Year Note 2023

2023 has gone by like a flash at Public Digital. It has been a brilliant and challenging year where we have witnessed the impact of our work being felt at an ever larger scale by our ever growing team.

This year has been marked by the expanding breadth and influence of our work. We’ve worked with 61 new clients across 13 countries, grown our revenues by over 50%, and driven a diverse slate of engagements in both the public and private sector.

We have expanded our team into Africa, and now have our second largest team (after the UK) based in Nigeria. In addition to our long relationship with the Government of Madagascar, we are now working in Ethiopia with the Revenue Authority, at a sub-national level with Edo State in Nigeria, and in an advisory capacity with the Rwanda Revenue Authority.

I joined Public Digital in July this year as Head of Africa. While I previously worked with PD as a Network Member, it feels like I have now come home to the International team, working with funders to support governments across the continent of Africa to deliver outcomes for their citizens through digital, and at scale.

The work we do, and the countries we work in, make it even more important for us to ensure that our positions - of which I am so proud - guide the choices we make.

Myself with the rest of the International Sector team

The unit of delivery is the team

Public Digital is defined by its exceptional team, and it has been a pleasure to see it grow by 26 new people this year, bringing our total up to 62.

We welcomed our new CFO, Andy, and were delighted to announce Andrew as our first UK Managing Director.

In addition to Andy and myself, in 2023 we have also welcomed: Hafsah, Alistair, Maria, Andie, Praise, Samira, Simon, Xabier, Joe, Philippa Newis, Philippa Elworthy, Lina, Lewis, Charlotte, Ian, Onyeka, Saw, Hazel, Nick, Selina, Christine and Francis. Several long-standing members of our network joined our core PD team this year, including Katherine, and another CTO for our consulting practice, Dai. We also recruited three brilliant interns over the summer: Ana Paula, Uzay and Alfi.

Ben presenting at our Summer Gathering in June

Our network has grown by 50 members over the course of the year, bringing our total number to 175.

The PD team has had the opportunity to come together as a whole at both our Summer Gathering and Winter Gathering this year in London. With PD’s people now working across the globe, it has been invaluable to meet our fantastic team in-person, and celebrate our success.

While we have welcomed new faces, we have also said goodbye to others, including our Board member and Kyu president, Farah Ramzan Golant, who has always been a huge support and friend to PD. We have also said farewell to Laura Bunt, Joanne Esmyot, Laura Nelson-Hamilton, Alex Crisan, and Cherrie Chu.

Highlights of the year: Sharing and collaborating

Alongside our growth as an organisation, a major highlight of 2023 has been our work within the digital community, creating platforms for sharing and learning with dedicated digital practitioners around the world.

One of our greatest privileges this year - and in PD’s history - was hosting the UNDP Ukraine study tour in the summer, welcoming fifteen Ukrainian specialists in the digitalisation of the public sector. Part of the UNDP Leadership Programme for women, the study tour gave participants the opportunity to learn firsthand about the UK’s experience. It was incredibly humbling to welcome this inspiring group, and hear their experiences of leading digital transformation in Ukraine.

Onyeka, Amanda and Christine with the 15 women digital leaders who participated in the Ukraine study tour in August

Another highlight has been hosting our International Show the Thing series, supported by the Rockefeller Foundation, designed to provide a unique platform for digital government teams across the world to learn from each other. We brought together presenting experts from government teams and departments from nine countries, with a further 30 nations joining as attendees.

We published our Data Maturity Self-Assessment, developed in collaboration with the IDB and designed to help governments self-assess and prepare their data strategies.

In February, we partnered with global affairs think tank ODI to deliver a series of events and publications on Public Financial Management. This partnership has connected us with more than 50 countries, introducing digital practices and building a new community of reformers.

Emily presenting at a Budgets and Bytes PFM event co-hosted by ODI in March

In November, we were delighted to be welcomed into the Digital Public Goods Alliance, and we also spent much of the year working on a climate project with UNDP.

We look forward to broadening our platforms and partnerships in 2024, when we will be hosting the Future of Government Awards, an event which champions practitioners, teams and leaders who are applying digital solutions to reform the public sector. We’ll share more about that in the new year.

In November we were visited by our friend Martha Lane Fox, who was instrumental in setting up the Government Digital Service.

High impact work, old and new

At the forefront of our work in Africa has been our partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation on their Digi Link project in Edo State, Nigeria. We are building the digital capability of the civil and public servants in the state through a variety of methods, and it has been heartening to watch those teams begin to confidently solve challenges through design sprints. We are also creating sustainable digital transformation by helping the state to establish a new Digital and Data Agency that will build services for all citizens and residents, including the marginalised.

Our work elsewhere in the region has been expanded by an engagement with the Ethiopia Revenue Authority, where we are conducting an in-depth assessment of the Agency’s digital maturity and providing recommendations to further its digital transformation.

Myself and Onyeka hosting Osa Bazuaye (the newly appointed Head of the Digital Governance & Data Management Agency), Madam Sarah Ajose-Adeogun (Special Adviser to the Governor) and Olubunmi Okunowo (Senior Programme Officer, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation) for a week-long peer learning series for the DigiLink programme.

The Digi Link Team on a visit to Nigeria in August

Our Americas team is continuing its groundbreaking work with the Government of Nova Scotia transforming its Registry of Motor Vehicles, while our Bloomberg Philanthropies Cities Data Alliance programme launched its second year, supporting the cities of Maipú, Chile and Rochester, New York.

Matilde and Heidi in New York with Rochester Mayor, Malik Evans

Amanda with Michael Bloomberg at the Bloomberg Philanthropies City Data Alliance Mayoral Convening in Baltimore

In Europe, we have recently launched an engagement with Bloomberg Philanthropies to support the City of Kyiv in Ukraine, where we are working together to transition the City from crisis response to a strategic vision for delivering human centred services.

In the UK, we have been thrilled to see the expansion of our private sector work, including our work with Marks & Spencer and BT. We are supporting their teams to modernise their ways of working, speed up delivery and improve the way they manage end-to-end demand and capacity.

Matt and Stacey outside the offices of our client, BT

We have also been preparing for a UK general election next year. Public Digital is eager to see the next administration be bold and ambitious in reworking the machinery of state to tackle the country’s challenges, which is why Emily is working with Labour Together to set up and help run a digital and technology policy unit.

We are continuing our work on long-standing projects such as the NHS Digital Boards Programme, now in its fourth year, and have continued our transformation work with UK government institutions including the UK Parliament, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and the Home Office.

Elsewhere, many of our new engagements this year have been with UK charities, including Unicef UK, Citizens Advice, and addiction treatment charity, Change Grow Live.

It has been incredibly rewarding seeing our work make a difference across so many influential organisations around the world.

Writing and events

As ever, we have spent a good portion of 2023 sharing our perspective on issues that matter through our writing and events.

Mike wrote in the Evening Standard about new data institutions and London’s growth, and in the Health Service Journal about why the NHS should focus less on buying big IT systems and more on standards, interoperability and design.

We have also published 10 PD newsletters, and continue to work in the open as much as we can. In response to the mainstreaming of generative AI, we have been doing lots of thinking and writing about AI on our blog.

We were proud to publish our first Carbon Reduction Plan this year, and are in the process of preparing a carbon footprint report for 2023.

Our first PD Sessions event featuring Kate Tarling discussing the service organisation

Travel

With our people, clients, and partners spread across the globe, we have enjoyed lots of travel in 2023, visiting cities and regions across Argentina, Austria, Canada, Chile, Ethiopia, France, Greece, India, Kenya, Kosovo, Madagascar, Mexico, Morocco, Nigeria, Peru, Rwanda, Slovakia, the UAE, USA and all around the UK.

Angie, Anna and Dai on a visit to Halifax, Nova Scotia to see the RMV team in April

Mike, Ben and Onyeka at COP28 earlier this month

We were also pleased to have the opportunity to to meet with so many inspiring people from across the digital community at events this year, including at FWD50 in Ottawa, Agile India, the Code for America summit, Nigeria’s Economic Summit, the World Bank and IMF Spring Meetings and Annual Meetings, Condatos, the DPGA annual meeting, and joining Kyu House at COP28 a few weeks ago.

Andrew on a panel about open source technology at FWD50 in November

We also attended events around the UK: GovCamp 2023 (co-organised by our very own Amanda), London Data Week, Rewired, Local GovCamp, Digital Scotland, and UK CharityCamp, to name just a few.

We look forward to making more connections - both at home and abroad - in 2024.

Joe, Lara and Ross at Digital Scotland in November

Mike with Urvashi from Global Tech Thinkers, representing PD at the Elysee dinner in Paris with President Macron

Our wishes for 2024

It has been a turbulent year for many people around the world.

The conflict in Ukraine has been at the forefront of our minds during our work with them, as have humanitarian challenges in many of the other regions in which we have friends and colleagues. Like the rest of our peers in public service, the team at Public Digital wish for a more peaceful and stable 2024.

We would like to say a heartfelt thank you to everyone - our clients, partners, and friends - who have made 2023 such an important year for us.

From Wednesday 20th December the Public Digital team will be taking a break, and will be back on Tuesday 2nd January 2024.

Until then, wishing you a very happy new year!

Previously: Year note, 2022, Year note, 2021, Year note, 2020, Year note, 2019, Year note 2018.

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