Nokia and UNESCO’s new framework helps governments to use technology to make people’s lives better

This article was originally posted on Nokia’s website.

The potential of digital

Digital transformation has huge potential in upgrading our abilities to deal with complex, global problems. Climate is changing, productivity stalling across many industries, and access to opportunity remains unequal across the world. With digital transformation and artificial intelligence (AI), we can make better sense of these challenges and develop sustainable solutions.

AI and other transformative technologies will equip governments and civil servants with improved understanding, planning and prediction for better delivery of services. But change is never easy. Some digital transformation initiatives have been successful in improving lives around the planet, others have been lacking. 

What's the issue?

We at Nokia wanted to understand the difficulties that governments face when implementing digital transformation and AI initiatives. This is important to us as greater use of transformative technologies will allow governments to focus on what is most important: making people’s lives better.

Working within the framework of the Broadband Commission, we teamed up with Unesco and other experts to see how governments could best succeed. The report, co-chaired by Nokia President and CEO Pekka Lundmark and Unesco Director General Audrey Azoulay, guides governments on how to develop the skills and knowledge required to take on the transformation. 

AI can give governments the best chance of making effective, innovative policies that fulfill the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The basis for good policymaking – gathering data, forming an evidence base, forecasting outcomes and analyzing different solutions – directly overlaps with what AI does.

Our report presents a framework to develop the competencies that are essential to reap the benefits of digital transformation and AI. Not all civil servants need to become digital transformation specialists, but all need to understand the potential that technologies have in different areas of policy. With everyone on board, that impact can be consequential and constructive, making our societies better places to live in.

Three competency domains for civil servants

  1. Digital Planning and Design
    Understanding the complexity of today’s problems, anticipate unexpected events, and recognize strategic opportunities to use digital solutions to develop solutions.
  2. Data Use and Governance
    Understanding the fundamental role and value of data, as well as the inherent risks, and the ability to use, analyze and share data, taking into consideration ethical, privacy and security concerns. It is crucial for civil servants to address governance challenges and meet the public’s growing expectations from governments, while at the same time use data effectively and responsibly.
  3. Digital Management and Execution
    Understanding the value of new and innovative working practices. Applying a new set of working methods, approaches and tools to use data and technology to address complex problems, and to foster new ways of engaging with citizens both online and offline.

It is not only about the skills of a single civil servant. The best results are achieved when governments develop holistic and comprehensive strategies, supported by a digital action and competency-building plan. This ensures coherence and consistency across government sectors.

It also goes without saying that digital transformation is not only a hardware issue. Having the required IT infrastructure does not go a long way if there is no equal focus on developing the knowledge and skills needed to adopt these new ways of working. 

Transformations are learning journeys and learning cannot happen without challenging the status quo. We need to commit to challenging old habits and ways of thinking and to embrace creativity and curiosity. To make the most of AI and digital transformation, we also need to enshrine and develop leadership styles that support change. We need leaders who empower their staff and create trust, enabling innovation and creativity, equipping civil servants as digital change-makers.

We can make change happen, but it requires our openness to change  – and the right kind of leadership. It’s a whole-of-society effort and the private sector has a valuable role to play, too. Technology providers such as Nokia can partner with governments to deliver innovations and help develop the necessary skills to make the best of it.

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