Digital Champions Share Their Expertise

What are the barriers to achieving a digital government? And what strategies overcome these barriers? Research published in the Government Information Quarterly strives to answer those questions. To uncover answers, the researchers sifted through previous research and interviewed “digital champions.” They coined that term for government leaders who advance digital government policies and processes in government institutions and programs.

Barriers to a Digital Government

Fifty-five government leaders deemed digital champions by their peers and representing all levels of government in the U.S. shared the barriers for a digital government. Their input, coupled with previous research, yielded a variety of barriers. Some of these included:

Capacities and Resources

Respondents said that government employees sometimes lack the technical skills needed for certain work. And they lack opportunities for professional development, as well. Specifically, interviewees noted they oftentimes see a mismatch “between the institutional roles mandated to Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and the organizational and management skills that people in those roles tend to have.”

Governance Structures

Interviewees spoke in “disparaging terms in regard to bureaucratic structures.” They pointed to outdated or inflexible rules, along with insufficient budgets.

Institutional Culture

Over half of the respondents mentioned institutional culture—or an organization’s way of working—as a significant barrier. Interviewees oftentimes described the culture as risk averse and fearful, with a “lack of incentives to deviate from the way things had always been done.”

Strategies for a Digital Government

The digital champions also offered advice on how to overcome barriers and achieve a digital government. Some of their solutions included:

Upskilling

Several interviewees suggested upskilling strategies, like training, along with professional development.

Set Expectations

Almost all interviewees promoted the idea of resetting expectations; they said the government’s technology use lags behind the private sector. Several described a “hope that private sector thinking could disrupt governmental inertia.” Some of their tactics included partnering with the private sector, as well as hiring from the private sector.

Networking Strategies

Besides setting expectations, many digital champions suggested the benefits of networking strategies. Networking, they explained, helps government employees learn from their peers, sometimes exchanging very specific knowledge. Some described networking activities as “therapy sessions,” giving people the opportunity to share and learn from their struggles.

Read more strategies in Overcoming barriers to digital government: mapping the strategies of digital champions in the April 2022 edition of Government Information Quarterly.

 

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