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ERA Chair in E-Governance and Digital Public Services

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - ECePS (ERA Chair in E-Governance and Digital Public Services)

Reporting period: 2019-09-01 to 2020-11-30

The aim of ECePS – the ERA Chair in e-Governance and Digital Public Services is to strengthen the Center of IT Impact Studies (CITIS), a research unit in the Johan Skytte Institute of Political Studies at the University of Tartu (UTARTU) so it can act as a world leader in research on e-governance, public e- services and data driven public innovation.

The ECePS project seeks to trigger structural changes within CITIS:
• Initiating changes to CITIS research unit, including creation of a Supervisory Board with researchers from other UT units, formation of an Advisory Group and a Professorship position for the ERA Chair.
• Recruiting and hiring a R4-level researcher with data-driven social sciences expertise and a reputation for excellence in e-governance, public sector innovation, information technology and/or public administration.
• Integrating researchers from other departments relevant for e-governance research into the CITIS structure.
• Building partnerships with governments and leading technology companies to create new models for attracting public and private research funding.

ECePS will increase UTARTU’s research excellence and curricula in e-governance by:
• Increasing quantity and quality of peer-reviewed articles in e-governance and related fields (political science, public administration, computer science) written by our researchers and the number in which our researchers are lead investigators (at least 20 approved in journals indexed by Web of Science)
• Increasing the quantity and quality of international research funding proposals in e-governance submitted by UTARTU, measured by the number of proposals exceeding the evaluation threshold, the number of successful proposals, the number in which UTARTU is the lead applicant (at least 8 EU proposals, at least half involve public or private partners, 50% pass threshold, 3 led by UTARTU)
• Increasing international visibility of UTARTU research in e-governance and e-serves, measured by participation in leading international networks, invited talks at international conferences and other events, and the number of foreign scholars, experts and PhD students visiting UTARTU in connection with the ERA Chair activities (at least 2 networks joined, 2 conferences hosted, 25 presentations)
• Expanding the number of partnerships with public and private actors beyond academia, measured by numbers of cooperative agreements, collaborative projects and contracted work (at least 3 agreements and 2 applied research contracts with private firms or public agencies)
• Exploiting research results to produce knowledge and tools, such as proofs of concept, prototypes or applications that would improve public services, increase the efficiency of e-governance, and produce predictive forecasts that provide input to policy and budgetary planning (at least 2 during project)
• Creating a comprehensive module on e-governance that will be integrated into our Master`s level curricula with courses available for students from various disciplines
• Designing and opening 6 fully supported PhD positions in e-governance that are aligned with the EU Principles on Innovative Doctoral Training;
• Creating 2 Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) on e-governance for audiences worldwide;
• Hosting 3 summer schools focused on different aspects of e-governance and e-services.

During this first period of the project, the primary objectives were to assemble the project team and hire the ERA Chair. A secondary objective was to develop strategies for research innovation, integration with other groups, infrastructure development and for sustainability. A third set of objectives were to start recruitment of the research team that will work with the ERA Chair.
Significant progress was made on all of our most important objectives. The one exception was in terms of infrastructure planning, which was disrupted greatly due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which is explained below.

• The recruitment process for hiring the ERA Chair started in September 2019. The new ERA Chair was appointed by the University Senate in August 2020 and took office in October 2020.

• With the start of the ECePS project on September 1st, 2019, the project management team was established. The management team conducted monthly meetings (either onsite or online) throughout the first period.
• The Supervisory Board was formed and three in-person meetings held to assess project progress
• All required data management and ethics requirements were fulfilled, including completion of Deliverable 1.5 Initial Data Management Plan and Deliverable 1.6 Initial Data Protection Protocols
• Work towards recruiting the rest of the research team began, with 1 junior researcher hired

• Work begun towards development of the ERA Chair Research and Innovation Plan, which has identified 3 areas of focus:
1. Life-event based and pro-active (understood as predictive of service need or behavior) public digital services: Research centered around the use of proxy data sources, such as logs of e-public services consumed to identify life-events that could pro-actively trigger public services without user action.
2. Cross-border governance and service impact assessment: Research focused on the use of automated impact assessment tools to improve implementation of the Single Digital Gateway Regulation (SDGR) which mandates cross-border access to a range of public services by end of 2023.
3. Internet voting, open government, co-creation: The ECePS team will conduct research on how digital tools can be used to bring government closer to citizens, such as through e-voting systems.

• Meetings held and analysis begun to establish Research Integration Plan, which identifies a range of collaboration methods to work more closely with 7 other research units within UTARTU

• The ERA Chair was named the head of one of the Skytte Master's degree programmes, which he has begun to redesign. Starting in September 2021, it will be known as "Politics and Governance in the Digital Age"

• The ECePS ERA Chair team executed a multifaceted communications and dissemination strategy to accomplish several interrelated goals:
-Creation of an Initial communication plan to guide communication activities and plan dissemination events and methods
-Creation of ECePS wesbite
-Carry out marketing and advertising for recruitment activities, especially the ERA Chair, including the creation of promotional videos

• Begin work on sustainability strategy for the unit, that identifies funding sources and capacity building activities to ensure the longterm success of the ERA Chair
These broader impacts will be achieved in the next stage of the project, as the ERA Chair and his team begins to carry out research to improve the understanding and implementation of e-governance. And as the first students are enrolled into the redesigned "Politics and Governance in the Digital Age" MA programme.
ECePS Supervisory Board
New Frontiers of E-Governance
Politics and Governance in the Digital Age MA Ad2
Politics and Governance in the Digital Age MA Ad
Research focus of ECePS ERA Chair
ECePS Management and Research Team
Aims of ECePS
Politics and Governance in the Digital Age MA Structure