These are the key takeaways of our event Government After Shock – Bridging the Digital Divide in the COVID-19 era: Shaping Central Eastern European Perspectives, that took place on 17 November.

The digital world has no borders, but what ties the Central Eastern European (CEE) countries together are some political, economic and cultural similarities that allow us to analyse the region altogether. Likewise in other places, the COVID19 pandemic has highlighted many challenges in the region that were not diligently dealt with in the past. It demonstrated the importance of digital technologies in government, business and everyday lives.

CEE countries have been increasing the investments for technology in recent years. During the first months of the lockdown, the growth of the digital economies in the CEE doubled in comparison with previous years according to a McKinsey Report. It’s worth mentioning that 3 out of 4 people in CEE are now digitally engaged, and CEE enjoys a high level of digital infrastructure (more than 90% of the territory is covered by 4G). The stimuli, however, do not cover up for the under-investment from the periods before 2019. The gap offers a lot of room for improvement in the region. Closing this gap is the common interest of the CEE countries.

Key takeaways on 3 key Government After Shock questions:

What should be left behind” beyond crisis?

  • Technology that is not used in accordance with data privacy and human rights.
  • Offline databases in the healthcare system, which are not transferred in the European Union.
  • Do not go back to traditional education where offline presence is a must.

What should be kept” beyond crisis?

  • Leadership – strong decision making that makes difficult decisions in order to improve policies and build bridges across different actors. For the governments to embrace future success, the most important principle is leadership (60%), political consensus and continuity (48%), international cooperation (48%) and resources (32%) according to the participants of the webinar.
  • Evidence-based policymaking built on the crucial role of science and data is the approach which should be kept for the future.
  • The emphasis in policymaking shall be put on the Public-Private Partnership, especially in large scale projects in the areas such as climate change, industrialization policy and digital transition.
  • Policymaking that is inherently outcome and mission-driven as oppose to process-driven.
  • ‘Just do it approach’, ‘bottom-up approach’, and ‘red tape cuts’ in e-commerce, e-law, e-government (digitalisation was forced on the government in time of COVID-19, while they were lagging behind for many years).
  • E-education which allows for more personalized learning and development of different skills (both for children and adults).
  • Collective responsibility for global challenges and commitment to the UN agenda 2030.
  • Intergeneration responsibility which is a key to success for a better future of our planet.

What we should “do differently” beyond crisis?

  • We should establish COV IT “co-efficient evidence” to avoid silos in the public administrations and to build back better.
  • Allow people to work online in different places in the world to slow down/eliminate brain drain which is a major challenge for CEE since the EU accession.
  • Boost two-legs financing of the digital sector which would combine government funds and venture capitals.
  • Use technology to better fight the pandemics in the future.
  • Technology should have a human-centric approach that aims to support and empower people.
  • Keep improving digital services as CEE is a laggard.
  • Invest in digital skills to improve digital learning in the region (lack of digital skills was identified as a challenge by 71% of our participants, followed by lack of IT infrastructure (52%) and a lack of high-speed infrastructure (52%).
  • Invest in life-long education – learning at all levels.
  • Allow for ‘mix and match’ policy that allows enrolling in one or more institutions, hence to learn different things simultaneously.

Livestream from the event is available here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8j_JuRnLXLU

This event was organized by GLOBSEC and EWC EDELWEISS CONSULTING and is a part of Government After Shock event.

The Government After Shock event was a collaborative initiative led by the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development’s Observatory of Public Sector Innovation. It explored and highlighted new approaches to government that embrace uncertainty, experimentation and future possibilities. It was also supported by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 870913.