Digital transformation and maintaining public service legitimacy: the best of Global Government Forum’s 2023 interviews and features

By on 27/12/2023 | Updated on 22/12/2023
A mocked up computer screen of transformation loading
Photo: Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

The latest of Global Government Forum 2023 roundups shares our most-read interviews and in-depth coverage of the year

Covering everything from US federal CIO Clare Martorana’s insights into how to drive transformation in government, to efforts to improve appraisal of policy and delivery across departments, and advice on maintaining legitimacy in an era of populism, here are some of the top features from Global Government Forum in 2023 that you might have missed. 

In our exclusive interview with Martorana, the US federal government’s most senior technology official, published back in May, she set out how she and her team are driving digital transformation, and the associated challenges and opportunities.  

She described overcoming resistance to digital advancement while at the Department of Veterans Affairs – where she was able to secure buy-in from employees through making clear the link between digital transformation and improved frontline delivery – and why she sees cybersecurity as “the point of the arrow” to drive reform. 

Also covering her efforts to improve citizens’ experiences of dealing with government around life events such as retirement, and taking inspiration from the UK, Estonia, Iceland and Ukraine, the interview serves as a lesson on “bringing people along on the journey” and on making “bold moves” in an effort to replace antiquated technology. 

Read the interview: ‘Focus on the customer is the rallying point’: US federal CIO Clare Martorana on how to drive transformation in government And look out for our new podcast Government Transformed, launching in February 2024 – subscribe here.  

Sticking with the digital theme, a report from the Global Government Digital Summit on creating and transforming inter-departmental services – was also popular among our readership.  

The article included perspectives from Andri Heiðar Kristinsson and Megan Lee Devlin – the CEOs of Digital Iceland and the UK’s Central Digital and Data Office respectively – as well as Martorana and others. The report discussed how to produce a national digital strategy, as well as how best to build support, secure funding and reform commissioning; the coordinating role of central digital units; and the “aspiration to move away from pockets of progress to enduring transformation”. 

This writeup and those of our other events, held and published throughout the year, capture GGF’s core mission to bring public servants together with their peers overseas for frank and open discussion about their shared challenges and how to tackle them, and there’s plenty more to look forward to 2024.   

Read more: Strategy school: digital leaders debate how to drive transformation 

On the topic of shared challenges, in July we ran a webinar titled ‘The moral haze: how civil servants can maintain legitimacy in an era of populism’.  

The panel comprised Dr Claire Gilbert, director of the Westminster Abbey Institute; Michael Wernick, Jarislowsky chair of public sector management at the University of Ottawa, and Canada’s former cabinet secretary; and Angela Glen, senior investigating officer, Ethical Standards Commissioner, Scotland.  

Together, they examined how public and civil service structures can maintain integrity under political attack, how officials should balance demands from ministers with their professional ethics, and how they should raise concerns over the morality of government requests. 

Look out for a roundup of our best webinars of 2023 tomorrow.  

Read the key points of the ‘moral haze’ conversation and watch the associated clips here and see a list of the 2024 webinars we have planned to date.   

Michael Wernick wrote one of a series of exclusive opinion pieces for Global Government Forum in April, in which he covered the implications of the Canadian Budget, the threat of strike action by public servants, and renewed discussion about the size of the state.  

He wrote then: “One can see dark clouds on the horizon. With the obvious caveat that a lot can happen in two years [before the next federal election], it seems that the Canadian public service is headed for choppy waters.”  

Read this ‘Letter from Ottawa’ here and listen to ‘Taking the good with the bad’, Wernick’s Leading Questions podcast episode here.

Government reform was also covered in other articles. One looked at the inside story of setting up the Australian Centre for Evaluation (ACE), featuring exclusive quotes from Treasury minister Andrew Leigh.  

The centre was created as part of a drive by Australia’s prime minister Anthony Albanese to improve the appraisal of policy and delivery across government departments and to implement the recommendations of the 2019 Thodey Review of the Australian Public Service, which called for significant reform.  

In this feature, Leigh described how the centre – which opened for business in July – will work, including its remit to form partnerships with government agencies to conduct impact evaluations on agreed priorities; to work with agencies to embed high-quality evaluation plans in budget proposals; and to oversee efforts to improve evaluation capability across the Australian federal government.  

This is just one of many articles GGF has published this year following the Australian government’s efforts to improve the integrity of the public service, particularly in the wake of the Robodebt scandal.  

Read more: ‘We want to make evaluation a fundamental part of what government does’: the inside story of setting up the Australian Centre for Evaluation 

Last but not least, coverage of our first-ever Global Government Women’s Network event, held during the AccelerateGOV conference in Ottawa in October, proved an inspirational read.  

The session featured five women panellists: Nadia Ahmad, Mehnaz Tabassum and Vidya ShankarNarayan – senior leaders at Global Affairs Canada, the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada respectively – the White House’s Noreen Hecmanczuk and Siobhan Benita, event chair and a former UK senior civil servant. 

They shared with the live audience their – at times raw – experiences as women and as immigrants or children of immigrants in the public service.  

Covering everything from imposter syndrome and the pressure racialised women often feel to work harder than colleagues, to balancing care responsibilities, male allyship, disability awareness and ‘learning to take off the lampshade’, it was a thought-provoking session packed with practical advice.  

Read the full summary of the session ‘Don’t dim your light: leaders share their advice for fellow public service women’ and sign up to become a member of the Global Government Women’s Network here.

Join Global Government Forum’s LinkedIn group to keep up to date with all the insight public and civil servants need to know.

About Mia Hunt

Mia is a journalist and editor with a background in covering commercial property, having been market reports and supplements editor at trade title Property Week and deputy editor of Shopping Centre magazine, now known as Retail Destination. She has also undertaken freelance work for several publications including the preview magazine of international trade show, MAPIC, and TES Global (formerly the Times Educational Supplement) and has produced a white paper on energy efficiency in business for E.ON. Between 2014 and 2016, she was a member of the Revo Customer Experience Committee and an ACE Awards judge. Mia graduated from Kingston University with a first-class degree in journalism and was part of the team that produced The River newspaper, which won Publication of the Year at the Guardian Student Media Awards in 2010.

One Comment

  1. Donna Cadogan says:

    I find all of your articles to be extremely relevant and topical. They are helpful and very insightful in light of the high velocity issues that we are facing in this forever transitioning period in the life of the public service. I use them for guidance and directive as I seek to navigate uncharted waters. Well done and please keep it up!

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