The innovation 2023 Conference held in the UK on 21 March 2023 brought together government leaders from across the globe responsible for the transformation and acceleration of public sector organizations and services.
An estimated 500 participants attended the conference which was addressed by more than twenty speakers drawn from various countries including Ms Phindile Baleni, the South African Cabinet Secretary and DG in The Presidency.
I was honoured to be part of the participants from South Africa together with colleagues from the Presidency, the National School of Government, the Department of Communications and Digital Technology as well as the Department of Science and Innovation.
The conference was co-hosted by the UK Government, UK Civil Service and the Cabinet Office.
Innovation 2023 is aimed at assisting civil servants from a range of critical professions and functions, and from countries around the world, to promote and develop new approaches to policymaking and service delivery.
Governments face a complex set of social, economic and environmental challenges, driven by rapid technological, political and demographic change. And with public finances under pressure, few can spend their way out of problems.
But by embracing innovation, the conference demonstrated that we can find solutions within the same dynamics that are constantly throwing up new challenges – adopting emerging technologies, adapting to changed cultures, and building new skills, structures and communications methods to meet the public’s evolving expectations.
Governments have no choice but to innovate. The various speakers at the conference demonstrated the need for governments to draw on the talent of the whole workforce, address the barriers within and across departments and adapt civil servants’ tools, incentives and systems to ensure sustainable innovation.
Furthermore; officials require the tools, skills and confidence to experiment with new approaches to service delivery. The systems and structures within which they operate must support and promote intelligent risk-taking. And they need to work in partnership across professional and organisational boundaries, assembling the right skills and capabilities to rebuild services around users’ needs.
My insight from this conference is that innovation is for everyone, not for technologists only. We don’t need more money to innovate, there are already so many resources being channelled into ICT systems and processes aimed at the delivery of quality services at large. We must involve employees at different levels and support them to raise awareness of innovation and their role. Institutions like the Centre for Public Service Innovation (CPSI) have a greater role to play to lead, inspire and engage public servants to be innovators.
As the DPSA, we will continue to take up our role at the policy level by setting norms and standards that enable and do not constrain innovation in the public service.
Drawing on the expertise and views of all those attending, Innovation 2023 presented a unique opportunity to explore the keys to innovation with colleagues from around the world.
Ms Yoliswa Makhasi is the Director General of the Department of Public Service and Administration.