The Forum Network is a space for experts and thought leaders—from around the world and all parts of society— to discuss and develop solutions now and for the future. Aiming to foster the fruitful exchange of expertise and perspectives across fields to help shape Better Policies for Better Lives, opinions expressed do not necessarily represent the views of the OECD.
Journey to digital-ready—lessons from the financial services sector
It was more than a decade ago that the world’s financial regulators noted the emergence of digital disrupters to their industry. These disruptors were not burdened by legacy IT systems that had been developed over decades; rather financial technology providers (“fintechs”) were born in the cloud, embracing the latest and greatest technology to deliver services to those already engaging with financial institutions, as well as those historically underserved. Recognising the need to facilitate their institutions’ uptake of cloud and digital transformation technologies to stay competitive, financial regulators put in place an action plan. This involved close collaboration with the technology sector to learn more about the underlying technology, providing feedback on what they would need in return and, importantly, ensuring their policy and regulatory settings were “digital ready”. It was very much during this time that Microsoft pivoted from being a vendor to the financial sector to a trusted partner to the community, a result of the deep engagement we had with the regulators and their institutions. Over the last several years, we have enjoyed a similar shift in the way we work and partner with the global public sector community on its digital transformation journey.
The public sector’s digital policy moment
We are undoubtedly living through a pivotal policy moment, as demonstrated by governments’ commitment to ensure that they have a digital-ready policy environment"
The transition from vendor to partner is something that I relish every time I meet with our government customers and their policy and regulatory advisors. This transition wasn’t by accident: it is the result of significant dedication within Microsoft to execute on our mission to “empower every person and organisation on the planet to achieve more”; and openness from governments around the world to “invite industry in” to learn about technology and adjust their policy and procurement settings accordingly. It would be wrong to call this a “public sector digital transformation moment”, because the public sector’s technology journey has been underway for decades. However, we are undoubtedly living through a pivotal policy moment, as demonstrated by governments’ commitment to ensure that they have a digital-ready policy environment in place—fast—to foster the ubiquitous adoption of cloud and digital transformation technologies. In this way, they can ensure that they are meeting (and exceeding) the expectations and needs of their citizens, all while adapting to almost unprecedented geo-political and economic change.
Approach to digital-ready policy
Public policy at its core is the means by which governments and government bodies articulate what they stand for; how they want their country and economy and citizenry to interoperate; and the direction in which they want their country to head. Policy is used by governments to inform how they themselves operate, as well as a tool to “influence or direct” the actions and behaviour of others such as businesses, citizens and society at large. In conversations we’ve been having with governments, there is a clear understanding that in this time of considerable change—when technology is identified as a powerful tool, essential to a country’s transformation—there is a need to ensure that policies are calibrated for the digital age. Governments will need to update existing policies that may currently inhibit or impede the use of technology (like legacy data classification frameworks or outdated financing rules), as well as put in place entirely new polices that expressly anticipate technology (like national cloud strategies, cloud first policies and policies on the responsible use of artificial intelligence). Producing digital-ready policy not only requires deep subject matter expertise in the workings of government, but also in the technology being regulated.
More on the Forum Network: Delivering better digital government: To your door and beyond, by Barbara Ubaldi, Head, Digital Government and Data Unit, OECD
Governments can struggle with providing public services in the ways citizens have come to expect. To help, the OECD has created a toolkit to support governments in designing and implementing better digital governance frameworks for all.
The policy and procurement building blocks for successful digital transformation
As a global company that is committed to doing business locally, Microsoft has supported hundreds of government customers around the globe and has experience working with a wide array of policies and practices related to technology and procurement. We have become a “sensor network” of global public sector best practices, and are often asked by policy makers, procurement executives and public sector information technology strategists to share our insights on who is doing technology policy and procurement well and why.
In the spirit of responding to this important question, we are excited to share our perspectives on good public sector technology policy and procurement practices. In our recently published paper, Building Blocks for a Successful Digital Transformation Strategy, we provide context for each policy building block and, importantly, reference countries that have successfully implemented such policies so the public sector community can learn from its peers. We are fortunate to have been able to partner with the global law firm Linklaters on this initiative; their reach and experience working across the world brings an important layer and depth to the policy and procurement conversation, and we are so very grateful for the collaboration.
These policy and procurement building blocks are:
- A national cloud strategy and cloud-first policy
- A data classification framework fit for the digital age
- Adoption and implementation of a digital identity policy
- A centralised procurement function
- Use of government framework agreements
- Flexible and adaptive finance rules
- A collaborative approach among stakeholders; and
- A digital culture and technology-skilling agenda
For each building block we have identified its core components, the key challenges it seeks to address and, importantly, how countries have implemented it in practice. Interestingly, the building blocks are linked; the implementation of one contributes to the implementation and success of others.
Getting policy settings “right” is a journey, and a collaborative approach is required among policy makers, procurement executives as well as technologists within government.
Getting policy settings “right” is a journey, and a collaborative approach is required among policy makers, procurement executives as well as technologists within government. Furthermore, we’ve seen great results where governments learn from each other, working together to best ensure their policy environment is not only digital ready but can be practically and efficiently implemented. However, an additional layer of collaboration that we have observed to be incredibly useful is where governments engage with the technology sector. Here, they can gain a deep understanding of the underlying technology and also learn lessons from how it has been successfully deployed by the public sector and private enterprise. This 360-degree approach to digital transformation and policy is an incredibly positive practice, to which Microsoft is delighted to be an active contributor and participant.
We hope you enjoy reading Building Blocks for a Successful Digital Transformation Strategy and look forward to continuing the conversation.
To learn more, access the full report Building Blocks for a Successful Digital Transformation Strategy
And check out also the OECD Going Digital Toolkit which helps countries assess their state of digital development and formulate policies in response: