‘Imagine a head of efficiency for government’: Five minutes with Stephanie Kaiser, chief product officer at Germany’s DigitalService

By on 18/03/2024 | Updated on 18/03/2024
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Stephanie Kaiser, chief product officer at Germany’s DigitalService, discusses her ambition for digital services to make people smile and be accessible for all.

This is part of a ‘Five minutes’ series featuring speakers from this week’s Global Government Forum Innovation conference (London, 19-20 March). At the event, Kaiser will participate in a session on the next steps for government transformation.

What are you most excited about sharing at the Innovation 2024 conference?

To meet people working in the same space of government innovation, but coming from different countries, with completely different experiences and views. In short: about the possibility to learn from others.

 On my panel I will be talking about the next steps of transformation, together with innovators from different countries. I am bringing learnings from our projects with me, that I am very happy to share with you.

Stephanie Kaiser

What drew you to a career in the civil service?

After 15 years of building digital products and organisations in the private sector I became part of the federal government’s digital council in Chancellor Merkel’s last legislative period. I realised that every citizen has some weird or unsatisfying story about their touchpoints with the German administration to tell. I want to change that with better digital services.

What do you want to achieve before you retire?

I want government services to be accessible for everyone. And I want people to smile when using them, turn to their friend and say: ‘Do you remember that in 2024 we actually had to go to a government office to sign all these papers, and we even had to print them out at the copy shop beforehand…?’

Read more: ‘Upskilling civil servants will boost efficiency’: Five minutes with Karl Andreas Sprenk from Estonia’s Government CIO Office

 What do you like most about working in the civil service?

I really enjoy meeting so many talented, solution-oriented, open and inspiring people every day, both in our company and in the ministries we work with. It’s a real privilege for me to bring them together to improve things in peoples’ lives.

How might the civil service be different in 25 years’ time?

Proactive, automated, empathetic and friendly.

Which country’s civil service or which government department or agency are you most inspired by and why?

Martha Lane Fox once told me that the Cabinet Office had a head of efficiency back in 2010. I googled it, this role still exists. While I can’t be sure what the role is actually about, that title awakens the wildest dreams in me.

Someone bringing a data-driven view on efficiency into the administration. It would be great to have that in Germany.

Can you name one lesson or idea from abroad that’s helped you and your colleagues?

Definitely the Service Standard for building digital government services in the UK. Down to the very details of how it is being implemented: the self-audits and the fact that it is mandatory to use. We do have a Service Standard in Germany, which has been developed by the Ministry of the Interior and which we at DigitalService use for building our software. We also carry out and publish self-audits. It is, however, not mandatory to use the Service Standard in Germany for all stakeholders involved.

Read more: UK urged to create ‘Department for the Civil Service’ | US government expands apprenticeships | Milestone public service reform in South Africa

What attributes do you most value in people?

Attentiveness, optimism, curiosity. And the general mindset of not taking “no” for an answer – when someone says to you: “that’s not possible because…”, and your first thought is: ok, how could it work anyway?

If you weren’t a civil servant, what would you be?

An architect. I admire the art of creating spaces for people to meet and connect. Spaces have such a big influence on how people feel and live.

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