Public service in the digital age

Professor Ines Mergel from the University of Konstanz is founding member of a new international project to bring digital skills to public servants – Official start date: 31 July 2020

The international project “Teaching Public Service in the Digital Age” is the work of a new, international community of researchers, teachers and practitioners with the shared goal of increasing the level of digital skills in public administration. Experts from ten institutions – including the University of Konstanz, the University of Cambridge and Harvard University – are developing an open access syllabus to help teach digital skills to current and future public servants.

“Our shared goal is to increase the level of digital competency among public servants in this digital age”, says Professor Ines Mergel, professor of public administration at the University of Konstanz and founding member of the project. The Digital Governance Lab in the university’s Department of Politics and Public Administration equips its students with key skills for working in public administration while providing them with the means to deliver digital public services smoothly.

The project’s key output will give teachers and researchers at universities as well as educators in internal public administration academies free guidance and teaching material on critical skills for the digital age. The content is foundational for training future staff and leaders in the public sector. There will also be a support network for teaching staff that will help them bring their own ability to teach digital skills up to speed and allow them to both exchange existing teaching material and develop new materials together.

A master’s-level full-semester course is currently being developed that will be released as an open educational resource (OER) in October of 2020. To be clear, it is not a massive open online course (MOOC) for direct use by students but rather teaching materials and support to help teachers impart new skills and competencies to their students. “Today’s launch also means that we are formally inviting other teachers to join the collaborative effort. This will ensure the course is as international as possible”, says Ines Mergel.

Underpinning this new work programme is a set of eight digital era competencies which were developed collaboratively during the project. These competencies give educators an overview of which critical skills are key for training future public administrators.

“Teaching Public Service in the Digital Age” was initiated by the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard Kennedy School (Harvard University). It is funded by the Public Interest Technology University Network, a consortium of universities and foundations that promote technologies in the public interest. The project has profited from the volunteer support by the founding members of the new project.

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