Building a digital profession

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October 5, 2021

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The pandemic has created huge demand for digital skills within governments, as departments work to launch new digital services, meet spiralling demand for information and support online, and use data to assess the pandemic’s impact. And over the last year, those countries with a government-wide digital, data and technology profession have often found it easier to meet demand with supply – redeploying specialist staff, supporting departments to acquire and build digital skills, and tapping into a government-wide network of senior digital leaders.

Operating a digital profession is just as valuable in less difficult times: introducing cross-government staff and career development systems can bolster recruitment, retention, training and knowledge transfer, while reducing staff turnover. With civil services under ever greater pressure to develop their digital capabilities, the creation of a government-wide profession can play a key role in building and managing your specialist workforce.

At this webinar, civil service leaders and external experts discussed the potential value of establishing a digital profession, and considered the policies, systems, roles and resources required to improve the strategic management of digital teams across government.


Geoff Huggins, Director of Digital, Scottish Government Digital Directorate, United Kingdom

Geoff Huggins is Director for Digital at the Scottish Government. Previously he was Director of the NHS Education Scotland Digital Service working to create the NHS National Digital Platform. From 2013 to 2018 he was Director for Health and Social Care Integration and from 2017 to 2018 also Director for Digital Health and Social Care. Prior to that he was Head of Mental Health for nine years. From 1991 to 1998 he worked for the Northern Ireland Office working on security and political development. He holds degrees in law and criminology from Queen’s University, Belfast. He is a non-executive director of Cornerstone, Penumbra and the International Initiative for Mental Health Leadership. He runs a little, takes photographs and watches films.

Danielle Brigida, Deputy Director of Digital Strategy, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, USA

Danielle Brigida is deputy director of digital strategy for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. Before that she led social media strategy at the Department of the Interior, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Wildlife Federation. She works to support the important mission through strategic communications, technology, and industry best practices.

As an early adopter of social media with creative, engaging campaigns, Danielle has been recognized as one of the 10 Most Generous Social Media Mavens by Fast Company; one of the 75 Environmentalists to follow by Mashable; one of 10 People to Follow Who are Saving the World by Mother Nature Network and was named a Social Media MVP by PRnews in 2014.

Danielle has been interviewed about her social media experience by USA Today, The New York Times, Fast Company, Washington Post, and Mashable.

Teresa D’Andrea, Director General, Data and Advanced Analytics, Digital Services and Transformation Office, Transport Canada

As the Director General of the Service & Data Modernization team at Transport Canada, Teresa leads several of the federal government’s signature initiatives aimed at transforming the Government of Canada to a digital-first, user-centered, data-driven organization. Internationally recognized for her leadership in managing digital service solutions at scale, Teresa remains a champion for the average user and is committed to ensuring technology’s evolution is driven by humanity.

Dr Vik Pant, Chief Scientist and Chief Science Advisor, Natural Resources Canada

Vik is responsible for providing strategic direction to build capacity within NRCan’s scientific community, promoting a departmental vision for S&T and assessment of future needs. This involves leadership in developing and advancing S&T priorities, providing strategic policy advice on horizontal science issues and opportunities to ensure strong linkages between science and policy communities, and promoting effective engagement of S&T activities. Vik is responsible for accelerating the creative application of innovative digital technologies including Artificial Intelligence, to enhance NRCan’s ability to conduct research and analysis, as well as provide evidence-based policy advice that is supported by advanced analytical techniques. Vik works with counterparts from other science-based organizations to ensure that the management of federal policy and research activities support and align with Government of Canada priorities.

Vik earned a doctorate from the Faculty of Information (iSchool) in the University of Toronto, a master’s degree in business administration with distinction from the University of London, and a master’s degree in information technology from Harvard University, where he received the Dean’s List Academic Achievement Award. His research, featured in numerous peer-reviewed journals and refereed international conferences, focuses on the conceptual modelling of strategic coopetition in complex multi-agent systems.

Vik joined NRCan from the MaRS Discovery District, a technology start-up accelerator in Toronto, where he was a Senior Technical Advisor of Applied Artificial Intelligence. Prior to that, he held progressively strategic positions in leading software enterprises including Oracle, SAP and Open Text.

Stephen Somerville, Global Government Partnerships Advisor, Coursera

Stephen works with Governments and state owned entities to create learning programs that help governments serve their citizens and employees by providing opportunities to learn in-demand job skills for high-growth fields. His client base at Coursera includes public servants at ministries and agencies across Europe and Sub Saharan Africa on a wide variety of digital programs. Before Joining Coursera, Stephen worked for a number of educational technology companies, and led on a number of upskilling projects with the FCO, the British Council and The Institute of Coding and National Centre for Computing Education.

Webinar chair: Siobhan Benita, former UK senior civil servant

Siobhan Benita was a senior civil servant with over 15 years’ Whitehall experience. She worked in many of the major delivery departments, including Transport, Environment, Health and Local Government. She also had senior roles at the heart of Government in the Cabinet Office and HM Treasury, including supporting the then Cabinet Secretary, Lord O’Donnell to lead work on Civil Service reform and strategy. Siobhan left the Civil Service to run as an independent candidate in the Mayor of London election. She subsequently joined her alma mater, Warwick University as Chief Strategy Officer of Warwick in London and Co-Director of the Warwick Policy Lab.