An international project launches faculty support materials with the participation of Insper professor Manuel Bonduki. The school also offers a course track in the field of innovation and digital transformation in the public sector
In April, the Teaching Public Service in the Digital Ageprogram launched a series of support materials for teaching about Digital Governments. The international initiative was developed by professors from different institutions. Among them is Manuel Bonduki, an Insper professor and co-author of the books (in Portuguese) Ciências Comportamentais e Políticas Públicas (Behavioral Sciences and Public Policy) and Ciclos de Vida de Laboratórios de Inovação Pública (The Life Cycles of Public Innovation Laboratories).
In this interview, Prof. Manuel explains the importance of learning in innovation and digital transformation for public management:
Why is this theme important?
The world as we know it is transforming itself very quickly, and societies need to be ready for change. That becomes clear when we realize the impact and speed with which all countries had to adapt during the pandemic and the consequences of governments incapable of being flexible and organized facing the unforeseen. The digital transformation will bring much greater and more permanent changes than the pandemic has brought. We need to be able to develop civil servants who understand how this reality changes not only what governments should do but also, and mainly, society and its needs. The pandemic was a bitter appetizer, but climate change and digital transformation will require much more capacity for constant adaptation and, therefore, innovation.
How the project works?
The project is led by Prof. David Eaves, from the Harvard Kennedy School, and brings together digital government professors from 10 other countries. Digital transformation challenges are primarily global. Examples are ensuring the use of data in public policies while protecting privacy or creating digital services without delving into excluding those who do not know or cannot use the internet. Thus, we seek to offer a basic syllabus to all professors teaching digital transformation in governments. The syllabus has materials, readings, films, and proposals on how to address the topics in the classroom.
How do you believe this training should take place in the Brazilian context?
Although digital transformation is a global phenomenon, there are challenges specific to each reality. In Brazil, public policies that are data-informed, tested on a small scale before being nationalized, for instance, are still far less frequent than they should be. Note that the federal government is considering the possibility of canceling the Brazilian Census itself. So, for our students, the ability to process available data and use it to improve policies and services is even more critical.
But there is a consensus when it comes to digital services that the digital divide is a central phenomenon. Companies can choose which audience they will serve, but governments cannot. That is why we need to teach students how to make a digital transformation that does not reinforce exclusions. That involves understanding people and their needs. An app cannot be required from somebody to receive their emergency aid, for example.
Also, Brazil has a set of civil servants with significant disparities between them. That is especially when it comes to differences between municipalities, which deliver the main policies directly to citizens, and the Federal Government, which should be able to support and orchestrate the process. So, digital capabilities in a federation context change according to the level of government. It is no use just thinking about training civil servants in unitary states, like England or Estonia.
Innovation in the public sector course track
The Insper Center for Public Policy and Administration offers several courses to support public, private, and third sector professionals to conduct innovations that improve the quality of public policy and administration in Brazil. Professor Manuel Bonduki actively took part in the track’s design and development, being also the courses’ lead instructor. They have a policy of partial or full scholarships, granted according to criteria such as the need, adherence to the course profile, and likelihood of applying the knowledge acquired and making an impact.
Discover each course:
In this course, students start from an overview of digital transformation technologies and artifacts and their impacts on society and the Central State to build a systems view of the opportunities and challenges for governments. We discuss change management and the leadership role in transformation, public procurement of innovation, and digital transformation enablers. Also, how to use data to make better decisions while respecting citizens’ security and privacy. The course has already counted on the support of the Aliança pela Inovação (Alliance for Innovation). It is currently supported by IDB Lab.
The course was developed in partnership with BRAVA Foundation, aiming at supporting public, private, and third-sector managers to answer five questions essentially: Why is it important to talk about Innovation and Digital Transformation in the Public Sector? What is Innovation, or what forms can it take in the Public Sector — whether linked to new services or new ways of offering and managing them? How is it possible to innovate and overcome the existing challenges in designing and implementing those services, especially in the dimensions of culture, processes, technology, and legislation? How much can we impact through change, and how to measure this impact? Who are the key actors in the transformation, and how to ensure their engagement?
In this course, participants are introduced to the main theories that underlie the behavioral sciences approach, as well as to practical and applied tools. It is a compact but in-depth introduction on how to apply behavioral sciences to real-world situations, permeated by the presentation and discussion of cases of nudge applications in Brazil, Europe, and Africa.
Initiatives aim to train professionals for innovation and digital transformation in the public sector