Innovation is a difficult process. It requires resources, support, cooperation, implementation and there is always the risk of failure. And because success or failure is judged by the outcome, many avoid taking the risk and innovation is hindered. Innovation usually improves an existing process or service but is often applied, when required by the public organization, in response to environmental changes. Such a need exists today, as the outbreak of the COVID-19 epidemic puts public services at the center of crisis management, in face of a wider range of problems.
The epidemic is a systemic crisis as, in addition to population’s health, it also threatens the social bonds and the economy, requiring public services to achieve coordination, changing habits in decision-making, in working methods, in the decisions themselves.
The challenges of the epidemic in traditional management practices
Public services today face a complex environment. In principle, decisions are made with a short-term horizon, often without documentation or absolute control. Also rapid decision-making changes the previous model of increasing complexity and traditional bureaucracy. Actions precede any proof or in-depth investigation required before a decision is made.
So far, countries around the world are managing the crisis, based on certain standards, but at the operational level, countries are making decisions based on different data, as they have different capabilities according to the number of tests, the number of materials and health system workforce, equipment and front-line services skills. In this context, little or no information is available as to whether the measures taken are effective, while there is no time for testing, pilot implementation and evaluation.
Advances in technology allow governments to respond to crisis management in ways that would not have been possible in the past:
- In China, artificial intelligence technology solutions have been implemented with infrared temperature measurement products to automatically detect people whose body temperature was above 37.3 ° and to identify unprotected people, while providing real-time information to the system regarding data and information on prevention actions.
- An application was developed in Brazil to inform the population and in Sweden an education platform was quickly used for access to children who cannot attend school.
- In some countries, such as Estonia, crowd sourcing played a key role in the six-hour hackathon, which brought together 96 ideas from 860 people. There are currently 28 teams working on projects at the same time.
- The OECD focuses on the need to share data between Member States, while the cooperation of public organizations with the private sector is important.
- The EU already offers a package of 164m euros, in addition to predetermined thematic priorities, aiming to introduce innovative solutions from startups to deal with the covid-19.
Today, actions are taking place in many countries around the world, but in addition to the above, public organizations have an important role to play in developing social innovations such as platforms for information, communication or service provision to vulnerable groups of citizens who cannot or are not allowed to move from home and through which they can ask for help in purchasing and having delivered pharmaceuticals or other products from public services or civil society groups.
Actions in Greece
In Greece, many public organanizations have already taken initiatives to respond to difficult conditions using new tools or strengthening older actions. The Ministry of Interior has developed two websites for the protection of vulnerable groups and the care of animals, as follows:
- https://citysolidarity.gov.gr/ which invites companies and organizations, all interested citizens to volunteer, to support the socially weakest, through the supply of food, medicine, basic products and health care items, housing equipment but also social services.
- https://animalsolidarity.gov.gr/ which invites organizations, businesses, as well as citizens, volunteers and veterinarians to participate in a joint action and help take care of stray animals but also pets whose owners are unable to take care of them.
In addition, the Ministry of Interior has reinforced the "Help at Home" program to provide food, medical products and basic necessities to residents who are poor and financially weak, through existing social policy services and the creation of a special call center and a website in each Municipality.
Responding collectively to a common challenge
This situation is urgent and unpredictable. In these circumstances, we believe that cooperation and sharing of knowledge and data is useful. Our goal is not to highlight good practices as they have not yet been found. However, we need access to actions and and solutions to better meet the common challenge.
In order to promote cooperation, we ask public organizations’ executives to contribute with the solutions they have given to combat critical issues arising from the COVID -19 crisis by submitting the relevant form, so that these solutions are immediately available for reading.