Survey: COVID-19 revealed digital deficits in German public admin and offers takeaways for the future

Hertie School Centre for Digital Governance and Boston Consulting Group conduct first public sector executive survey on the impact of COVID-19.

The COVID-19 crisis has brought to light the current deficits in digital readiness and work organisation in Germany’s public administration, and executives will draw on these insights to make improvements, according to a survey of 281 public sector executives conducted by the Hertie School’s Centre for Digital Governance and the Boston Consulting Group (BCG). At the same time, most public administration executives surveyed gave Germany and their own organisations a very good report card in terms of crisis management.

The study offers six recommendations for long-lasting strategic change in the public sector: digitalisation efforts in every department; more possibilities for employees to work remotely and from home; the provision of mobile devices for employees to ensure the possibility to work independently and from any given location at all times; investing in modern learning systems; the nurturing of empathic leadership and feedback culture; and lastly, developing emergency plans and resilience strategies.

Executives from all levels of the public sector participated in the survey – the largest on this topic to date – in the period from 10 June to 5 July 2020. The aim of the survey was to find out how public managers assess how their organisations did handle the pandemic and to pinpoint lessons and recommendations for the future.

Overall, the public sector executives feel rather positive about the crisis management so far. Despite the sudden onset of the pandemic, those surveyed said the necessary technical and organisational adjustments could be made quickly. Even in the face of many restrictions and a heavy workload, most respondents perceive an increase of productivity of public administration.

Many executives see several positive consequences of COVID-19 and do not expect a return to the former “normality”. Instead, they want to use the insights and achievements from the time of the pandemic to make improvements in the future, including further digitalisation and new forms of work. The boost of changes triggered by the pandemic should be used to drive forward further modernisation and anchor it in the long term, they said, in order to better equip Germany for future crises.

You can access the full study here (in German).

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Views expressed by the author/interviewee may not necessarily reflect the views and values of the Hertie School.