The absence of an established definition is perhaps the best indicator how new, broad and rapidly developing the field is. This is what I believe to GovTech key quality – it escapes its original meaning of “technology for the public”, constructed like FinTech or MedTech. Instead it encompasses a much wider catalogue of actions aimed at making the public sector more innovative, agile and development-oriented. If you’re updating governmental websites – you’re doing GovTech. If you support your colleague’s suggestion to eliminate redundancy – you’re supporting GovTech. All that matters is that the result of your action does something to make the government more technologically functional.
Why GovTech then and not InnovativePublicSectorTech? First, that’s too long, and second, I think the name reflects the important policy component that goes into every GovTech programme and that distinguishes it from FinTech and other xyzTech sectors. It is not about building a toolkit of resources and using it to sell a product, but about managing the existing resources to deliver the currently existing products (aka public services) better. What it means in the realities of the public sector is getting inspired by ideas from both within and outside of the government and developing standards to incorporate them into the state’s framework.
This can sometimes be tough, as the public sector by definition has more constraints, on the other hand, it also offers unique opportunities. The administration’s size also means that one, different departments will act independently, and two, for any GovTech initiative to be successful, one must engage the citizens and give them an opportunity to make an impact. This is why I believe the crucial thing when thinking about GovTech is to imagine it as a circular flow, where citizens develop solutions helping themselves (directly or indirectly) and the administration is in the middle, constructing a framework they can do it in.
This brings me to my final point. The semantic disorder I mentioned initially can sometimes raise confusion between GovTech and CivTech. While I believe there is a distinction, with GovTech being a slightly broader term, as it includes not only interactions with citizens, but also the administration, the line between the two is thin. Practically, they can be referred to as synonyms, as I can’t imagine doing GovTech without engaging citizens, or CivTech without involving the administration at some point. This is however reflective of how broad a field this is and how many ideas are there for propagating innovations within the public sector.
All those are is the principles we have built our programmes on and the response encourages us to move forward in the direction of making GovTech an exchange platform for ideas and innocations serving the society.
Because all in all, as I have written in my piece, GovTech is nothing more than coming up with innovations - for the public and by the public.
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To put it simply, GovTech is about applying emerging technologies (such as artificial intelligence, advanced sensing, blockchain, advanced data processing, etc. ) to improve the delivery of public services through increasing efficiency and lowering costs. The GovTech sector is estimated to be worth around $400bn globally.
There are a number of things we are doing in the UK to try to improve the take up of emerging technology solutions by government. This report provides some interesting context around GovTech but am happy to try to provide some more specifics around what the UK is trying to do to improve the take up of GovTech solutions.