them. The selected institutions then become accountable for the challenges they face, overseeing the success of the solutions presented throughout the remainder of the series. Next, these challenges are made public through a series of marketing campaigns and events in order to educate people on the nature of the challenges that society is facing.
Once this stage is completed, a call for solutions is issued. It is an open call in which GovTech Lab specifies a period of time during which companies or individuals can submit their solutions to the challenges. GovTech Lab oversees this process and ensures that adequate information is provided and any needed consultations are given. At the end of this call, a day is chosen to present the solutions. All stakeholders gather to hear the proposed ideas that address each challenge. The best pitches are selected after consultation with a panel of judges, which includes experts who will have the biggest impact. The selected solutions may proceed to the next phase of the Challenge Series, in which ideas will become prototypes and later products. GovTech Lab is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the above and providing the necessary funding to all teams.
GovTech Lab, an initiative established by Create Lithuania, was recently approved for funding from the Ministry of Economy and Innovation. The initiative will be listed among the projects of the Agency for Science, Innovation, and Technology. The fiscal period will start on November 2019, and the current period will be extended for three years. The initiative currently receives little funding. As soon as the fiscal period starts, the initiative and all its events will rapidly grow. During the next three years, and through its constant conferences, events, and Challenge Series, GovTech Lab will showcase Lithuania as a leading country in the region's government technology sector. The GovTech Baltic Leaders conference, which was held in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius in the fall of 2019, is proof. The conference brought together the brightest minds in GovTech to share knowledge and discover new ways to raise more awareness about this sector.
What makes your project innovative?
The GovTech Lab initiative in Lithuania provides innovative means both locally and internationally to address the biggest challenges facing the public sector. It is the first of its kind in Lithuania. The simultaneous adoption of bottom-up and top-down approaches is a risk that was never taken before by any of Lithuania's public sector institutions. GovTech Lab is poised to bring about technological innovation in the public sector, as all the sector's institutions can benefit from it. Moreover, this initiative enriches the culture of innovative thinking in the public sector, whether through GovTech Forum, Digital Lithuania Meetups, or Challenge Series. This approach distinguishes GovTech Lab as it supports citizens, businesses, and public sector employees alike.
What stage did this innovative initiative reach?
Create Lithuania's team is currently working on this project. Negotiations are underway to formally register the project and secure its future funding, knowing that official approval was already obtained from the Ministry of Economy and Innovation regarding this matter. This project is fully supported by the Minister and the innovation team within the Ministry. The initiative team is currently working on the trial of the first Challenge Series. Since the initiative's funding was not provided yet, teams are considering how to complete the Challenge Series by seeking support from other partners. The team wants to learn from this initial experience and improve the organization of future Challenge Series.
Virginijus Sinkevičius, Minister of Economy and Innovation, is responsible for overseeing and submitting the project to Sundar Pichai, Chief Executive Officer of Google. Elijus Civilis, Chief Information Officer in Lithuania, is responsible for allocating support to the initiative from key stakeholders. Agency for Science, Innovation, and Technology ensures funding for the initiative. Invest Lithuania is the institution where the initiative was launched. 101 institutions from the public and private sectors.
Users, stakeholders, and beneficiaries
The Bank of Lithuania is responsible for the challenge. Kaunas 2020 European Capital of Culture is responsible for the challenge. Lietuvos Energija is responsible for the challenge. Travel Lithuania is responsible for the challenge. Lithuanian start-up community – now has a government that is open to implementing technological innovations from SMEs. Private sector employees - receiving additional new education on technological innovation and how it can impact their lives and their work. Citizens - attending government technology events and discussing their ideas openly.
Results and impacts
- 6 Digital Lithuania Meetups: These regularly occurring meetups have created a culture of technological innovation knowledge sharing that brings together people from academia, private and public sectors. These meetups are accessible to the public to ensure that the information reaches as many people as possible.
- 4 GovTech Forum events: These events have transformed knowledge sharing within Lithuania’s public sector. Discussions on innovative topics such as artificial intelligence and open data have increased the technical competencies of all involved public servants. More Forum events with targeted work streams are planned for the future. Hundreds of people attend these events regularly. The unique open atmosphere at GovTech Lab has drawn the people's interest, as proven by the number of participants in the open discussions.
- 4 Institutions: Each institution presented a distinct challenge as part of the Challenge Series.
Challenges and failures
The team initiating the GovTech Lab was faced with a large number of challenges from the beginning. Firstly, the term “GovTech” was not in the vocabulary of the Lithuanian public. To combat this, the team initiated a media marketing campaign, with an intro video, website, and Facebook page all aimed at creating accessible information that educates as many people as possible about the concept of GovTech. The circumstances for success Another hurdle was the lack of initial interest from public sector institutions to participate in the challenge series. The idea was met with some resistance, especially from institutions that were more closed off to innovation. After trial and error, the GovTech Lab team was able to identify a pitch initiative that would garner greater interest from public sector institutions. Thirdly, one of the key challenges was finding sustainable funding sources for the Lab, as certain key contributors initially rejected the initiative.
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- The available services and infrastructure: The success of GovTech Lab is made possible due to the existing infrastructure for innovation in place in Lithuania. This includes the Create Lithuania team that brought together the initiators of the innovation and the Agency for Science and Innovation, which has the infrastructure required for financing these kinds of innovations.
- Leadership and guidance: Leadership was a strong force, as the GovTech Lab had direct support from the highest levels of office in the Ministry of Economy and Innovation. The guidance provided by these leaders played an important role in the success of the initiative.
- Human and financial resources: Human resources were a major driver of the initiative's success. The Lab was started by a team of people whose sole purpose was ensuring the successful initiation of the project within a period of six months. The success of this project would not have been possible if the team had not fully invested its time and effort.
The possibility of replicating the experience
The nature of the GovTech Lab ensures that innovation can and will be replicated in the future. The current series, in which 4 public sector institution participate, is a pilot run, meant to test the public sectors' ability to implement technology innovations from private sector companies. The pilot run will present the team with areas of improvement, as well as provide insight into the processes that enable effective cooperation between the private and public sectors. This knowledge and best practices are transferred into subsequent challenge series, which will surely attract new public sector institutions. The final goal is to enable every institution to replicate the experience of the Challenge Series without the help of the GovTech Lab team. GovTech events, such as Digital Lithuania Meetup and GovTech Forum, can be inherently replicated.
One of the biggest challenges when applying innovation in public sector activities is finding an innovation culture surrounding your idea. Many times public sector institutions are slow to change and some public sector workers may feel unmotivated to pursue innovation, as they see barriers to in in the system. It is crucial to work towards changing this mindset. This can be done by cultivating a culture of innovation within the public sector. The GovTech Lab team was successful in orchestrating events that demonstrated the benefits of technology in the public sector, and over time this resulted in a growing community of individuals who believe in the idea of integrating technology into the work of the government sector. GovTech Lab has been able to grow in Lithuania through these people, with active support from start-ups, big IT companies, NGOs, public workers, and other interested parties. This community engages in discussions with the GovTech Lab team and presents opinions and comments that help the team improve its internal processes. Without this community, GovTech Lab and other similar innovations would have a difficult time providing the necessary services to citizens. One crucial aspect that led to the success of the initiative was leadership. Convincing Lithuania’s leaders that GovTech Lab would not only be useful but essential to the innovation ecosystem growth was no easy task. The GovTech Lab team used a top-down approach which consisted of first submitting the idea to C-level government officials and working down the ladder. Each level had its own difficulties but this approach helped the initiative team adapt to questions and critiques from many people. The best way to present this initiative was through the old-fashioned way which required face-to-face sessions with all stakeholders. There is no doubt that this type of initiative would not be accepted if it weren’t for the support of high-level leadership. Our eagerness to present the project to the Ministry of Economy and Innovation as a top priority contributed to GovTech Lab’s success.
Lithuania's GovTech Lab team is happy to share the best practices and lessons learned from its own experiences with stakeholders. International cooperation is a core value of the GovTech team. Therefore, the latter does not miss any given chance to be a part of an international innovation collaboration. This knowledge transfer is a vital factor in creating a global GovTech ecosystem that ensures maximum social benefit. Lithuania seeks to be a beacon in the adoption and support of GovTech and other innovative government initiatives. Having partnerships with other nations either regional or intercontinental is something that would bring great value to all involved parties.