Mobilising digital skills in administrations: what initiatives abroad?
10 July 2019 / by Guénolé Carré, équipe EIG
International overview of initiatives similar to the Entrepreneurs d'Intérêt Général (public interest entrepreneurs) program
What is the Public interest entrepreneurs program?
The Public Interest Entrepreneurs program enables exceptional digital profiles to join administrations for 10 months to meet the challenges of improving public services using digital technology and data. These entrepreneurs are backed by mentors who participate in their successful joining of administrations. They form a promotion assisted throughout the year by an Etalab team, in the Direction interministérielle du numérique.
What are the aims of this approach?
In order to continue the program's assessment process, we looked at similar initiatives in administrations in other countries. Our aim was to better understand how they operate, their source of funding, their relationship with their country's administrations, the types of projects they carry out and the profiles they recruit.
We looked at the following initiatives:
- Presidential Innovation Fellows, United States
- Code for America, United States
- Digital Transformation Agency, Australia
- Code For Australia, Australia
- Code For Canada, Canada
- Team Digitale, Italy
- Prototype Fund, Germany
While this list of initiatives is not exhaustive, it does identify some basic trends that we believe to be useful in providing a better understanding of our environment and to see our points of convergence.
Logos of the initiatives mentioned in this study
What can we learn from this analysis?
Several answers for the same problem: the seeking of specific digital skills
Many administrations are seeking to mobilise technical expertise to improve their action in the digital field.
To meet these requirements, various innovative formats are being tested: the creation and coordination of communities that develop tools (Team Digitale Italy), the funding of open source projects by public authorities (Prototype Fund), as well as the recruitment of profiles with digital skills in administrations.
These recruitments take various forms: within the Code For international network, fellows, or recruits, are employed by associations and allowed to join administrations. On the other hand, some administrations recruit themselves, as is the case of the US "Presidential Innovation Fellows" (PIF) program or the Public Interest Entrepreneurs program. Funding may come from public funds or also from private funds that back these initiatives through partnerships, as is the case for Code For America.
These programs face common issues, such as attractiveness and the ability to measure their results
Particular attention is paid by these initiatives to the working conditions, remuneration and significant capacity for action provided to those recruited. This is part of a wider consideration of the attractiveness of these programs, which are in competition with digital players in the private sector who are also looking for these highly valued skills. This competition increases as prerequisites in terms of qualifications, experience in various fields or the ability to work in a team are often required, so as to allow participants to operate successfully in complex administrative structures.
The attractiveness of these initiatives also depends on promoting recruits who have the opportunity to express themselves in blog posts (such as the PIF with the contributions of fellows on the digital.gov blog), to participate in conferences and to act as ambassadors for the programs.
Screenshot of a blog post from digital.gov
The production of deliverables and the "measurability" of the results of the work undertaken by these recruits is a common issue. These initiatives involve substantial budgets which accounts for the importance of proving - in particular through data or numerical indicators (as is the case for Code For America projects, such as the GetCalFresh initiative, in particular) - the ability of programs to have an impact.
These programs contribute to the digital transformation of their administrations
Many programs emphasise the complementarity of their recruitment initiatives with other schemes designed to put digital transformation on a permanent footing. These organisations recruit, but also offer training courses to upgrade the skills of staff, especially those who will be required to manage innovative projects. This rationale can be found in the training courses set up by Code For Canada, the Tech for non Tech of Code For Australia, or by the complementarity between the PIF and 18F in the United States. PIFs allow an initial strategic exploration of digital themes in administrations, in order to bring about an initial cultural change. Departments can then call on 18F to initiate larger projects.
Other issues are the key to the development of these initiatives: the sustainability of the tools produced or the maintaining of the new working methods provided by these recruits in administrations. This is the only way to implement a true digital transformation. Political backing is also a factor in the success of such initiatives, as demonstrated by the PIF's presidential backing. In addition, the benefits provided by the fellowships within the Code For are highlighted to demonstrate the impact on the digital transformation of administrations.
What makes the EIG program stand out?
Compared to the programs analysed, the EIG program stands out through its relatively larger number of recruits through promotions, and also through recruiting professionals with less senior profiles than, for example, Code for Canada can do.
The EIG program focuses on 3 specific skills: data science, development and design. The product owner role is taken on by the challenge mentor. This organization differs from other initiatives, such as the Presidential Innovation Fellows, which increasingly recruits more strategic and project management profiles.
Furthermore, the EIG program works almost exclusively with central or national administrations. This is not the case for some Codes For initiatives, such as Code for Australia, which originally worked mainly in the State of Victoria before considering national deployment. Many initiatives also aim to create tools that are intended to have a direct impact on citizens, while the EIG program mainly creates tools that improve the efficiency of administrations and public services, which will ultimately contribute to improving the experience of citizens who use these services.
This overview of various initiatives to mobilise talent in the digital public interest therefore shows that the EIG program is part of a movement that affects all administrations. By opting for a short format - 10 months - and full-time joining of administrations, the EIG program aims to rise to the challenge of bringing together voluntary public servants to develop their practices with citizens motivated by public interest challenges.
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