OECD published study on Greece’s Public Sector Digital Transformation

Governments across the OECD are looking to digitalise their economies, and thereby enhance public service delivery. Digitalisation is an immense opportunity– offering citizens improved access to services and increased digital effectiveness – for the public sector and citizens alike. Governments need to be well equipped to meet digitalisation’s unique challenges and effectively navigate the digital transformation process.

The successful delivery of digitally enabled public services hinges upon government capacities to master the day-to-day operations of digital transformation: planning, procuring, implementing, and monitoring related projects. Bottlenecks in delivery, especially within the procurement process, put governments at risk of failed project implementation, unnecessary costs, and unrealised benefits from digitalisation.

Last December, OECD published a new review on Digital Transformation Projects in the Greek Public Sector. This review explores how Greece could overcome public services digitization challenges to ensure that digital government investments address critical bottlenecks such as the procurement process and result in policy coherence, achieve value for money, and deliver intended outcomes. Furthermore, the report seeks to help the government of Greece strengthen its institutional capabilities for coherent planning, management, procurement, and monitoring of digital government projects. It highlights the role of government-wide co-ordination via Project Management Office (PMO), a key tool to streamline project implementation and agile project delivery. This report is part of the project “Simplification of administrative processes and support for advancing the implementation of digital transformation projects” conducted in Greece. The action was funded by the European Union via the Technical Support Instrument, and implemented by the OECD, in co-operation with the Directorate-General for Structural Reform Support of the European Commission.

According to the review and like many other OECD countries, Greece has embarked on an ambitious digital transformation of its public sector to make it more effective, sustainable, proactive and people-centred.  Greece has made digital transformation a top priority in recent years. While advances in political commitment reflect this shift, development of the public sector’s institutional capacity to successfully implement and operationalise projects has lagged. Digital transformation projects present challenges in terms of governance, procurement, implementation and institutional capacities. More specifically, digital and information and communication technology (ICT) procurement presents several distinct challenges, such as: 1) lengthy implementation of procedures, 2) limited market-interaction, 3) lack of focus on quality and agile processes, and, 4) procurement professionals’ capabilities.

As Greece anticipates an inflow of public funds from the European Recovery and Resilience Funds (RRF), it is increasingly critical that the government ensures its readiness in managing top-down implementation of digital transformation projects. The report’s key findings include: 

  • Silo-based operations within and outside the MDG limit progress on reaping the opportunities of the digital transformation for the public sector.
  • Past efforts to digitalise government have failed at the procurement stage, thus generating wasteful costs, forgoing benefits, and undermining broader strategic and policy efforts. Greek authorities need to ensure that the implementation and delivery of digital transformation projects is mastered end-to-end.
  • Digital reforms require solid foundations to avoid duplication of efforts. This implies continuous co-ordination and dialogue with horizontally competent and sector-specific authorities. Each public authority already collects data on the performance of its functions. Yet the agility to reuse and exchange these data remains insufficient. Moreover, authorities tend to collect the same data for their individual data systems (when they exist) without considering the possibility of data interoperability. This not only creates data redundancy but is also costly for both citizens and the state. The proper design of technical solutions requires careful analysis and understanding of existing administrative and regulatory processes and the identification of opportunities.
  • The planning and funding process shows potential for rethinking, securing alignment in funding allocation and using project approval to guarantee coherence in project delivery.
  • Public procurement processes pose particular challenges to the implementation of digital transformation projects. The evidence showed lengthy implementation periods constraining agility in delivery, lack of strategic use of advance procurement practices and missed opportunities in centralised procurement for digital technologies.
  • Greece could also benefit from enhanced public sector capabilities in terms of understanding user needs, digital talent and skills availability, and procurement competencies. Finally, Greece can benefit from adopting monitoring and evaluation mechanisms, including specific key performance indicators to track progress and outcome realisation.
  • The willingness to transform, reflected in recent institutional modifications, and the governance challenges in developing digital and ICT projects, are an opportunity for Greece to embrace strategic approaches to digital government investment. These approaches should consider whole-of-government co-ordination mechanisms and renewed capacities in planning, procuring, implementing, and monitoring initiatives in the public sector to foster agile project delivery.

Source: Report’s Foreword available at https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/sites/426eba5b-en/index.html?itemId=/content/component/426eba5b-en and Executive Summary available at https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/sites/a9c4fce0-en/index.html?itemId=/content/component/a9c4fce0-en

Read the full report here: https://www.oecd.org/greece/digital-transformation-projects-in-greece-s-public-sector-33792fae-en.htm