Shifting the Culture of Public Procurement Can Help Improve Digital Public Services

Article by Sarah Forland: “Advancing digital public infrastructure (DPI) that strengthens the delivery of public services requires shifting the culture around how governments design, develop, and implement digital solutions. At the foundation of this work, is public procurement—a unique and often overlooked avenue for improving digital public services…

To reconceptualize public procurement, stakeholders need to collaborate to improve shared accountability, build mutual trust, and create better outcomes for public service delivery. In October 2022, DIGI worked with experts across the field to identify five core opportunity areas for change and highlighted personal narratives with advice on how to get there, including insight from some of the panelist organizations and experts…

1. View procurement as part of the innovation process.

Rather than focusing primarily on risk-avoidance and compliance, public servants should integrate procurement into the innovation process. jurisdictions can adopt goal-oriented, modular contracting practices or performance-based contracts by fostering collaboration among various stakeholders. This approach allows for agile, iterative, and flexible solution development, placing emphasis on outcome-based solutions.

2. Start with the goal, then work toward the most effective solution, rather than prescribing a solution.

Jurisdictions can create an environment that encourages vendors to propose a variety of innovative solutions through request for proposals (RFP) that explicitly outlines objectives, success indicators, and potential failure points. This process can serve as a design exercise for vendors, enabling jurisdictions to select the proposal that most effectively aligns with their identified goals.

3. Center diversity, equity, inclusion, and access (DEIA) throughout procurement.

Delivering people-centered outcomes through civic solutions requires intentional DEIA practices. On the backend, this can include increasing RFP availability and access to new vendors—especially women- and minority-owned businesses. In addition, requiring human-centered design and community input can help ensure that those who will interact with a digital solution can do so effectively, easily, and safely…(More)”.