Yesterday saw the inaugural GovTech Summit take place at the Hotel de Ville, Paris. The Summit firmly put govtech on the European centre stage, brining European leaders, innovators, civil servants and public sector leaders to explore how new technologies can improve public services and democratic practices.
An impressive programme of speakers cutting across all the key public service areas and issues from police tech to data ethics in government. There were too many good sessions making it particularly heard to decide which ones to attend!
Opening the Summit was none other than Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Trudeau spoke about the responsibility government and tech leaders have in bringing people on the digital journey and reassure people that innovation is going to empower them. Discussing the technologies re-imaging future of public services, Trudeau recognised that Canada have had a significant head-start in Artificial Intelligence (AI), making the choice to dive into the future with confidence and optimism and be a leader in tech transformation. At the same times there is a need to set up a framework for AI for good. To solve a modern problem we need representation of our society - different experiences, backgrounds - that is the only way we will come up with creative solutions.
It was inspiring to hear all the great things happening across Europe from political leaders including Jan Vapaavuori, Mayor of Helsinki, Finland; Aleandre De Croo, Vice-Prime Minister, Belgium and Dr. Joseph Muscat, Prime Minister of Malta to name just a few. At the heart of all their comments was people and capability – we need the digital expertise to meet the challenges ahead. The Mayor of Helsinki recognised not all knowledge can sit at the top and future proofing the skills of his team through relevant AI training.
UK GovTech Scene
It was great to see techUK members big and small representing UK tech at the Summit. UK govtech also took to the stage, we heard from Oliver Dowden, (Minister for Implementation; Kevin Cunnington, Director General, Government Digital Service; Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care; Juliet Bauer, Chief Digital Officer (CDO), NHS England; and Theo Blackwell London Chief CDO.
Dowden highlighted how the UK is championing govtech through the GovTech Catalyst and Challenge, a fund to help tech firms deliver innovative fixes to public sector challenges. techUK recently held an innovation roundtable with Dowden and industry on the opportunities and challenges of bringing new and emerging technologies into public service delivery. It would not be a tech conference without the mention of procurement. Often seen as a blocker, Dowden rightly recognised that procurement needs to be part of the innovation process and we need early pre-procurement market engagement. These were all key recommendation in techUK’s Procuring the Smarter State report. Similarly, Hancock spoke of his ambition for the NHS, inviting those with an idea a or technology which is going to improve the NHS to come forward.
Though there was a dedicated session to data ethics in government, ethics was the popular theme of the day. It was apparent for the technologies of the future to succeed there needs to the ethical framework around it. Many of the speakers acknowledged that there are still more questions than answers when it comes to ethics, but the key is to have this conversation openly and transparently with a diverse group of people. Data ethics is an important area of focus for techUK and will be discussed further at our Annual Digital Ethics Summit, 12 December and you can register here.
Overall there was an optimistic feel throughout the day on how technology can transform the lives of citizens for the better. Despite hearing from a diverse range of countries, the challenges were very much the same and there was a call to action that more can be done to share best practice and learn from each other. The Deputy Mayor of Paris Jean-Louis Missika summed it up well when he said “cooperation more important that competition.”