Research projects

Tech States

Tech States is the Institute’s video and podcast interview series with leading digital policymakers and public policy professionals. It sets out to explore the complex, exciting and at times concerning relationship between government, politics, and digital and emerging technologies.

Photo by Fazyl Nalgiev from Pexels

Listen to Tech States on Acast


Digital Government, In Practice and On Reflection

'We need a richer debate around what the institutional, technical, cultural responses are going to be to cross-government platforms and more digital public services'

Richard Pope and Antonio Weiss join Tanya Filer to talk about core themes in digital government today.  They explore the topics that Richard and Antonio intend to investigate as Digital State affiliated researchers at the Bennett Institute, from digitalisation and historical patterns of state reform to user-centricity and its discontents, as well as platform governance and shared national infrastructures. Other topics they cover include:

  • The importance of thinker-practitioners in digital government, as both a relatively young government domain, and one that often prides itself on moving at speed
  • What governments can and cannot outsource, and what types of digital understanding and technological skill they need to nurture and retain in-house
  • Future public sector skills' needs and the role of public policy schools in their development

Episode produced by Simona Rata.


Digital Government: The new global alliance?

What promises and perils does the internationalisation of digital government bring with it? 

In November 2018, the Digital 7 (D7) group of countries grew to nine. As politically and demographically diverse as Estonia to South Korea, a common identity as digital government 'leaders' nonetheless binds together the D9 member states into a collaborative and growing network. Digital government teams from the US to the Middle East meanwhile emulate the creativity of the early years of the UK Government Digital Service, borrowing ideas and code. In parallel, China is reportedly exporting its model of digital government along the so-called 'digital Silk Road' and beyond. Digital government, in its many iterations, has become a form of soft power. What circumstances provide the conditions for these new forms of international policy and technology transfer? Is digital government really a more politically 'neutral' and globally replicable policy area than others, as some digital practitioners suggest? And what is at stake in the creation of a set of digital products and ethics across borders? 

This episode of Tech States features a live panel discussion with Graham Floater (DCMS), Robyn Scott (Apolitical), Tom Loosemore (Public Digital), Aaron Maniam (Oxford) and Tanya Filer (Cambridge).


Building the architecture of "the possible"

"You now, in this era, can, should, and must iterate your way to the least bad solution...and build a culture and a community of constant improvement."

This episode of Tech States features Tom Loosemore, co-founder of Public Digital and prior co-founder of the UK Government Digital Service. Interviewed by Dr. Tanya Filer, Tom discusses his recent essay on 'Government as a Platform' (GaaP), as well as the politics and practice of digitising government more broadly. They also discuss the globalisation of digital government models and methods, and the intersection between GaaP and the GovTech industry. Throughout, Tom argues passionately for the need for accountability, humility, and iteration.

Prior to GDS, Tom ran the digital innovation arm of Channel 4. He was responsible for the BBC’s internet strategy between 2001 and 2007. In 2003, he helped found mySociety, and in the mid-90s Tom was a journalist on the UK edition of Wired Magazine.

Interview produced by Eloise Stevens.

Tom's essay can be found here.

A full transcript is online here


Innovative Government for the 'Start-up Nation'

This episode of Tech States features Shai-lee Spigelman, CEO of Digital Israel. Digital Israel was established as Israel's digital government bureau by the Office of the Prime Minister in 2014, and is now based in the Ministry for Social Equality.  Interviewed by Dr. Tanya Filer, Shai-lee discusses the ambition of Digital Israel to bring some of the digital talent and creativity of Israel's Hi-Tech industry—the success of which has earned the young state the moniker of 'Start-up Nation' —into government, to better serve Israeli citizens. Topics include cross-organisational collaboration; digital talent pipelines for the public sector; the growth of the Israeli Digital Health market; and the challenges and opportunities for 'GovTech' start-ups seeking to work with the public sector.
 
Shai-lee Spigelman is CEO of Digital Israel. Previously, she served in a number of senior roles at Microsoft Israel, the last of which was as VP Marketing and Corporate Social Responsibility, also serving as a member of the Microsoft Israel R&D center’s management. Prior to that, Shai-Lee served at Bank Hapoalim as Deputy Director for Strategy, developing marketing activities and ventures to increase business potential. Shai-Lee holds a Master's Degree in Public Policy from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and an LL.B Degree from Tel-Aviv University.

Recorded and edited by Gizem Ozdemir, TLV1.


Russell Davies

"If you make the machine work incredibly effectively, what are the checks and balances to stop people abusing that?" 

Russell Davies is former Director of Strategy for the UK Government Digital Service (GDS), which is widely considered a global pioneer in digital government. In this episode, Russell discusses the founding days of GDS, the challenges to public sector technology reform, institutional memory-building, and the future of digital government in cities and states across the world.


About Tech States

Tech States sets out to explore the complex, exciting and at times concerning relationship between government, politics, and digital and new technologies.

In what ways are states engaging digital technologies as instruments of government? How do these uses enhance democracy or put it under pressure? What role should the state play in regulating how citizens and businesses develop and use digital and new technologies? Tech States sets out to tackle these and related questions.

In our conversations, we hope to contribute to better understanding of the challenges and opportunities that digital technologies pose to statecraft; to encourage critical reflection among varied stakeholders; and to strengthen the relationship between the practice of public policy and research on the digital state.

For further information on Tech States, please contact Dr. Tanya Filer: tf239@cam.ac.uk. Tech States forms part of the broader Digital State programme.