Hello! I’m Angie Kenny. Although I’m based in the UK now, I’m from Buenos Aires, Argentina and that’s where I’ve lived for most of my life, studying and working. I’ve experienced the classic political uncertainty and great economic instability.
After graduating in Political Science I worked at national and local levels in various governments. By luck or fate, I got involved in modernisation processes for public administrations and cities. So my public sector vocation was also fueled by a desire to transform, to make things work with the help of technology.
What I’ve learnt about the public sector
Here are the most important things I learnt during my time in the public sector in Buenos Aires:
- when we connect politics with policies we give them a better chance of success (interestingly, in Spanish we use the same word for politics and policy).
- big, old organisations often fear the cultural change that comes with incorporating technology more than the new technologies themselves.
- most successful transformation involves a lot of previous work and effort, but sometimes it’s initiated during a crisis or even after a coffee with someone.
- there’s nothing like getting in touch with your users – a smile or a hug make months of hard and poorly-paid work feel worthwhile.
- politics is still a man’s arena, and women are investing more time and effort to demonstrate the value of our presence and work.
- that the old ways of working and doing politics are constantly being renewed, and that we easily forget who we are working for.
First experience of Public Digital
I lived in London for a year. I came to study a Masters in Public Administration and Management at UCL, although to be honest, the previous years working were just as challenging. During that time, I met the Public Digital team. I spent some time with them on 2 projects:
- Advising the Government of Panama on its digital strategy
- A research report on data analytics teams for the Inter-American Development Bank
It was an incredible experience because basically, the team understands the right thing to do. Most of the people here have worked in government – not only that they made radical changes for UK digital services. Now they’re working as part of Public Digital, their vocation to improve people’s lives hasn’t changed, but rather, deepened. So much so that they decided to call the private business ‘Public’.
Although the second word in the name is ‘Digital’, it’s actually all about people – and they had thousands of stickers to emphasise that. The projects that were underway were about how to bring people together and transform them into a team. PD are interested in how to teach teams new and different ways of working with the same old problems; how to bring people into government who never imagined themselves working there – and making them love their work. Or, they’re interested in finding good leaders to empower a team, or build networks that embed new ideas in an organisation.
For Public Digital, technology comes after all of the above.
‘Fund teams not projects’ – the mantra that won me over
The approach of the ‘anti-consultant’ was perhaps what won me over finally. Skeptical by birth and by past experiences of consulting services, I discovered that PD’s success is based on strengthening teams and people. The ultimate goal is for clients to be able to understand, decide and develop the services that their citizens need, and to avoid procurement with high costs in resources and time in the future.
Suddenly choosing a consultant job over a government position wasn’t such a bad idea. The end goal was the same although the process was different. And I found myself enjoying it: the freedom to speak with Ministers and Prime Ministers about their digital transformation plans, the global reach from London and the daily benefits of working at a start-up like consultancy.
Looking forward to what’s next
Now I came back permanently. I’ve been based in London for a few months now, working to support digital transformation in Latin America, along with other digital services projects in London and Europe.
The opportunity in the region – the region I love – is enormous. If Latin America wants it, it can take a quality leap with better services that improve people’s lives.
And I’m excited about the challenge ahead.