Open data, Metallica, and not being afraid to leave your comfort zone: five minutes with… Lithuania‘s head of Digital Initiatives Management

By on 24/03/2022 | Updated on 28/03/2022
Asta Žilienė, head of Digital Initiatives Management, Lithuania

In the second of a new series of interviews in which public servants around the world share insights into their lives and career, Asta Žilienė, the head of Lithuania’s Ministry of the Economy and Innovation Digital Initiatives Management division, shares her thoughts on the country’s openness to collaboration, how as yet unknown technologies could shape the civil service — and about jumping from planes

What drew you to a career in the civil service?

As a child, I was educated to be honest and choose the right path, which is not necessarily easy and comfortable. Moreover, studies, and knowledge that the government plays an essential role in our lives, inspired and encouraged me to serve the Lithuanian state and contribute to changes.

My career in the civil service began with a specialist position in the court, and it has been quite a long path to my current job, where I feel total inclusivity — because everything I do is for everyone in the country. I have never had any regrets about my decision.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given in your working life?

“Do everything you are afraid of and never stop trying new things.” When I am afraid to leave my comfort zone, I always remember this advice because every uncomfortable step I make broadens new horizons and generates new possibilities.

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

There are a bunch of things I like working in the civil service. Firstly, possibilities to learn new things, especially in my working field related to digitisation and innovation. Additionally, the variety of roles and experiences and the great people I work with. We are all involved in developing future policies to improve people’s lives. International cooperation is also valuable to me. I feel communion with my peers overseas because we face the same challenges and wins.

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

In light of the latest technological trends, the State will likely be a service itself – one that operates well without any manual processes. And not just with the help of AI. Technologies that are as yet unknown will probably be integrated into all aspects of our life. This will enhance human capacities in the civil service, and I believe that civil servants will be very competitive and with futuristic approaches.

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

Lithuania is a part of the European Union, and we have much in common with many countries; there is no exception to cooperation at the government level. Before we start a new initiative or improve our country’s results, we analyse best practices from other countries and share our experience with colleagues overseas. Our public sector is very open, so we have learned the best lessons – from countries such as Ireland to Singapore.

Are there any projects or innovations in your country that might be valuable to your peers overseas?

Definitely, yes. We are proud of our innovation in fintech, life sciences, hi-tech engineering, ICT services and other areas. NASA and global companies use Lithuanian laser technologies. It’s also worth mentioning the public sector as the driver in setting digital policy trends (such as AI strategy, the open data initiative, and GovTech Lab). It’s hard to list all worthwhile projects in one paragraph, but Lithuania is a country open to co-creation. So let’s co-create.

What attributes do you most value in people? 

Openness and a sense of humour are essential attributes for me.

Which three famous people, alive or dead, would you most like to invite to your dream dinner party? 

Marie Curie, Martin Luther King Jr., and Steve Jobs.

Do you have any unusual hobbies? 

I like human beings – I like to watch them in the street and analyse how they behave. But I am also interested in extreme activities, from paragliding to jumping from a plane at 4km into thin air.

What was the first piece of music you bought?  

It was a cassette tape album of Metallica. I was a teenager.

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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.

2 Comments

  1. Frank says:

    It would be nice to know what the name is of the person being interviewed.

    • Mia Hunt says:

      Hi Frank. Her name is Asta Žilienė. We have named her in the first paragraph, as is Global Government Forum’s house style.

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