Better Funding - Action 3: Capacity-Building and Spreading of Pilots in Regions and Cities

  • Cristina (Commu... profile
    Cristina (Commu...
    5 February 2018 - updated 3 months ago
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In its Digital Government Toolkit, the OECD highlights the need for ICT skills of civil servants, including the advanced use of new technologies in carrying out internal tasks, delivering services and engaging with outside actors, skills for the use of data for policy modelling, evaluation, data analytics and data mining to support policy, service delivery and impact evaluation, project and business case management skills as well as skills in the public sector for supporting engagement and participatory processes. In a recent publication the World Bank indicates (Digital Dividends, 2016) that while nobody can predict the full impact of technological change in coming decades, which may be faster and broader than previous ones, 'what is clear, however, is that policy makers face a race between technology and education, and the winners will be those who encourage skill upgrading so that all can benefit from digital opportunities'. The European Commission has recently adopted a new and comprehensive Skills Agenda for Europe, launching 10 concrete actions to ensure that the right training, the right skills and the right support is available to people in the European Union. As part of the initiative, the Commission launched the Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition in which Member States were invited to develop comprehensive national digital skills strategies. As stated in the Communication, 'Access to services, including e-services, is changing and requires that both users and public administrations have sufficient digital skills'.

The Commission also supports the development of competence frameworks for citizens and various sectors. Some examples are the competence framework specifically designed for customs officers, the eCompetence Framework for ICT professionals, and a competency framework for the digital skills of consumers. Furthermore, the ERASMUS+ programme provides funding for so-called Sector Skills Alliances. European Structural and Investment Funds support through Thematic Objective 11 – "Enhancing institutional capacity of public authorities and stakeholders and efficient public administration".

The OECD’s Observatory of Public Sector Innovation (OPSI), in partnership with the European Commission, has fleshed out a framework which identifies six core skills areas (iteration, data literacy, user centricity, curiosity, storytelling, insurgency) that have been observed in civil servants and that can be activated for increased levels of innovation in the public sector. Are these skills sufficiently tackling the challenges of a public sector that is moving towards the principles highlighted in the eGovernment Action Plan and Tallinn Declaration (e.g. digital by default, once-only principles, etc.)? What are the opportunities to ensure that civil servants are ready for the challenges posed by the digital transformation of government?

Cities and regions need to be a part of the digital transition. As this is a new duty, which has to be done among other municipal duties, qualified staff is needed. Also, pilots for different organisational capacities (e.g. of smaller cities) are necessary. While in Horizon 2020, primarily early (and often strong) adopters are funded, the digital transition has to reach much further. Therefore, funding for capacity building and pilots also for regions, smaller and medium cities are needed. This would also be necessary to help to implement Europe’s cohesion policy and scale the digital transition all over Europe.

Cities and Regions – all over Europe and of all sizes - must be part of the digital transition. They have to make decisions about technical and other infrastructure, services and data policy. They must invest in software, technical infrastructure and maintenance, and as a result, cities and regions require qualified staff.

The digitalisation is – apart from its innovative aspect – said to be a big changer of all kinds of structures, although the details stay unknown. As the digital transformation of municipalities is not an end, it must serve the sustainability goals at all levels, whether it is social, ecological or economic. Municipalities should use digital technologies as means to make their development socially compatible, equitable as well as energy- and resource-efficient. Such consciously managed digital transformation can support local added value, the circular economy and sustainable lifestyles. To reach this goal, cities and regions need to gain new knowledge resources.

For example, interconnectedness and digital technologies lead to growing data collections with focus in the public sector, but also collecting data within companies, who are then challenged to deal with the protection, security, analysis and interpretation of that data. Any processing of personal data shall fully comply with the applicable legislation. Among others, data protection by design and by default shall be ensured.  Appropriate technical and organisational measures shall be implemented.

Another task is to ensure the long-term functionality of public services: the technical basis of the smart city is comprised of new highly interconnected IT systems. That is why digital infrastructures – from the traffic control centre or the digital town hall to the waterworks – are exposed to new threats. Therefore, the reliability of local services and the provision of emergency services need to be considered already in the early design phase according to the “Security by Design” principle. Again, additional knowledge capacities in cities and at public service providers are needed, taking into account the existing ones, such as the working group on Citizen Centric Approach to Data in the Citizen Focus Action Cluster under the European Innovation Partnership for Smart Cities and Communities which aims to disseminate data protection guidelines.

How do existing EU policies/legislations/instruments contribute?

Institutional capacity building is covered by Thematic Objective 11: "enhancing institutional capacity of public authorities and stakeholders and efficient public administration" The ESF (European Social Fund) Regulation foresees two investment priorities under this thematic objective:

  • Investment in institutional capacity and in the efficiency of public administration and public services at the national, regional and local levels with a view to reforms, better regulation and good governance;
  • Capacity building for all stakeholders delivering education, lifelong learning, training and employment and social policies, including through sectoral and territorial pacts to mobilise for reform at the national, regional and local levels;

With the recently signed Tallinn Ministerial Declaration on eGovernment EU Member States commit to 'take steps to increase the digital leadership skills among top civil and public servants and digital skills more widely within the public administration at all levels, as a necessary precondition to any successful digital transformation of public administrations'.


Knowledge is the groundwork for responsible decision and fundamental for the long-term ability of cities to act (objective 6). Knowledge needs for the digital transformation are multifaceted: cities have to build and manage knowledge- and innovation networks, they have to decide about new technologies and data usage, or how to design contracts with data operators, network- and other ICT-providers, to ensure long term capacity to act and informational sovereignty. They will also include accessible and inclusive ICTs. Therefore, the development of a curriculum for the digital transformation at the local level is necessary. Capacity building and pilots for Cities and Regions should be a possible target in the EU structural funds all over Europe.


capacity building programme on digitalisation for civil servants at local and level.


As a first step for a digital curriculum Germany/BMUB/BBSR will test how to use big data in municipal administrations and how the necessary knowledge can be developed in cities to assess risks and potentials of big data usage responsible. Additional partners are invited to contribute with knowledge and expertise. Later the concrete demands for new municipal digital competencies need to be assessed, an appropriate curriculum developed, and competencies build. Examples will be studied to determine their results and possible scalability.


  • 2018: Find additional partners.
  • 2019: Evaluate existing programs and develop curriculum and outreach strategy.
  • 2020: Develop attractive programme and smart city academy/institution.
  • 2021: Have a fully functioning capacity building programme for the civil servant on the local level … and fit for the 21st century.

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