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Developing skills for digital government: A review of good practices across OECD governments

Achieving a digital government, where technology is applied to the design of processes, policies, and services that meet the needs of users, requires the adoption of new ways of working and new competences in public administration. Governments need to foster the skills, attitudes, and knowledge that allow civil servants to work in a digital environment, integrating digital technologies to create public value. The continuous skills development of civil servants will play a key role in fuelling the digital transformation. 

This paper reviews good practices for developing skills for digital government, based on desk research and expert interviews with policy makers and practitioners from over 10 OECD countries, including Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Korea, Slovenia, Spain, and the United Kingdom. It focuses on practices to identify and assess the skills required by government employees, and to organise and evaluate learning opportunities. 

Competence frameworks are important for a strategic approach to skills development for digital government. Public administrations can use frameworks that describe very general digital skills (as does DigComp), the specific skills of digital professionals (e.g. SFIA or the DDaT Capability Framework in the UK), or the skills that should be present in government organisations as a whole (such as the Danish Model of Digital Skills). On the other hand, skills assessments allow public administrations to track skills gaps in their workforce. The results of skills assessments help to better target learning opportunities, leading to a more efficient use of resources, but systematic assessments of the digital skills of civil servants are not yet very common. 

Public administrations typically provide a combination of different types of learning activities to develop skills for digital government. Most commonly, public administrations offer non-formal training in the form of courses, workshops, or guided on-the-job training. Most learning opportunities on skills for digital government, however, are voluntary and there are additional ways to incentivise participation. In some public administrations, employees receive visible badges or titles upon the completion of a course. Moreover, the evaluation of learning opportunities for digital government is important but rarely done systematically. 

The overall conclusion from this body of work is that governments should proactively invest in skills, training, and education to make the most of the digital transformation, rather than mitigate the impact of technology on workers, society, and economies. A comprehensive adult learning strategy is needed to adapt to a changing world of work and to ensure that all individuals, particularly the most vulnerable, have adequate opportunities for upgrading their skills throughout their careers. Within such a strategy, it is important to address digital skills gaps. Individuals with stronger digital skills are better able to access digital services and use digital technologies in the workplace, which contributes to better career prospects and higher levels of well-being. Digital skills can also play a major role in supporting the green transition, for example by facilitating the acquisition of environmental competences.