By Claudia Gomez
Public servants make policy decisions that affect all aspects of their constituents’ lives and as such, as societies become more technological and democratic, it is important for public servants to do the same. Public servants need to be more representative of their constituents, it’s not only necessary to see important aspects of ourselves represented in positions of power, but that we also have a voice in shaping these decisions. To ensure this, public servants need to be trained in human centered design, so that they do no longer shape policies that do not fit us. They need to be trained in how to leverage technology for public innovation purposes, and they need to be data-driven to solve problems.
In many countries in Latin America, there is a lack of funding in the education and training of public servants, as well as in funding technological advancements. To better prepare civil servants of the future, investments need to be made in these areas. Some countries have training academies for public servants, which is something that should be implemented across different countries and across regions. In addition, to training academies there should be a revamping of the curriculum and requirements, so that public servants are not only trained in geopolitics, and english but also in innovative methods for policy making. Governments need to see this not as a cost but as a long-term investment with lasting results that will positively impact constituents.
Another challenge that public servants face, is overcoming a culture that inhibits innovation because ‘this is how it has always been done.’ Technological hackathons have provided new ideas on how to best advance and improve technological innovations. However, hackathons did not become a tool in the public sector, until very recently, where many are submitting ideas to address specific policies issues. Despite their proven track record in the tech world, many in the public sector still do not fully embrace innovative ideas, hence this is a challenge that will need to be overcome, by first changing mindsets. As the world becomes increasingly tech driven, government institutions need to embrace these changes and apply them for the betterment of institutions.
Being data-driven, is also a key quality and skill for public servants to acquire, in order to make data based decisions that will positively impact society. Finally, changing the mindset to truly become servant leaders will always be the biggest challenge but with the greatest benefit, as this mindset can enable leaders to always be learning and aiming for continuous improvement within the policy making landscape.
Claudia Gomez is a Master’s Candidate for the Class of 2021 at NYU’s Center for Urban Science and Progress.