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Germany

Create Federal Agency for Digital Innovation (DE0019)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Germany Action Plan 2019-2021

Action Plan Cycle: 2019

Status:

Institutions

Lead Institution: Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community (BMI)

Support Institution(s): NA

Policy Areas

Public Participation

IRM Review

IRM Report: Germany Design Report 2019-2021

Starred: Pending IRM Review

Early Results: No IRM Data

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Civic Participation

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

What is the public problem that the commitment will address?
To date, digital transformation projects and digital challenges have often been implemented by the administration in a self-contained way and by specific agencies in silos. Innovative and agile methods and processes are only rarely taken into consideration. Users are often included in the implementation of digital transformation projects only too late or not at all. Lessons learned are not applied, and failures are not taken as opportunities to learn. In order to keep pace with the digital transformation of the world, the administration must try out ideas in an experimental, user-oriented way and find solutions – faster, more nimbly and more openly than previously. This includes more transparent communication of both successes and failures.

What is the commitment?
The BMI will set up a Digital Innovation Team that acts as a “think & do tank”, establishing structured innovation management in the federal administration and disseminating and embedding methods from design thinking, service design and agile working in the administration. The Digital Innovation Team will thus create space to shape innovative solutions for government, including outside the usual administrative structures and thinking patterns (outside the box), and to develop these solutions and implement them in a moderated way. The Digital Innovation Team will be responsible for setting up and running a suitable working environment as well as for networking and communication among all of the relevant participating players. Partners from business, public administration and civil society will be brought together in a network to jointly work on innovative solutions. The aim is to gain new kinds of working experiences in administration, learn from one another and grow together. The Digital Innovation Team will thus serve as a support, consulting and coaching unit, which will empower others to find and implement innovative solutions.

How will the commitment contribute to solving the public problem?
The culture of innovation that is systematically disseminated by the Digital Innovation Team will make projects more successful for the long term, provide for quicker solutions in administrative work – even outside the digital transformation – and thereby provide positive impetus for a more modern, transparent, participatory and solution-oriented administrative culture. By setting up a website specifically for the team and publishing all of the project results and project knowledge, we will promote transparency in the federal administration. We are pursuing an approach based on the principle that before the Federal Government can project transparency outward, it must practice transparency internally to bring about a shift in the mindset of the federal administration.

Why is this commitment relevant to OGP values?
A key objective of this measure is to make the digital transformation of the administration
more citizen-centred and participatory through more interconnection with, for example,
civil society initiatives. The methods disseminated by the Digital Innovation Team will foster a
better cultural approach to mistakes as well as transparency and openness in administrative
action and towards the public.

IRM Midterm Status Summary

4. Establishment of an e-government agency as a Digital Innovation Team of the federal administration

Main Objective

“The BMI will set up a Digital Innovation Team that acts as a “think & do tank”, establishing structured innovation management in the federal administration and disseminating and embedding methods from design thinking, service design and agile working in the administration. The Digital Innovation Team will thus create space to shape innovative solutions for government, including outside the usual administrative structures and thinking patterns (outside the box), and to develop these solutions and implement them in a moderated way. The Digital Innovation Team will be responsible for setting up and running a suitable working environment as well as for networking and communication among all of the relevant participating players.

Partners from business, public administration and civil society will be brought together in a network to jointly work on innovative solutions. The aim is to gain new kinds of working experiences in administration, learn from one another and grow together. The Digital Innovation Team will thus serve as a support, consulting and coaching unit, which will empower others to find and implement innovative solutions.”

Milestones

4.1. Setting up a workshop space for project partners from the federal administration to carry out workshops on innovation, design thinking and similar themes

4.2. Transparent testing of the innovation process at two federal agencies

4.3. Transparent testing of the – if necessary, redesigned – innovation process in at least four additional projects

4.4. Carrying out of at least three advanced-training events (workshops, lunch lectures, etc.) for federal administrative agencies per year

Editorial Note: For the complete text of this commitment, please see Germany’s action plan at: https://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Germany_Action-Plan_2019-2021_EN.pdf.

Commitment Analysis

This commitment aims to make federal administrative practice and culture more open and innovative by creating a Digital Innovation Team. [26] This team will raise awareness about innovative management methods, establish pilot projects inside ministries and federal agencies, and provide government training. Although the commitment is primarily internal administrative reform, the Digital Innovation Team will engage with civil society and the business community. The commitment is therefore relevant to the OGP value of civic participation.

Public demands for administrative reforms in the era of digitalization are high in Germany. Both citizens and businesses welcome progress with regard to more user-friendly and digitized public services. Fifty-seven percent of citizens expect that digitalization will significantly change, mainly for the better, the public administration in Germany with the next three to five years. [27] Two-thirds want the government to operate more via digitization with handling of administrative tasks online as a priority. [28] Overall e-government use and satisfaction levels are rising, though they are still at relatively low level in international comparison. [29]

Inside the administration, recognition that the modernization of administrative practices must expand is growing. In a 2019 survey among over 300 administrative units in Germany, respondents selected e-government and digitization of the administration by a wide margin as the most important challenge for their organizations, while 60% found current progress at federal level insufficient. Over 57% considered innovation and digitalization labs as important reform mechanisms, but few respondents saw the need to prioritize citizen engagement (8%), transparency (6%), or open data (2.9%). [30] Therefore, harnessing the appetite for digitization and innovation labs in order to improve openness and participation could prove challenging.

While this commitment is a positive step toward facilitating greater innovation within the public administration, its scale and scope are limited. Branded as a “think and do tank,” the Digital Innovation Team officially started work in April 2019. It is currently comprised of a small team of five people on secondment from ministries and federal agencies and has budget of EUR 4.9 million for 2020. The team’s ability to improve user-centricity and responsiveness (which underpin many of the promoted design methods [31]) will largely depend on how its work methods are implemented. Even if implemented at a large scale, the conversion of innovative design principles into effective civil participation or transparency is not guaranteed. [32] Future refinements of this commitment could include more specific activities, targets, and milestones that directly seek to realize these open government values.

[26] DIT, “Hallo Welt. DIT sind wir” [Hello world. We are DIT] (accessed Aug. 2020), http://dit.bund.de/.
[27] Initiative D21, ” D21-DIGITAL-INDEX 2019 / 2020” [D21-DIGITAL-INDEX 2019/202] (2020), https://initiatived21.de/publikationen/d21-digital-index-2019-2020/.
[28] Institut für Demoskopie Allensbach, Die Auswirkungen von Digitalisierung und Vernetzung aus der Sicht der Bürger [The effects of digitization and Networking from the perspective of the citizens] (2018), https://nbn-resolving.org/urn:nbn:de:0168-ssoar-60008-5.
[29] See for example Fortiss, eGovernment Monitor 2019 (2019), https://initiatived21.de/app/uploads/2019/10/egovernment-monitor-2019.pdf; EU, eGovernment Benchmark 2019 “Country Fact Sheets” (2019), https://ec.europa.eu/newsroom/dae/document.cfm?doc_id=62368.
[30] Center for Digital Governance, Ergebnisse des Zukunftspanels Staat & Verwaltung [Results of the State & Administration Future Panel] (Hertie School of Governance, 2019), https://www.zukunftskongress.info/sites/default/files/2019-11/Ergebnisse%20Zukunftspanel%202019.pdf.
[31] The latter point merits a special emphasis as user-centricity and responsiveness are not synonymous with or sufficient conditions for effective participation and accountability. See also the disparity in the prioritization of innovation labs versus citizen engagement and openness as reported in the survey referenced in Section IV.
[32] The first set of pilot projects underway do not have a strong focus on civic participation or external transparency and thus further confirm the challenge to translate innovative design approaches into new participation formats.

IRM End of Term Status Summary

Commitment 4. Establishment of an e-government agency as a Digital Innovation Team of the federal administration

Limited:

The commitment planned to set up a Digital Innovation Team to make federal administrative practice more open and innovative. According to the end-of-term self-assessment report, the roll-out of the Digital Innovation Team was delayed due to a transfer in April 2021 of the project group leading on the work to BMI’s new Digital Innovation and Transformation Division. [52] This division will eventually take on the work originally envisioned under the Digital Innovation Team. Therefore, while some preliminary work for this commitment was carried out, its outcomes are not publicly available at the time of writing this report.


Commitments

Open Government Partnership