Science, Technology & Data

2020 State of Digital Transformation
Eaves, David, and Lauren Lombardo. 2020. “2020 State of Digital Transformation”. Read the full report Abstract

David Eaves, Lauren Lombardo, February 2021 

Starting in 2018, every year, the State of Digital Transformation report documents the main lessons from a Digital Services Convening hosted at Harvard Kennedy School. In 2020, Harvard Kennedy School and Public Digital hosted a series of discussions on the coronavirus digital response. These gatherings, which included a wide range of digital service groups, highlighted success stories, lessons learned, and tools that digital teams could leverage or repurpose. 

This year's report highlights some of the new possibilities discussed at the convening and provides further reflections on crisis response. 

Professor Stephen Goldsmith

Reforming the Curb: Using Technology to Create a More Equitable Streetscape

November 23, 2020

When Stephen Goldsmith, the Derek Bok Professor of Urban Policy and Director of the Ash Center’s Government Innovations Program, served as mayor of Indianapolis, Indiana, “I thought I was the mayor of parking. I don’t think anything mattered except parking in downtown Indianapolis.” Since Goldsmith last held the reins at city hall, the debate over how cities should best put to use curb space and sidewalks has only grown more intense as online delivery companies, ride sharing services, and commercial businesses all vie for...

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Deploying the Once-Only Policy: A Privacy-Enhancing Guide for Policymakers and Civil Society Actors

Naeha Rashid, November 2020 

The once-only policy (OOP) is increasingly seen by some digital government experts as central to establishing a national digital government strategy and as a gateway to next-generation government services. Once-only is so called because users (citizens, residents, and businesses) have to provide diverse data only one time when in contact with public administrations; after the initial data transfer, different parts of government can internally share and reuse this data to create public value and better service for users. 

Members of the digital government community are excited by the potential of OOPs to create public value and reduce the cost of government, and I want to help governments harness this potential. I am also deeply concerned by the potential for OOPs to concentrate and increase state power and the negative impact this could have on individuals’ privacy, freedoms, and capacity to dissent. 

The goal is to harness the benefits of OOP while minimizing the risks, to create a world in which the power of the state is counterbalanced by the power of its citizenry. This document outlines the key policy questions and concerns that must be addressed by governments intending to implement an OOP. It is designed to help stakeholders—including policymakers in government and interested parties in civil society—ask key questions during the development of OOP-facilitating infrastructure, specifically identity- and data-sharing mechanisms, and the development of OOP strategy. 

This document is not to intended to encourage or prescribe a specific pathway of development, but to consolidate and present a compendium of the key considerations at each stage. This work is based on an extensive literature review across the areas of privacy, identification, data sharing, and OOP; interviews with experts in the field; and mini case studies highlighting different lessons of implementation from five countries—the Netherlands, Estonia, the UK, Canada, and Australia—with diverse approaches and at very different stages of OOP maturity. 

Read the full report

Read the Deploying the Once-Only Policy Supplement

Getting Value from Workforce Stimulus Investments: What Works in Youth Workforce Programs and How to Grow the Evidence Base

Jane Wiseman, November 2020 

The current economic crisis will likely inspire federal investment in training for unemployed and underemployed Americans. When funds are made available for youth workforce development, transparent reporting and publication of results data should be required. User-friendly reports should be created that enable unemployed and underemployed Americans to see which training providers achieve the best results, much as the current College Scorecard helps youth and their families evaluate colleges. This will benefit program recipients, the taxpayer, and society at large. Evidence about what works for youth workforce development is still in an early stage of maturity, so upcoming investments present an opportunity to advance the state of knowledge. With this data and insight, future investments can continue to fund effective programs and ineffective ones can be discontinued.

Moving Municipal Tech Out of the Typewriter Era

Boston likes to fashion itself as a global tech hub, proud of the legions of start-ups and tech workers who have made its economy the envy of cities around the country. Yet vestiges of Boston’s analog past can still be found, if you know where to look—such as in the long, brick-fronted building that sprawls over much of a block along Massachusetts Avenue in the city’s Dorchester neighborhood. From the building, which houses...

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New international project launched to bring digital era skills to public servants

New international project launched to bring digital era skills to public servants

July 31, 2020

Cambridge – MA, Teaching Public Service in the Digital Age (@TPSDigitalAge) is a new, international community of professors, teachers and practitioners who are worried about the modern skills shortfall inside of too many governments. Launched with the assistance of HKS Lecturer in Public Policy and...

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Gustetic, Jenn, Carlos Teixeira, Becca Carroll, Joanne Cheung, Susan O’Malley, and Megan Brewster. 2020. “Policy Prototyping for the Future of Work”. Read the full report Abstract

Jenn Gustetic, Carlos Teixeira, Becca Carroll, Joanne Cheung, Susan O'Malley, and Megan Brewster; June 2020

The future of work will require massive re-skilling of the American workforce for which current policy “toolboxes” for economics, labor, technology, workforce development and education are often siloed and antiquated. To meet the needs of tomorrow’s workers, today’s policy makers must grapple with these interdisciplinary policy issues.

This report describes a novel design-driven approach we developed to create policy “prototype” solutions that are inherently interdisciplinary, human-centered, and inclusive for the future of work. Using our design-driven approach, we collaborated with more than 40 interdisciplinary and cross-sector thinkers and doers to generate 8 distinct policy prototypes to support the future of work.

2019 State of Digital Transformation
Eaves, David, and Georges Clement. 2020. “2019 State of Digital Transformation”. Read the full report Abstract

David Eaves, Georges Clement; May, 2020

In June of 2019, the Harvard Kennedy School hosted digital service teams from around the world for our annual State of Digital Transformation convening. Over two days, practitioners and academics shared stories of success, discussed challenges, and debated strategy around the opportunities and risks digital technologies present to governments.

Teams that joined us for the summit used different approaches and methodologies in vastly different contexts. Some governments—such as those of Estonia and Bangladesh—were building on decade or more of experience refining already-advanced practices; others—such as the state of Colorado’s—were still getting ready to formally launch. Some had deep connections across their entire executive branch; others were tightly focused within a single agency.

Despite these differences, many key themes emerged throughout the convening. This paper contains reflections from the Summit. 

Someone orders a rideshare from their smartphone

New Research Details Need for Cities to Put Citizens Front and Center on Ride-sharing Policies

February 19, 2020
Cambridge, MA — Today, the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, a research center at Harvard Kennedy School, released two new reports highlighting transformative changes affecting mobility in cities around the world. The papers, part of the Center’s Mobility in the Connected City project, aim to help researchers and policymakers navigate the...
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Convincing Congress to Remove its Tech Policy Blinders

Harvard: Congress is often criticized for being out of step at best or ignorant at worse on the many technology trends and issues reshaping our society. How did it develop this reputation and is it rooted in reality? 

Graves: While Congress has earned a reputation for lack of tech literacy. it’s important to separate casual gaffes about technical issues—which you might expect from non-specialists in their 60s and 70s—from lack of institutional capacity for effective oversight and legislation. Both of these are problems, but the...

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Prioritizing Public Value in the Changing Mobility Landscape

Stephen Goldsmith and Betsy Gardner, January 2020

In this paper we will look at the values and goals cities affect with policies concerning connected mobility, and how to create a new framework that aligns with these objectives. First, we identify the transformative changes affecting cities and mobility. Second, we discuss in more detail the guiding values and goals that cities have around mobility with examples of these values in practice. Our next paper, Effectively Managing Connected Mobility Marketplaces, discusses the different regulatory approaches that cities can leverage to achieve these goals.

We recommend that cities identify various public values, such as Equity or Sustainability, and use these to shape their transit policy. Rather than segmenting the rapidly changing mobility space, cities should take advantage of the interconnectivity of issues like curb space management, air quality, and e-commerce delivery to guide public policy. Cities must establish a new system to meet the challenges and opportunities of this new landscape, one that is centered around common values, prioritizes resident needs, and is informed by community engagement.

In conclusion, cities must use specific public values lenses when planning and evaluating all the different facets of mobility. Transportation has entered a new phase, and we believe that cities should move forward with values- and community-driven policies that frame changing mobility as an opportunity to amend and improve previous transportation policies.

This paper is the first in the Mobility in the Connected City series.

Read the second paper "Effectively Managing Connected Mobility Marketplaces" 

Effectively Managing Connected Mobility Marketplaces

Stephen Goldsmith and Matt Leger, February 2020

As new innovations in mobility have entered the marketplace, local government leaders have struggled to adapt their regulatory framework to adequately address new challenges or the needs of the consumers of these new services. The good news is that the technology driving this rapid change also provides the means for regulating it: real-time data. It is the responsibility of cities to establish rules and incentives that ensure proper behavior on the part of mobility providers while steering service delivery towards creating better public outcomes. Cities must use the levers at their disposal to ensure an equitable mobility marketplace and utilize real-time data sharing to enforce compliance. These include investing in and leveraging physical and digital infrastructure, regulating and licensing business conducted in public space, establishing and enforcing rules around public safety, rethinking zoning and land use planning to be transit-oriented, and regulating the digital realm to protect data integrity.

This paper is the second in the Mobility in the Connected City series. 

Read the first paper  "Prioritizing Public Value in the Changing Mobility Landscape"

New Ash Center Report Offers a Road Map for Building Technology Expertise in Congress

New Ash Center Report Offers a Road Map for Building Technology Expertise in Congress

January 30, 2020

Cambridge, MA — Today, the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, a research center at Harvard Kennedy School, released “Science, Technology, and Democracy: Building a Modern Congressional Technology Assessment Office,” a new paper by Zach Graves and Daniel Schuman offering recommendations and a road map for resurrecting a technology assessment capability in Congress.... Read more about New Ash Center Report Offers a Road Map for Building Technology Expertise in Congress

Science, Technology, & Democracy: Building a Modern Congressional Technology Assessment Office

Zach Graves and Daniel Schuman, January 2020

This paper offers recommendations and a road map for the future success of a restarted technology assessment office in Congress. We look at three potential approaches: (1) Building up the Government Accountability Office (GAO)’s OTA-like capacity in its newly created Science, Technology Assessment, and Analytics (STAA) team, and giving it greater resources and structural autonomy; (2) Reviving OTA but updating its procedures and statutory authority; and (3) A hybrid approach wherein both GAO and a new OTA develop different capacities and specializations. (Spoiler: we favor the third approach.)
 
The next section of this paper reviews what OTA was and how it functioned. The third section discusses the history of and rationale for the defunding of OTA, other cuts to Congress’s S&T capacity, and why this congressional capacity and expertise matter for democracy. The fourth section reviews efforts to revive OTA and other efforts to build new congressional S&T capacity. The fifth section discusses the political landscape for building S&T capacity, including the legislative branch appropriations process and the different political constituencies for S&T. The final section offers a detailed discussion of various structural recommendations for a new congressional technology assessment office, including an expanded STAA unit in GAO, and a new OTA.
 

Richard Pope, November 2019

Looking around the world, we can see a different approach to digital government. One of cross-government platforms that are beginning to break down organizational silos, save money and change the types of services that can be delivered to the public. This playbook is written for practitioners, from public sector product managers to chief digital officers, looking for approaches to implementing platforms in government. 

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