For the first time in three years, the GovTech Summit – hosted by PUBLIC – was held in-person this week. Loaded up with banners, branded pens and information about our products, CEO Maddy Phipps-Taylor and Senior Product Manager Jack Hilton journeyed to The World Forum in The Hague to attend and spread the Eva message.
What is The GovTech Summit?
The GovTech Summit is a gathering of technologists and “global policymakers [aiming] to rethink how governments operate in a digital world”. One of six key themes from the conference this year was Advancing Digital Health, asking: How can technology create more efficient, inclusive and accessible health and social care systems? With this backdrop, there was ample opportunity to hear and share stories with friends from different geographies and backgrounds – stories of success, optimism and shared challenges.
The Digital Health theme was led by a panel hosted by Maddy: Health in Crisis – can healthtech save us?, featuring CEOs and health experts from Netcompany (André Rogaczewski), Patchwork (Anas Nader), Attained.AI (Dominik Stosik), and an academic from Norway (Dr Stein Olav Skrøvseth).
Key themes of the GovTech Summit
Many of the key themes of the day were familiar to the health sector. Pandemic-justified acceleration has benefitted many industries, including health. Maintaining that momentum has proved challenging across the board. Preventing digital exclusion remains an important consideration for governments to grapple with. Some have made great headway in extending access and encouraging citizen engagement. Success in doing so has been demonstrated by digital education programmes, good design and intergenerational cooperation. Estonia’s government offered free computer training to 10 percent of their adult population. The effort helped raise the percentage of Estonians who use the internet from 29 percent in 2000 to 91 percent in 2016. Engagement often follows effective implementation of good ideas, starting small and building up to more ambitious services. Success stories from providing digital front doors to health services (like HealthHub in Singapore), approved digital identification (like Estonia’s e-Identity) and digital prescriptions from Poland which can be ordered to any pharmacy, even across borders, are inspiring.
Growing interest in cross-border collaboration was a welcome development in the European GovTech world. Familiar challenges to this arise out of the data standards required to underpin interoperability. It is not only in health and care that the digital community yearns for that illusive shared definition of subjects and concepts in a data set. A challenge which we are keen to help turn the dial on with the work we do at Eva.
Perhaps the most ear-catching moment of the day highlighted the ‘round hole’ many public procurement processes provide, for the ‘square peg’ of agile, iterative, software delivery. The provocation came from Aline Muylaert (Co-founder & COO of CitizenLab). So rarely do public procurement contracts allow for the gradual developmental approaches that have led to so much success for private sector tech companies. If GovTech is to find success in public-private collaborations, the procurement approach needs addressing to harness the benefits of agile, with the expectations and needs of public services.
Ukraine’s keynote video interview with Mykhailo Fedorov
The event was closed with an inspiring keynote video interview with the truly impressive leader of Ukraine’s Ministry of Digital Transformation – André Rogaczewski. There may be no better display of agile GovTech in action than Ukraine’s ‘Diia’ app. Originally launched in 2020 as a multi-purpose government technology product. It was working like a digital driver’s licence, equipped with links to public services like vaccine certificates and construction permits. When war came, Ukraine was able to build on the foundations of Diia to provide a citizen companion for wartime – now providing remote-job listings and a portal for receiving State benefits for those fleeing war-torn neighbourhoods. Remarkably, as we heard, such digital efforts have helped to maintain a level of normality to state function since Russia’s invasion.
As Fedorov also pointed out, the rapid mobilisation of huge numbers of citizens – brought together through digital modes of collaboration – also has military defence benefits. Diia was the third most popular app downloaded in Ukraine in March this year according to analytics firm Sensor Tower. Through the app, citizens can now register location-tagged photos and videos of conflict or suspicious activity. Aggregated and geographically mapped, the data helps map areas under attack, providing military intelligence for Ukrainian officials today, and potentially evidence of war crimes for prosecutors in future. Diia is just one of a few avenues through which Ukrainians can make such reports. Thanks to being agile and building on solid foundations, the Diia app is now a tool in the resistance against the Russian invasion; it is empowering every citizen to be an extension of the military and to be part of the fight back. More information is available on Ukraine’s digital response, spearheaded by Fedorov.
Takeaways from the GovTech Summit
At Eva, we are striving to harness the power of digital to improve health and care delivery.
After a full day of fascinating content, great conversations and inspiring stories, we were left motivated to get back to delivering our own GovTech mission in healthcare. Being aware of, and in touch with, the growing community of people who are working on these challenges together helps us to double-down our efforts. So many of us are motivated by providing better public services, in more effective ways. At Eva, we are striving to harness the power of digital to improve health and care delivery. By collecting, storing and providing better health information in a more useful way, we are providing the digital support health professionals need to do their jobs more effectively.
The opening talk of the day was titled: Is the GovTech ‘boom’ still booming? Given the enormous latent potential we heard about at The GovTech Summit, here’s hoping the “GovTech boom” has only just begun.