What exactly is GovTech? Strictly speaking, GovTech is the term used for technological innovation in the field of public administration. Its ultimate goal is to enable governments to provide better services to the public, citizens and businesses alike. Luxembourg’s own series of comprehensive and helpful tools have become a popular way to complete administrative procedures. At the same time, security and accessibility have become important benchmarks, thus continually driving innovation in this field. The recent launch of the GovTech Lab by the Ministry for Digitalisation and the Government IT Centre (CTIE) will now enable administrations to tap into the vast knowledge and innovative drive of private sector actors for long-term partnerships.
GovTech – innovation in public services
GovTech can have many faces, but one of the most visible in Luxembourg is the country’s online administrative portal, Guichet.lu, and the personalised spaces that citizens and companies use for administrative procedures, MyGuichet.lu. The portal offers a host of services, such as the possibility to submit forms electronically, access information about the status of your procedures and other useful tools, e.g. a simulator for rent subsidies.
These platforms are a true success story of Luxembourg's eGovernment strategy, counting over 300.000 visits each month on Guichet.lu and over 2 million completed procedures on MyGuichet.lu in 2020. These numbers increased substantially in 2020 due to the management of procedures for COVID-19, which ran exclusively via MyGuichet.lu.
However, this success relies on a number of factors, i.e. ease of access, security, accessibility and reliability. And each of these fields comes with its own set of challenges, the mastery of which determines whether or not the public will use its features. Moreover, as the technological environment progresses, so do the challenges to keep the portal up-to-date from a technical point of view – the Government IT Centre (CTIE) which manages the platforms is constantly seeking new solutions.
Take accessibility, for instance. The CTIE was tasked with finding a secure way for users to enter their MyGuichet.lu account that would also be accessible for people with impairments. The available systems did however not seem to offer all of the features that the CTIE wanted. The only viable option was to seek out innovative ideas and open the quest for solutions up to everyone.
Thus, it was the perfect project to showcase Luxembourg’s most recent innovation in the field, the GovTech Lab.
GovTech Lab: Calling upon public ingenuity and innovation
The GovTech Lab functions like a long-term hackathon: the Ministry for Digitalisation and the CTIE will issue challenges gathered from state administrations, with the clear objective to improve services in the public sector. Every individual, group or company that thinks they have a solution to this challenge can then submit a project. How the challenge is solved is completely up to the participants, calling upon their ingenuity to innovate and imagine a solution that will prove to be beneficial to the public.
The projects will in turn be submitted to a jury, which then selects a winner. The Ministry for Digitalisation and the CTIE will issue two challenges a year.
Contrary to a hackathon though, the collaboration does not stop there: the process was designed to potentially create lasting partnerships in the GovTech field. Indeed, the labs’ secondary goal is to nurture a GovTech community in Luxembourg that is going to enrich the already large start-up and ICT communities that have set up shop in the Grand Duchy.
Rethinking existing procedures
What makes this initiative unique is that it uses open innovation, thus bringing the government’s objective to provide better digital solutions together with the skills and knowledge coming from outside the public sector. As such, it is an invitation to the rethinking of existing procedures and the integration of principles that are going to be instrumental in providing the best service to the public, such as digital by default, design thinking or service by design.
Even though this is a relatively recent field of innovation, the Luxembourg Ministry for Digitalisation and the Government IT Centre (CTIE) have quickly come to see it as an opportunity to promote eGovernment in Luxembourg and extend its services. Thus, the Grand Duchy has become one of only a handful of countries to launch a public call for solutions to challenges that public services face today.