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Budgets and Bytes: how can digital improve public spending?

Time (GMT +00) 09:30 17:30
Image credit:Jonas Leupe via Unsplash
This event has finished, watch or listen to the playback below.


There is currently a lot of optimism around the potential of digitalisation to reshape how governments manage their public finances to be more responsive to contemporary challenges and expectations. Much of this optimism is well founded. Digitalisation is already changing how governments administer both taxation and spending, and deliver public services. During the Covid-19 pandemic, governments with good digital public infrastructure were better positioned to design and implement timely fiscal policy responses, from the UK Government’s furlough scheme to Colombia’s ingreso solidario cash transfer programme.

However, digital solutions to improve public spending often fall short of expectations. ‘Big bang’ approaches take a long time to implement, are expensive and produce disappointing results. Governments can find themselves locked into legacy technologies and closed architectures, making them less responsive to the changing needs and expectations of users – both civil servants and citizens. These approaches contrast sharply with emerging approaches to digital government that emphasise a more flexible architecture and agile delivery models that promise greater value for money.

With governments looking to realise the potential of digitalisation amid tight fiscal constraints, this event brings together a range of voices working across different disciplines – public finance, digital and service delivery – to consider questions including:

- How are finance ministries thinking about the evolution of the technology architecture that underpins their financial management systems as well as other digital opportunities?

- What are digital teams doing to bring more data into public spending decision-making processes?

- What broader cultural shifts are required to overcome obstacles to realising the potential of digitalisation to improve public spending?

This event will serve as the launch of a new ODI learning hub on digital public finance, an initiative dedicated to improving learning methods and practices in public finance for the needs of the digital era.

Important information for attendees

The event will take place at: ODI, 203 Blackfriars Road, London, SE1 8NJ.

To attend the event in person, please email Maisy Phillips at [email protected]

To attend the event online, please click on the 'Register now' link above.

For online attendees, please note that there are separate pages to sign up for the Session 3 breakout sessions (see below). The links to join each breakout session will be published on these pages on the morning of the event.


Start time End time Description
09:30 09:45

Welcome and opening

Is a new digital public financial management paradigm emerging?

09:45 11:15

Session 1 – The view from the finance ministry

How do finance ministries see their public financial management technology architecture evolving in response to the opportunities of digitalisation?

11:15 11:30

Coffee / Tea Break

11:30 13:00

Session 2 – The view from beyond the finance ministry

How is digitalisation changing the roles, responsibilities and relationships of line ministries, local governments and other service providers within the public financial management system?

13:00 14:00

Lunch Break

14:00 15:30

Session 3 – Breakouts

Breakout 1 – Social Protection

What are the pathways towards digitalisation in social protection and public employment services?

Breakout 2 – Education

How can governments leverage digitalisation to get more data and evidence into public finance decision making processes in the education sector?

Breakout 3 – Data governance

What steps can governments take to make real time data available to policymakers in times of uncertainty?

15:30 15:45

Coffee / Tea Break

15:45 17:15

Session 4 – The digital infrastructure for the future of public finance

What are the roles of digital public goods, central digital teams, and agile delivery methods in developing the digital infrastructure for the future of public finance?

Sign up to the session 3 breakout sessions by clicking the links below:

Download the full agenda here.

'Public finance in the digital era' working paper series:


  • 1650898180903

    Gerardo Uña

    Head of Capacity Development Strategy Support Team, Fiscal Affairs Department, International Monetary Fund

  • Kirsty innes

    Kirsty Innes

    Director of Digital Government, The Tony Blair Institute for Global Change

  • 1594233496047

    Dr. Yakama Jones

    Director of Research and Delivery, Sierra Leone Ministry of Finance

  • Anir Picture 2015 v2[86] copy

    Anir Chowdhury

    Policy Advisor, a2i Bangladesh

  • Sheila Kigozi_

    Sheila Kigozi

    Director, ODI Budget Strengthening Initiative, Uganda

  • 1517263692272

    Prashanth Chandramouleeswaran

    Associate Director, eGov Foundation, India

  • Gemini Mtei.jpg

    Gemini Mtei

    Deputy Chief of Party, USAID/PS3+ Project, Abt Associates, Tanzania

  • marco_cangiano.png

    Marco Cangiano

    ODI Senior Research Associate (and former Assistant Director, International Monetary Fund)

  • Emily Middleton

    Emily Middleton

    Partner for International Development, Public Digital

  • James Stewart

    James Stewart

    Partner and Lead Technology Specialist, Public Digital

  • Hennie Swanepoel

    Hennie Swanepoel

    Chief Director (Data Analysis), Budget Office, South African National Treasury

  • christy_lowe_rszd.original

    Christy Lowe

    ODI Senior Research Officer, Equity and Social Policy

  • 1655970546036

    Alasdair Fraser

    Consultant, ODI

  • 1581356572493

    David Rosenfeld

    ODI Research Associate

  • picture-3838-1481013800-300x300

    Gavin Hayman

    Executive Director, Open Contracting Partnership

  • AllyMackintosh

    Alasdair Mackintosh

    Education Economist, Fab Inc.

  • iman-beoku-betts

    Iman Beoku-Betts

    Co-Country Lead (Sierra Leone), OpenDevEd, EdTech Hub

  • nicolaisusan.original-min

    Susan Nicolai

    ODI Senior Research Fellow, Equity and Social Policy & Director, EdTech Hub

  • Dr.-Saad-Ali-Shire

    Dr. Saad Ali Shire

    Minister of Finance, Somaliland

  • Edward Sherman

    Edward Sherman

    Deputy Director, Data Science Automation, Office for National Statistics

Plus more speakers joining online.