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Experts launch digital skills project for civil servants

International tech education experts from 10 institutions across the world have developed an online education programme for public servants

A set of educational experts from across the world have joined forces to develop an online educational resource to teach digital skills to public servants.

The project, which launched 31 July 2020, aims to increase the supply of “digital-era public service skills” into governments worldwide.

The programme is the brainchild of educators from 10 international institutions, including Harvard and Cambridge, and gives professors and educators within universities, as well as in-house government academies, access to free teaching materials on the “digital-era skills that all public service leaders now need to have”.

It also includes a support network to help educators improve the way they currently teach digital skills to public servants.

The programme comes from Teaching Public Service in the Digital Age, a new community of educators who are concerned with the shortfall of digital skills in government.

One of its co-founders, Tom Steinberg, who founded not-for-profit organisation MySociety, which runs democracy websites in the UK, and now incubates the project remotely from the Harvard Ash Centre, said institutions such as universities and in-house teaching academies “define the skills of future public service leaders”.

“We want to help these institutions to teach 21st century skills to help solve 21st century problems,” he said.  

The programme is developing a masters-level course that will be released as an open educational resource in October 2020. Underpinning this is a set of digital-era competencies that were developed by the experts over the past six months. 

They include valuing the experience of service users and their ability to collaborate, along with anticipating and mitigating privacy, security and ethical risks, and understanding the need to blend traditional public service skills with digital skills.

They also include understanding “the importance of iteration and rapid feedback loops”, and identifying chances to improve operations, policy making and service delivery, as well as making government more open and collaborative, understanding how to make informed decisions based on data and understanding how digital technologies evolve.

Read more about government and digital skills

  • The education sector’s response to the coronavirus crisis demonstrates how digital systems and skills will be essential to the future of learning.
  • A £3m fund from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and the Lancashire Digital Skills Partnership will be used to fund projects aimed at getting under-represented groups into digital.
  • Adults in the UK are becoming increasingly interested in digital skills, with over 80% saying they will become even more important over the next year.
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