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Harvard Kennedy School

Digital Transformation in Government: Innovating Public Policy & Service

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Digital Transformation in Government: Innovating Public Policy & Service

Next dates

Nov 10—15
6 days
Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States
USD 9400
USD 1566 per day
Mar 8—13, 2020
6 days
Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States
USD 9400
USD 1566 per day


The digital tools available to large organizations today are often inferior and harder to use than those available over the web at home. Besides damaging citizens’ confidence in government, this reality can also be demoralizing to employees who feel hamstrung and unproductive.

This is just one of the numerous challenges public agencies confront in a society and economy undergoing a digital transformation. Our new digital era requires a fundamental shift in mindsets and a change in how we live and think.

Since technology is essential to the functioning of government agencies, they must adapt to this evolving environment. That means moving away from conceptual frameworks, organizational models and programs developed decades ago. Instead, they must focus on understanding how digital technology can enhance their operational and policy work. Doing so can lead to success, while failing to do so can lead to debacles like

Technology and the Future of Public Management

Led by Harvard Professor David Eaves and other expert practitioners, Digital Transformation in Government: Innovating Public Policy & Service provides a framework for understanding the digital world and a roadmap for your organization. In this program, you will:

  • Learn how public agencies can catch up and make the transition to a digital-first paradigm.
  • Explore the impact of digital technologies on policy work, regulation and service provision.
  • Uncover the right questions to ask and methodologies for rethinking strategic planning and operations in a digital-driven world.

Digital Transformation in Government will provide you with:

  • A greater understanding of the rise of digital platforms and the opportunities and challenges they create
  • A framework for procuring and managing large IT projects
  • Insight into how the digital space will inform the future of public policy, from the perspective of governance, operability and user-focused design
  • The ability to best address the political and ethical dimensions of governing in a digital age
  • An understanding of how the use of social media has an impact on public institutions, both from an internal and external perspective
  • An outline of how to help your organization migrate toward becoming digital-first


Digital Transformation in Government is a one-week program that helps executives like you gain a greater understanding of the multiple ways in which digital platforms, communications and design have an impact on policy and programs — and how they can be leveraged for greater success.

The program uses a unique combination of lectures, case studies, exercises, small group projects and robust class discussions to deliver the curriculum.

The Digital Transformation in Government curriculum focuses on:

  • How the Internet works and scoping the problem of “What is Digital?”
  • Agile versus waterfall project management and why it matters for public managers in a digital age
  • Leveraging data and how big data intersects with public policy
  • Digital security and what you need to know
  • Adaptive leadership thinking and skills, and applying them to digital projects
  • How social media has an impact on your organization — both internally and externally
  • Ethics in a digital age
  • Issues Drawn From the Real World

Throughout the program, you and your classmates will examine case studies that illustrate the increasing relevance of digital government, for better or for worse. For example:

  • In the United States, the implementation failure of significantly harmed public perception of the Affordable Care Act.
  • In New York, following an analysis of data previously collected by the city, fire inspectors were redeployed to inspect buildings with the greatest likelihood of endangering first responders’ lives during fires.
  • In Canada, problems with the Phoenix payroll system left some government employees unpaid for months—and others overpaid.
  • In California, a $300 million RFP for a large IT implementation at high risk of failure was replaced with a new approach that saw a 20-fold increase in the number of responders at 15 percent of the cost.

Who should attend

Digital Transformation in Government: Innovating Public Policy & Service is designed for a broad range of managers, policy makers and technology experts from around the world who play strategic decision-making roles in both public and private organizations.

Recommended applicants include senior executives from federal, state and city levels of government, from the private sector, international organizations and NGOs. Specifically this program will benefit:

  • Managers who work in a bureaucratic organization who need to work with IT
  • Managers in IT who needs to work with a bureaucratic organization


David Eaves is a public policy entrepreneur and expert in information technology and government. In 2009, as an adviser to the Office of the Mayor of Vancouver, David proposed and helped draft the Open Motion which created one of the first open data portals in Canada and the world. He subsequent...


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