Digital Transformation in Germany and Estonia – a collaborative learning experience between Tallinn University of Technology and the University of Konstanz

Duration of the project

09.04.2018. - 15.06.2018.

Countries and institutions involved in the project

Tallinn University of Technology
University of Konstanz

Aim of the project

This innovative teaching project was important in many ways.

With the “Tallinn Declaration on eGovernment” the EU and EFTA countries commit to accelerating the digital transformation of governments. The goal is to design public services along the following principles: digital-by-default, inclusiveness and accessibility; once only; trustworthiness and security; openness and transparency; and interoperability by default. Few countries have implemented these principles so far, except for Estonia that has already transformed 99% of its administrative acts from analogue into digital. In contrast, despite large amounts of investment into digital government, digitization of German public administrations is declining, acceptance and use by German citizen is regressing.

In this seminar, we brought together two perspectives: First, the German public administration viewpoint of digitalization in large hierarchical bureaucracies with legacy systems, that focus mostly on legal barriers, such as data protection, data security, boundaries due to federalism, decentralized budgets and decision making as a result of the department principle (“Ressortprinzip”), citizens’ lack of trust in the usability and reliability of government services, and declining digital competencies among citizens. We contrasted the German approach, that is replicated in many “old” bureaucracies, with Estonia’s open system bureaucracy with non-professionalized career paths in public administration, a start-up attitude toward digitalization as a „Country-as-a-Service“ concept, and a very distinct education of citizens at all ages to acquire digital competencies.

Students got to know the foundational theories of digital governance and were able to apply them to a problem-oriented research question. In addition, were able to identify barriers and drivers for digitization of administrative acts based on the newest theoretical findings and combined this knowledge with their own data collection efforts. All this took place in digital, international and interdisciplinary environment meaning the students learnt how to collaborate online across distributed workspaces and academic cultures. Last but not least, this innovative teaching project taught students how to communicate their results in online writing formats and present them in a visually appealing way.

The professors and lecturers gained experience in digital literacy, especially in the field of digital forms of cooperation and now, in terms of the sustainability of the measures, transfer these to other thematic seminars. The learned forms of cooperation and networking are made available on a conceptual level to other departments within the universities.

Main activities of the project

Block seminar at the University of Konstanz, Germany, June 14-15, 2018, Room M628.

Final schedule:

Thursday 14th June:

9:00 am           Welcome, plan for the next two days & any open questions (room M628)

9:15 am           Work in teams to finalize posters & Medium journal entry

12:30 pm         Bring posters to printer in M 524

12:30 pm         Lunch (Mensa UKon)

2:00 pm           Meet experts in digital government from City of Konstanz & Seitenbau (M628)

4 pm – 6 pm    Guided City Tour of the city of Constance

6 pm                Dinner at Brauhaus

Friday 15th June:

10:00 am                     Final presentation and feedback (room M628)

1:00 pm           Lunch (Mensa UKon)

3.00 pm           Boat Tour

Meeting point: Harbour

6 pm                Dinner at Hafenhalle

Target group and number of persons involved

Direct: MA and PhD students from Tallinn University of Technology and University of Konstanz, 13 + 15 students.

Indirect: All of the students involved in the project shared the information about it to at least 2 more study colleagues, meaning at least about 60 people had indirect benefit.

Tallinn University of Technology and the University of Konstanz plan to have further continuous exchange of students. In that sense the indirect benefit of the project is very diverse.