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ERA Chair in E-Governance and Digital Public Services

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - ECePS (ERA Chair in E-Governance and Digital Public Services)

Reporting period: 2020-12-01 to 2022-08-31

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.
Since the start of the ECePS project, the Center for IT Impact Studies has:
-Recruited the ERA Chair and filled out a team that includes 17 people, including 5 Junior Research Fellows (PhDs), 3 Data Scientists, and 5 Senior level researchers
-Articulated three areas of research foci: Pro-active digital services to trigger public services without user intervention; Automated Service impact Assessment; Internet Voting and Co-Creation
-Developed an unemployment risk scoring machine learning application called OTT, which is being used by the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund (EUIF) to provide active labour market services to roughly 70 000 people annually.
-Updated the Skytte Institute's existing MA curriculum to incorporate e-governance and digital administration topics. The upgraded MA Programme “Politics and Governance in the Digital Age” was launched September 2021. (https://ut.ee/en/curriculum/politics-and-governance-digital-age)-
-Organised two conferences, three lecture series and produced 14 publications including 11 academic articles in various international journals,
-Participated in 40 conferences and given presentations or moderated sessions in at least 23 international conferences.
-Submitted 31 international research proposals 6 with UTARTU as the lead partner. 16 of the 31 were Horizon or MSCA.
-Been part of 13 funded projects, 2 as the lead partner.
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.
Politics and Governance in the Digital Age MA Structure