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GovTech for sustainable development goals

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Governments worldwide are attempting to do their part to fulfill sustainable development goals. How can GovTech help?

 

Not just any “public good”

The world faces enormous challenges of unsustainable energy and material use, degradation of biodiversity, and crumbling of democracy and global justice. Governments are tackling this by, for example, setting up missions to solve problems in cooperation with the private sector. However, until recently, little attention has been paid to understanding GovTech solutions about the Sustainable Development Goals. This is a gap that Alena Labanava, PhD student at the Institute of Software Science at Tallinn University of Technology, is aiming to fill.

Educational gaps for public sector administrators

One of the first tasks that Ms Labanava set herself was assessing the role of an e-government education programme of TalTech in achieving SDGs. It is the study program where most current and future public administrators in Estonia come in close contact with the potential of GovTech. Her research was done on a cohort of students consisting of current mid-career public sector professionals.

The most significant finding from this research is the growing interest in the contribution of digital government to affordable and clean energy (SDG 7), reduced inequalities (SDG 10), responsible consumption (SDG 12), and climate action (SDG 13). 

“The results show that it is not just any solutions dubbed as “public good” that the administrators are interested in, but they are actively seeking solutions in specific areas,” says Ms Labanava. These areas of digital government education have the potential to improve. 

Evaluating GovTech by SDG-s

Ms. Labanava’s next step in her research is to create a catalogue of GovTech solutions and place them on the map. 

“Inspiration came from the GovTech Catalogue designed by the GovTech Connect project, but I think this can be improved,” says Ms Labanava. “It currently shows only labs and accelerators, but not individual solutions. We also want to classify them by SDGs so that public administrators can easily track what problem they solve.” 

Having assembled a small team, the work on the catalogue has just begun. The plan is to collect a list of companies and check how and where their solutions have been used (success stories and use cases) so that it would become a handy tool.

“The market for GovTech is global. Public sector employees need to know what solutions are being produced not only in their own country, Europe, and elsewhere,” says Ms Labanava.

A global picture is essential for accelerating the adoption of already well-working solutions across geographies and helping public sector procurers make better-informed purchasing decisions.

 

Addressing the bottleneck of implementation 

Providing a comprehensive overview is crucial, but implementing any solution requires cooperation. This is why governments in Europe and elsewhere are setting up InnovationLabs, Bootcamps, and Accelerators. Their main aim is to catalyse innovation between the private and public spheres. 

In Estonia, one promising initiative is Grab2Go, which aims to improve the health and well-being of vulnerable areas by developing automated pharmacies. For them, the main challenge is not technological but legislative. This is what their cooperation with Accelerate Estonia is focused on.

Grab2Go solution optimizes resources by enabling a single pharmacist to assist patients from any corner of Estonia through video consultations, breaking geographical barriers. It also grants pharmacists more time for face-to-face consultations, allowing them to apply their expertise effectively.

However, even testing automated pharmacies in rural areas requires amendments to the Medicines Act.  “We set up a test machine in one of the rural areas in Estonia, but due to legislative constraints, we were only able to operate it during the opening hours of the actual pharmacy,” says Olari Püvi, head of Accelerate Estonia. “This did not provide us with the necessary advantage nor the data that we required, and that would not bring out the benefits of an automated system.”

Hence, besides conducting risk analyses with mitigation strategies, the collaboration between Accelerate Estonia and Grab2Go is focused on legal changes. It would bring Estonia’s sustainable goals a step closer.

 

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