Event highlight

Institutionalising a new data culture and governance in German government: How can it succeed?

Experts discussed the needs and challenges of moving towards a stronger data-driven culture in the German government.

Governments today have the promising and challenging opportunity of modernising and digitalising public administration in a way that is responsible, secure and transparent. In an evening event jointly organized by the Centre for Digital Governance and AWS, experts from the public and private sectors came together to discuss the opportunities and challenges of a better use of data in government decision making and how to develop the necessary competencies and data governance.  

With a group of nearly 80 participants, the event was opened by CDG Director Gerhard Hammerschmid, Professor of Public and Financial Management at the Hertie School, and Antonia Schmidt, Public Policy Manager at AWS, and included keynotes from Benjamin Mikfeld, Department Head for Political Planning, Policy Issues and Social Dialogue in the Federal Chancellery, Sandra Cortesi, Director of the Harvard University Berkman Klein Centre for Internet and Society, and Mustafa Isik, Chief Technologist Worldwide Public Sector at AWS.

This was followed by a discussion on how the German government can leverage the potential of data for policy making and public administration, moderated by Hammerschmid and Dr. Philipp Müller, Senior Manager for Public Policy at AWS. Panellists included Dr. Sven Egyedy, Chief Digital Officer of the Federal Foreign Office, Dr. Ralf Kleindiek, Chief Digital Officer for the State of Berlin, Kirsten Rulf, Head of the Digital Policy Unit in the Federal Chancellery, and Katja Wilken, Head of the Digitalisation/Digital Services Department of the Federal Statistical Office of Germany Destatis.

In their opening remarks, Hammerschmid and Schmidt emphasised how the topic has strongly gained relevance in Germany over the last years. The recently approved Federal Government Data Strategy envisions a sustainable improvement of data infrastructure and data competence throughout all ministries and agencies, particularly through deploying chief data scientists and data labs in all Ministries. Additionally, the new government’s digital policy targets for 2025 underscore this topic’s relevance. Hammerschmid also outlined the importance of data use in government for the Hertie School, highlighting the research conducted by the Centre for Digital Governance as well as recent developments like the new Master of Data Science for Policy and which hopefully can help to fill the capacity gap in German government and beyond.a new generation.

The keynotes provided stimulating insights on the challenges of moving towards stronger evidence-based policy making, crucial to which are avoiding technocratic determinism and ensuring the primacy of politics. This transformation is marked by a struggle to balance a strong top-down design of data governance with a more pragmatic bottom-up development and design of data-based government. Other challenges to address include the different levels of digital competence and different understandings of data privacy and data security among the younger generations.

The panel discussed how to  address the challenges and achieve in building a new data culture in the German government. German government has the opportunity to learn from the country’s recent experiences and problems with government digitalisation and OZG. It seems especially important to develop a shared understanding, to have specific projects, which can quickly result in improvements and generating public value (quick wins) as well as foster exchange and learning across government. All panellists also pointed to the need to encourage an understanding among the executive level and develop cross-departmental data governance. It is also crucial to build a government-wide pool of data scientists, which can help all departments implement relevant projects and encourage a new data-driven culture in the German government.

Photos by © Vincent Mosch