Digital mindset: transforming the way Russia is governed

Ministry of Economic Development of the Russian Federation / Agency for Strategic Initiatives (ASI) / University 2035

– FINALIST OF THE 2020 EXCELLENCE IN PRACTICE AWARDS –

Preparing for the unforeseen challenges

The COVID-19 pandemic has vividly demonstrated how important data and statistics are for decision making at all levels of government.

In order to make accurate predictions and simply to keep the public informed, authorities should have proper tools and interfaces to collect, analyse and represent large amounts of digital data from figures that the health agencies report to the data streams sent out by the proximity apps now being rolled out by the smartphone manufacturers.

The Learning and Development Initiative described in this article was conceived by the Russian Ministry for Economic Development and the University 2035 before the COVID-19 outbreak but it proved to be instrumental in implementing data-centric decision-making processes in the civil service.

Bigger picture

In 2019 Russia witnessed the launch of a nationwide “Digital Economy” programme, (DEP) one of the most ambitious endeavours of the government’s push to modernise the state. Estimated to cost more than $24 billion over the course of five years, the programme implies a digital transformation of public services, internet infrastructure development and the implementation of future-proof information security measures.

The success or failure of the DEP ultimately depends on the competencies of federal and regional public servants, many of which are not ready to carry out such advanced projects.

That is why the Agency for Strategic Initiatives and the University 2035 were tasked with transferring the knowledge on data-driven decision making to 30, 000 leaders of government entities, subordinate organisations and government-owned companies. This project was called the Data-driven management: Chief Data Officers in Civil Service but let’s refer to it as the CDO project.

The CDO project was broken down into five parts following the general five-year DEM timeline. In late 2019, University 2035 received a government subsidy of $6 million to launch the leadership training programme in data-driven management for the first 5,000 public servants.

In spite of a large-project scale and very tight deadlines, the initiative proved to be a great success, helping those enrolled to overcome initial uncertainty and – what’s even more important – to assemble teams and come up with nearly 400 practice-oriented projects, many of which are being implemented already.

“A modern economy is digital. The government is one of the main consumers and owners of big data. Chief data officers are responsible for the implementation of data-based decision-making principles defining how data is being collected, stored and analyzed on different levels of national administration. And it is vital for us
to train such leaders.”

Ilya Torosov, Deputy Minister of Economic Development

Network approach

University 2035 used a public procurement procedure to carefully select regional educational organisations that served as a basis for newly created CDO Centres – holders of key competencies in the field of data handling and data processing practices. Eleven academic institutions were chosen to implement the initiative.

In order to deliver quality education, University 2035 created a Standard for CDO Centres (hereinafter – the Standard), that determined all the requirements needed to be met by an educational organisation to receive a CDO Centre license: an expected structure of the Centre, its tasks and goals, technical and organisational provisions needed to be put in place.

“The CDO project, in addition to training students, has helped to solve other important tasks. It provided Russian universities with an additional development opportunity by implementing their own educational projects in the CDO Centers based on technologies and the University 2035 Standard. We also managed to arouse the interest of regional authorities in data-based management, and thanks to teamwork they managed to overcome their own hesitation and skepticism.”
Vera Adaeva, Head of the ASI Digital Development Center

Personalised approach, consistent quality

University 2035 is using digital competency profiles, data tracking technologies and AI-powered algorithms to create personal learning paths. This set of online tools is an integral part of the CDO project.

Every student enrolled in the project was required to pass an initial set of tests and gamified tasks on Univetsity 2035’s online platform – we call them “diagnostics” – that include the Zimbardo Time Perspective Inventory, the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, a psychometric test, a test of knowledge of cross-cutting technologies and others.

Digital footprint: a modern measure of learning progress

During the course, every student and teacher constantly interacted with an online-platform put in place by University 2035, an interface for creating events and schedules, submitting reviews and uploading media.

The platform became an indispensable tool to closely follow the implementation of the L&D initiative and give timely feedback to the Centres as well as the students. University 2035 used digital footprints to compile a ranking of CDO Centers.

As part of the L&D Initiative, the CDO Centers have formed competent teams including not only representatives of the academic community but also technical specialists, such as EDEs (Educational Data Engineers). This has opened new ways to automate the accumulation and analysis
of digital footprints, to create digital competency profiles of students and to implement other data-driven educational management practices.

Cultural impact

Just over 5,000 retrained students, nearly 400 data-based socially oriented projects and a vast partner network are the ultimate results that University 2035 and the Ministry for Economic Development envisioned at the start of the programme. But the main goal that we are proud to declare accomplished is fostering a new culture of decision making — precise, coherent and sustainable, epitomising a modern approach to addressing the ever-changing needs of Russian society.

We have used digital footprints and diagnostics results to put together a list of the most distinguished leaders, whose data-based projects were highly appreciated. It has since become an invaluable resource for federal and regional government entities and corporations looking for chief data officers.

Many of our students have already received job offers and promotion to positions where they can deliver on their potential and use their knowledge to address social issues.

“To make further training more efficient for both students and teachers, we plan to implement
new services and products – on team building and creating educational modules, for example. We will also continue to improve our diagnostic tools in order to understand which roles the
trainees are most inclined to play in the CDO team.”
Alexey Korobov, CDO Project Manager

In the coming years, University 2035 is planning to train another 25,000 civil servants in devising and implementing data-based projects based on data. We strive to make the course even more practice-oriented, and that’s where our partnership with the Agency for Strategic Initiatives really shines.

ASI has the resources and expertise to fast-track the most promising projects that our students may come up with.

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