OECD Secretary-General

OPSI Conference on “Innovation in Government: The New Normal”


Closing Remarks by Angel Gurría

OECD Secretary-General

Paris, Monday 20 November 2017

(As prepared for delivery) 



Commissioner Moedas, Ministers, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for inviting me to close the first day of this conference on Innovation in Government: The New Normal. I am delighted that the OECD is partnering with the European Commission in this area. A warm welcome to the European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, Mr. Carlos Moedas.

What a necessary discussion: improving the effectiveness and efficiency of our public sectors! Of course we need to make them more inclusive, more green, more dynamic, more innovative. This is crucial to deliver the recovery and tackle climate change but also to win back our lost treasure: the trust of our people.

Trust has plummeted

We can go nowhere if people don’t trust governments. Yet trust is rock-bottom. In the OECD, only 4 out of 10 citizens trust their governments. In some countries like Greece, Japan, France, Australia, Canada, Spain and the UK, around seven-in-ten people say today’s children will be worse off than the current generation.


With rising inequalities and anxieties around technology, automation and globalisation, more than ever governments have to show people that the public sector can improve their lives and the lives of their children. More than ever, governments have to show that they are moving with the times, embracing new ways of thinking and new technologies to impact the everyday lives of people.


Governments are taking action

Despite this, most government innovation agendas are built on loosely defined concepts and inconsistent implementation methodologies. Most do not include innovation when they train and appoint civil servants and almost half have no dedicated funding for innovation.


But there has been progress as highlighted in in the OECD’s latest publication “Fostering Public Sector Innovation”. Since the last innovation conference in 2014, a number of governments have created innovation divisions, labs, and even ministries, such as Denmark’s Ministry of Public Sector Innovation.


Korea is exploring new channels of citizen engagement with its “People Transition Office”, established by President Moon Jae-in to collect ideas from citizens to shape the country’s national agenda.


Canada’s “Free Agents” and “TalentCloud” programmes are transforming the public workforce model by building a pool of talented, interdisciplinary experts who can be deployed on-demand to work on priority projects.


On this side of the Atlantic, the United Kingdom is harnessing new technologies to improve policy design and evaluation through its “Predictiv” programme. This web-based platform enables policymakers to test whether new policies work with an online population before they are deployed in the real world.


We applaud these and other initiatives that are challenging the status quo. The OECD is here to help build a global community and knowledge base to support and disseminate innovations like these.


OECD’s contribution

That’s what the OECD Observatory of Public Sector Innovation (OPSI) is all about! The OPSI provides a place for sharing, discussing and co-creating solutions that work.
The OECD offers many tools to help policymakers promote greater public sector innovation. A couple of examples include the OECD Recommendation on Digital Government Strategies, which helps to bring government closer to citizens by using digital technologies to improve accountability, inclusiveness, policy coherence, and regulation. The OURData Index on Open Government Data is another valuable OECD resource which assesses governments’ efforts to implement open data in the three critical areas - Openness, Usefulness and Re-usability of government data.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

One of the leading innovators of our times, Bill Gates, once said: “Never before in history has innovation offered promise of so much, to so many, in so short a time.” The public sector has a vital role to play in harnessing innovation to deliver on this promise.


Today’s discussion revealed the strength of our commitment, the scope of our vision and the richness of our tools. These will allow us to move from pockets of success to system-wide transformation, designing, delivering and implementing better public sector innovation for better lives. Together we can make innovation in government the new normal.

I wish you another fruitful day tomorrow and I look forward to hearing the results. Thank you.




See also

OECD work on Public Governance



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