Digital Lithuania Academy
Digital Lithuania Academy is an online learning platform that aims to guide the country’s public sector through the digital transformation. It seeks to immerse public servants in digital practices relevant to their work, and upgrade their professional profiles through a highly personalized learning pathway. By becoming increasingly tech-savvy, public servants have the chance to vastly increase their efficiency, find innovative ways of working, and deliver better public services to citizens.
New technological solutions are changing the modern workforce as the digital transformation permeates across sectors. Governance is no exception – public services are increasingly digitized, and new digital tools have the potential to increase the efficiency public service delivery. However, the lack of adequate skills is described as one of the main hurdles for embracing digital practices in organizations. Lithuania’s public sector ranks among the bottom 3 countries in terms of capabilities according to the International Civil Service Effectiveness (INCISE) Index. Innovative Governance is one of the key pillars of country’s national development strategy “Lithuania 2030” yet skills development in the public sector remains fragmented and characterized by a lack of a strategic outlook.
Digital Lithuania Academy (DLA) aims to guide the country’s public sector through the digital transformation. This online learning platform seeks to unlock the untapped potential of Lithuanian public servants by increasingly immersing them in digital practices. The objectives of DLA’s model are three-fold: (1) to measure the level of public servants’ digital skills via diagnostic testing; (2) to provide a personalized learning pathway relevant to the public servant’s career development; (3) to expose public servants to practical use-cases of digital technology and their application in the public sector.
The vision of DLA focuses on a highly personalized and tailored user-experience. Upon registering in the platform, the public servant will compile a personal digital profile, matching both the employee’s job description and individual learning objectives. Subsequently, he or she will complete a diagnostic test based on the 5 competence areas of the European Digital Competence Framework DigComp 2.1. These range from information and data literacy to digital content creation. Upon completion, the user will access a personalized learning pathway with tailored recommendations relevant to his or her position. In the long run, the platform will be populated with learning content focused on adapting digital solutions in the public sector. In the meantime, public sector employees have the possibility to immerse themselves in digital trends during workshops, with digital professionals from private and public sectors alike as mentors.
The core values of the DLA are user-centricity and open design. In such way, the beneficiaries of the platform include not only the target end-users (public servants), but also human resource department staff and top-level management. Within the current competence development framework of Lithuania’s public sector, key performance indicators of employees are evaluated once a year during an annual review by organization’s human resource (HR) managers and employee’s direct supervisors. As an online platform equipped with diagnostic tools, DLA will enable both the employees, HR managers and direct supervisors to manage personal development pathways in real time, and adjust it to employee’s needs. While the target audience of the platform’s prototype is public servants, it also has a potential to scale beyond the public sector. DLA’s framework aims to be open-source, which will enable to expand the platform to the national level, encompassing regional- and local-level institutions.
DLA was initiated as a collaboration between the Ministry of Economy and Innovation and the Create Lithuania initiative, a program which onboards Lithuanian professionals with international experience on public sector projects. It has since grown to encompass multiple stakeholders in order to ensure the platform's authentication process, technical functioning and content administration. In the short run, Lithuania's newly-launched GovTech Lab will integrate DLA in its structure. It is an initiative that aims to foster collaboration between the government and the business community in order to find tech-savvy solutions to public sector challenges. Nurturing adequate digital skills across government silos is GovTech Lab's strategic priority, thus DLA will serve as a channel to transfer these skills. In the long run, DLA is expected to serve as a prototype for the update of Civil Service Register's online learning interface, which is set to begin by the end of 2020. The interface is set to expand to include other competences as well, reaching almost 50.000 Lithuanian public servants.
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
Digital Lithuania Academy is a pioneer of digital skills development in the country's public sector. It is the very first initiative in modern Lithuania's 30 year history to approach digital competence building in a holistic manner, as previous attempts have been fragmented or confined to certain institutions. To this end, DLA seeks to become a one-stop source for digital knowledge for public servants. Its open design and user centricity creates conditions for a highly personalized experience, and knowledge-sharing across sectors including businesses, civil society and the academic community. While DLA is an online learning platform, its reach stretches beyond the digital space - series of practical workshops within the framework of DLA Forums fosters collaboration with partners from private and non-governmental sectors. As such, DLA contributes to Lithuania's growing innovation ecosystem by gradually closing the digital knowledge gap within the public sector.
What is the current status of your innovation?
As of end of February 2020, the project is entering its proposal development phase. Project managers from the Create Lithuania initiative completed 6 months of fieldwork, including policy analysis and research on Lithuania's public sector competence development framework, identifying the reasons behind the digital skills gap. A qualitative survey of public servants from 10 ministries provided insights into the digital skills level of employees, their expectations, and skills development trends in public institutions. It was followed by series of semi-structured interviews with human resource managers of 7 ministries on skills development practices. Building on these findings, a prototype of the platform is being developed, focusing on the user experience (UX) design. Formalization of the platform is being negotiated with the Ministry of Economy and Innovation and GovTech Lab, while the projects team is working with private sector partners on the technical aspects of the platform.
Collaborations & Partnerships
Mr. Elijus Civilis, the Deputy Minister of Economy and Innovation political provided support in securing cross-sectoral partnerships. Create Lithuania program initiated the project and delivered through the initial stages of innovation development. GovTech Lab facilitates the formalization process of the platform that would ensure its continuity in terms of functioning and content administration. 30+ private and public institutions contribute with consulting and technical support.
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
Upon launching DLA, public servants of Lithuanian ministries (3.700+ people) will be able to assess their digital skills level, develop their learning pathway, and upgrade their career development. When scaled across the public sector, DLA will have a reach of 50.000+ users. HR Departments of public sector institutions and top-level managers will be able to track the organization's competence development in real time. In the long run, citizens will benefit from more efficient public services.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
Qualitative survey of 250 public servants from 10 Lithuanian ministries, a first of its kind in the country’s public sector, revealed that only 32% of the employees surveyed have the opportunity to develop their digital skills in the workplace. Digital content creation, cyber security and problem solving were indicated as priority focus areas. Semi-structured interviews with human resource managers of 7 ministries revealed the fragmented nature of competence development in Lithuanian ministries, in addition to the need for analytical and practical tools that could facilitate skills development management. Based on the findings of aforementioned research, the project's team is focusing on the user experience (UX) design for the platform's prototype. In the meantime, more than 150 public servants participated in 2 DLA workshops on process optimization and cyber-security within the framework of DLA Forums.
Challenges and Failures
Innovation culture in Lithuania’s public sector remains in the early stages of development. Therefore, the prospective beneficiaries (public servants, HR managers and top-level managers) initially viewed the platform with reservation. While many agreed that tech-savvy public servants could vastly improve service delivery in the long run, digital competence development is often considered a low-priority pursuit with little direct impact. To this end, an outreach strategy was elaborated culminating in series of DLA Forum events, where public servants have the opportunity to immerse themselves in relevant digital trends. In addition, the fragmented and ad-hoc structure of competence development policies in the sector makes it difficult to formalize the platform within a single framework. Thus, identifying digital champions among top-level leadership proved to be a strategic priority that could secure the institutionalization and continuity of the platform in the long run.
Conditions for Success
As the platform is intrinsically connected to human skills, a culture of lifelong learning within the public sector is one of the essential conditions for the platform’s success. While digitization and automatization allow to optimize processes without human input, the demand for non-cognitive soft skills in conjunction with digital skills is expected to increase dramatically. To this end, it is necessary to upgrade strategic planning practices and tools within human resource management in the public sector. A more coherent strategic outlook in the long run based on tangible performance indicators would allow to better allocate resources for skills development. Crucially, it is necessary to empower the digital champions withing the public sector and encourage digital leadership across government silos. Iteration of best practices and success stories of experimentation would create fertile ground for further digital skills development and uptake of the platform.
The open source structure of the platform allows it to be replicated on a national level and across sectors. While the prototype primarily targets employees of government ministries, it has the potential to be replicated across the public sector to include auxilliary organizations, regional and local government, health and education institutions, etc. The project’s team is currently collaborating with the Ministry of Interior in order to use the DLA platform as a prototype for the national online learning platform for public servants. Within the framework of the upgraded Public Service Register, this platform is envisioned to include other competences relevant to public servants, such as project management, leadership and non-cognitive skills. DLA’s team is preparing a set of recommendations concerning the UX design, technical and administrative aspects of the platform. In such way, DLA’s model could be replicated to include other competences relevant to public servants.
While in the initial stages of research the potential beneficiaries pointed to scarce financial and human resources, organisers realized that the key reason behind insufficient digital skills is the absence of lifelong learning culture in the public sector. Hierarchical structures and administrative hurdles often make it difficult for public servants to upgrade their skills that are relevant to their unique professional profile. While the paradigm is shifting towards autonomous, remote learning, learning tools are still scarce or unavailable in the user’s language. The qualitative survey revealed that the vast majority of public servants are motivated to expand their digital skills, yet only a third of them indicated that they have a chance to do so. In this context, organisers saw the value of developing a one-stop source for knowledge — one that is based on empathy with the end-user, and in synch with the priorities of the employee, the organization and the country alike.