GovTech Lab Lithuania
To promote technological innovation in the public sector, we have created a GovTech Lab - the first of it's kind in Lithuania.
The GovTech Lab addresses the weakness of a slow procurement process in the public sector by orchestrating a Challenge Series, a process that constantly scours public sector institutions for challenges and connects them to solutions in the tech community, in a way that is dynamic and involves participants from academia, private and public sectors.
In Lithuania 56.4% of public procurements of IT services (2011-2015) are won by the same 20 companies and 64% of the time only one company enters the tender. These statistics reveal problems of vendor lock-in, which makes it difficult for new players, especially new and smaller companies, to participate in government procurement. There are several soft skills that deepen this problem: a lack of collaboration between ministries, a limited knowledge of emerging technologies amongst public sector servants, a segmented ecosystem that hinders the transfer of knowledge from other sectors into government.
The GovTech Lab offers a new, holistic approach to emerging technology in Lithuania. First, the Lab uses a bottom-up approach and seeks to educate public sector servants – both those in central and local governments – on what technology exists, the potential application of emerging technology in government, and additional ethical and moral concerns that should be taken into consideration. The Lab organizes a “GovTech Forum”, partnering with the Bank of Lithuania and Ministry of Economy and Innovation, which provides lessons and a formalized resource network of people to enable the transfer of knowledge across different government institutions and to facilitate cross-institutional innovative technology projects. Second, the Lab uses a top-down approach by sending its team members as a task force to consult government leaders on methods to foster innovation, having already visited over 20 institutions.
Finally, the Lab actively works to make its GovTech initiatives open to all citizens, both through events where citizens are encouraged to provide feedback directly to public sector servants, as well as through processes that level the playing field for smaller companies to participate in creating solutions to government challenges. The Lab’s “Digital Lithuania Meetup” series encourages all people from society to come and engage with government officials in person. The Lab’s “Challenge series” provides specific processes to encourage companies of all sizes, academics, and other individuals to build the Lithuanian government together.
The Challenge Series is perhaps the most innovative part of the GovTech Lab initiative. The series works as an innovation on the typical procurement process, to deal with the rapid pace of technological progress in the modern era. The series begins with a call for challenges: an open call for all public sector institutions in Lithuania to submit a problem that they have, which can be solved with new technology. The challenges are then selected based on their quality, relevance and the cooperation of the public institution that submitted it. The chosen public sector institutions then become the owners of their challenge, overseeing the success of solutions throughout the remainder of the series. Challenges are later made public, through a series of events and marketing campaigns in order to generate as wide a reach as possible.
Once this is complete, a Call for Solutions is issued – an open call in which the GovTech Lab defines a period of time in which companies or people may submit solutions to the challenges. The GovTech Lab oversees this process, ensuring that adequate information is provided and any consultation needed is given. At the end of the Call for Solutions, a Pitch Day is announced, where all stakeholders gather in order to hear pitches proposed for each challenge. The best pitches are then selected after consultation with a panel of judges – experts that understand what will have the biggest impact. The selected solutions may proceed to the next phase of the Challenge Series – a process in which their ideas become prototypes and later products. The GovTech Lab oversees this and ensures that adequate funding is provided to the teams.
The GovTech Lab, an initiative of the Create Lithuania team, recently was approved for official funding under the Ministry of Economy and Innovation. The lab is going to be a project under the Lithuanian Agency for Science and Innovation. The financial period will begin in November of 2019, with the current plan being extended for three years. The current state of the Lab receives minimal financing, so once the financial period kicks in the initiatives of the Lab will see rapid growth. Conferences, events and constantly running challenge series will ensure that over the next three years, Lithuania emerges a regional leader in the GovTech sector. This is already evident with the GovTech Baltic Leaders conference that is planned for the fall of 2019. Held in Vilnius, the GovTech Baltic Leaders conference will bring together the best and brightest minds in GovTech, to share knowledge and discover new ways of connecting even more people to the GovTech community.
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
Lithuania’s GovTech Lab creates a way of solving the biggest challenges facing public sector institutions that is innovative, on a national and international level. The Lab as an initiative is something that has not been previously tried in Lithuania. Working with a systematic top-down and bottom-up approach is something no other Lithuanian public sector institution has risked trying. The Lab creates a centralized hub for tech innovation in the public sector, giving the opportunity for all public sector institutions to benefit. Whether it is in the form of the GovTech Forum, Digital Lithuania Meetups or the Challenge Series, the GovTech Lab creates a culture of innovative thinking in the public sector that is open to all. This open mindset sets the GovTech Lab apart as something accessible to citizens, businesses and public servants alike.
What is the current status of your innovation?
Currently, the project is being worked on via the Create Lithuania initiative. The formalization and future financing for the project is currently being negotiated, although formal approval has been granted by the Ministry of Economy and Innovation. The project is fortunate to have the full backing of the minister and the ministry’s innovation team.
Internally, the team is currently working on a pilot run of the first challenge series. As the financing for the project has not yet been initiated, the team is looking at how to complete a challenge series, finding support from outside partnerships. This is with the goal in mind to learn from the pilot and improve upon future runs of the challenge series.
Collaborations & Partnerships
Virginijus Sinkevicius - Minister of Economy and Innovation. Oversight of project and presentation to Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai
Elijus Civilis – Lithuania’s CIO. Responsible for allocating support for the initiative from other key stakeholders.
Agency for Science, Innovation and Technology. Ensures funding for initiative is allocated appropriately.
Invest Lithuania – institution where project was initiated.
101 institutions from public and private sector.
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
Bank of Lithuania – Challenge owner
Kaunas 2022 Contemporary Capital – Challenge owner
Lietuvos Energija Group – Challenge owner
Travel Lithuania – Challenge owner
Lithuanian start-up community – now has a government that is open to implement technological innovations from SMEs.
Public servants – receiving additional new education on technological innovation and how it can impact their lives and their work.
Citizens – have the ability to attend GovTech events and discuss ideas openly.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
-6 Digital Lithuania meetups: these regularly occurring meetups have created a culture of innovation knowledge sharing that brings together people from academia, private and public sectors. The meetups are innovative and open to the general public, ensuring the maximum reach of information.
-4 GovTech Forum events: The initiated GovTech Forum events have transformed knowledge sharing within Lithuania’s public sector. Discussions on innovative topics such as artificial intelligence and open data have increased the technical competencies of all involved public servants. More Forum events with targeted work streams are planned for the future.
Hundreds of people regularly attending events. The unique openness of Lithuania’s GovTech events has created a high level of interest from the public which is evident in the number of people participating in the open discussions.
-4 institutions presenting with 4 on-going challenges for the challenge series, each different and unique.
Challenges and Failures
The team initiating the GovTech Lab in Lithuania was faced with a large number of challenges from the beginning. Firstly, the term “GovTech” was not in the vocabulary of the Lithuanian public. To combat this, the team initiated a media marketing campaign, with an intro video, website, and Facebook page all aimed at creating accessible information that educates as many people about the concept of GovTech as possible. Another hurdle was the lack of initial interest from public sector institutions to participate in the challenge series. The idea was met with some resistance, especially from institutions that were more closed off to innovation. After trial and error, the GovTech Lab team was able to identify a pitch strategy that would garner greater interest from public sector institutions. Thirdly, one of the key challenges was finding a sustainable funding source for the Lab, as some of the key stakeholders have met the initiative with resistance.
Conditions for Success
-Supporting infrastructure and services: the GovTech Lab is made possible due to the existing infrastructure for innovation already in place in Lithuania. This includes the Create Lithuania initiative, which brought together the initiators of the innovation, and the Agency for Science and Innovation, which has the infrastructure in place for financing these kinds of innovations.
-Leadership and guidance: leadership was a strong force, as the GovTech Lab had direct support from the highest levels of office in the Ministry of Economy and Innovation. The guidance these leaders were able to provide ensures the success of the initiative.
-Human and financial resources: human resources were a big catalyst for the success of the initiative. The Lab was started by a team of people whose sole purpose was ensuring the successful initiation of the project over a period of six months. This endeavor is not something that would have been possible with only a part-time time investment.
The inherent nature of the GovTech Lab Challenge Series ensures that innovation can and will be replicated in the future. The current series with four public sector institutions is a pilot run, meant to test the bandwidth of the public sectors ability to implement technology innovations from private sector companies. The pilot run will present the team with areas of improvement, as well as provide insight into the processes that enable effective cooperation between the private and public sectors. This knowledge and best practices will then be transferred into subsequent challenge series’, which will undoubtedly bring in new public sector institutions as participants. Subsequently, any institution itself will be able to replicate the Challenge Series, without the help of the GovTech lab team. The initiation of GovTech events like the Digital Lithuania Meetup and GovTech Forum is also something that is inherently replicable.
One of the biggest challenges when creating innovation in the public sector is the creation of a culture surrounding your idea. Many times public sector institutions are slow to change and some public sector servants may feel unmotivated to pursue innovation, as they see barriers to in in the system. It is crucial to work towards changing this mindset. This can be done by cultivating a culture of innovation within the public sector. The GovTech Lab team was able to do this by orchestrating events that communicated out the benefits of tech in the public sector, and over time this resulted in a growing community of like-minded individuals. Through this community, GovTech has been able to grow in Lithuania, with active engagement from start-ups, big IT companies, NGOs, citizens, public servants, and other interested parties. The community engages in discussion with the GovTech Lab team and provides feedback that helps improve internal processes. Without this community, the GovTech Lab and similar innovations would have a difficult time providing relevant services to citizens.
Another important aspect that led to the success of the GovTech Lab was leadership. Convincing Lithuania’s leaders that a GovTech Lab would not only be beneficial but essential to the growth of the innovation ecosystem was no easy task. The GovTech Lab team used a top-down approach for this: first promoting the idea to the C-level officials and working down the ladder to general specialists. Each level presented a different set of challenges, but this approach helped the team adapt to questions and critique from a wide range of individuals. The best way of doing this is old-fashioned “boots in the trenches” work, with face-to-face working sessions with all key stakeholders. Of course, initiatives such as this would not get any traction if high-level leadership were not on board. Ensuring that the initiative was a priority for the Minister of Economy and Innovation helped sell the concept.
The GovTech Lab Lithuania team is happy to share best practices and lessons learned from the innovation with anyone interested. International collaboration is a core value of the GovTech team and an opportunity to do so would be greatly appreciated. This knowledge transfer is vital in creating a global GovTech ecosystem that ensures maximum social good. Lithuania seeks to be a beacon in the adoption of GovTech and other innovative government initiatives. Having partnerships with other nations either regional or intercontinental is something that would bring great value to all involved.