SeGRID builds on LiU’s long-standing interdisciplinary research on digital government. The primary focus is on how governmental agencies implement, use, and develop digital systems and services to be usable, legitimate, and cost-effective for administration and public services towards citizens and others. SeGRID is funded by the Swedish Institute as part of Swedish democracy aid and contributes to core aspects of democracy, such democratic participation, civil society, and human rights.
“SeGRID contributes to real progress in the democratic processes”
“Sweden is often regarded as an international role model for democracy, trust and inclusion, with impartial, accessible, and trustworthy welfare services and public administration, and managed with a low level of corruption. From this background, we build digital government in more sustainable ways” says Elin Wihlborg, professor of Political Science and course manager of SeGRID.
The research team collaborates internationally, and in addition to academic publications also collaborates with public organisations and civil society to promote digital competences and sustainable digital governance. Today, several research projects focus on inclusion and impartiality as well as the use of AI and robotics in public administration.
“This work warms my heart, and we know that we are changing the world from our little corner. Our research counts. Promoting and building democracy, inclusion, and sustainable digital transformations for the future is encouraged, to develop knowledge,” says Professor Elin Wihlborg.
Over the years, the course has evolved based on positive feedback, growing experience and expanding networks.
“We are a competent and hardworking team of PhD students and lecturers who have learned so much by developing and offering this course. I’m so impressed by our engagement, development and flexibility and not at least all networks we build. Despite the additional workload and numerous practical challenges, the team finds this work both exciting and rewarding”, says Elin Wihlborg.
SeGRID was also running during the pandemic. At that time, a lot of the course was online. And that is something that the team has been holding on to. Today, they are offering an online module before the participants come to Sweden, with lectures and workshops, so they can focus on visiting places and networking when in Sweden.
“SeGRID contributes to real progress in democratic processes by raising skills and strengthening young people who want to work towards peace and development”, says Elin Wihlborg.
Learning about Sweden's democratic society goes both ways
There is now a network of over 300 SeGRID alumni who strive to promote sustainable digital government. The SeGRID team maintains contact with the alumni through open lectures and a podcast on the LiU website.
Participants from a previous SeGRID summer school learn and share experience on digitalisation and democracy, through study visits, workshops and as here in a lecture at Campus Valla at Linköping University.
Since the invasion of Ukraine, there has been both personal support and fundraising to aid those in need. For instance, former participants are now working in the Ukrainian public administration remotely from Poland, and we are developing research together.
“By maintaining contacts, we collaborate on research, build new knowledge and competencies, and further enhance the course's impact. We asked one of the participants from Ukraine how she managed just when the war had started. She said that she was ok, she had got a lot of digital learning from Sweden, and she had also learnt yoga when she was here. Both those skills are very important to her, in different ways”, Elin Wihlborg says, and continues:
“Sharing our knowledge in this way benefits both the participants and us who work on this. We must all contribute to and care for democratic governance, especially in the digital transformation of democracy and public services, which have to be accessible and open to new forms of deliberation and data sharing. We experience Swedish society through their eyes during study visits here in Sweden. They notice and draw our attention to things that we don’t think very much about, as we take them for granted. This is a vital opportunity for us as researchers and for our society to take small steps towards a more sustainable digital democracy, and we are proud to make LiU a forerunner in this important work.”