In June 2021, the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and the digital transformation consultancy Public Digital hosted the fourth annual Digital Services Convening. The goal of this convening was to accelerate the digital transformation of governments across the world by creating a space where practitioners could learn lessons from each other, share their experiences, and discuss best practices. Like last year, this year’s convening was held virtually. The three-day event was attended by over 100 participants based in around 47 governments around the world and represented 30 different countries—our most diverse set of attendees to date. Day one kicked off with a reflection on the past year and both the successes teams realized and the challenges teams faced in light of COVID-19. The day’s main theme was exploring models for scaling the adoption of digital services in ways that transcend the resources of a single nation state. Pramod Verma—the architect of the Aadhaar and much of the India stack—gave a fascinating keynote on the need to revisit creating new internet protocols to standardize and commoditize key services. This was followed by a panel discussion on the potential to use and share open source in government. Day two focused on new digital service teams that had emerged since the first wave of digital service teams nearly a decade ago. We were joined by colleagues from Japan, Morocco, West Java, and Madagascar to discuss how they had set up their digital service teams, the levers they employed, and the lessons they may have learned from the first wave. We ended the day by asking a panel of digital service teams what their most successful levers had been. Day three started with the first ever panel involving public servants not based in digital service teams and exploring their experience of interacting with these groups, their ways of working, and standards. The convening ended with three important digital leaders discussing their experiences of leadership and how digital transformation can be sustained. The community’s growth, the progress that had been made to date, and the experiences of navigating a pandemic meant that this year, like other years, led to several great lessons and ideas being shared and discussed. It also provided an opportunity to truly reflect on the progress that had been made since the first wave of digital service teams and how the landscape has changed, bringing both benefits and familiar and different challenges. This report is an effort to share some of the learning and insights from this year’s convening.
Eaves, David and Sechi Kailasa. "The 2021 Digital Services Convening." Harvard Kennedy School Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, January 2022.