Universiteit Leiden

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Dual PhD candidate researching digitalisation in government

Hemin Hawezy, a political & international government adviser, has started as a dual PhD candidate at Leiden University. Bram Klievink and Toon Kerkhoff are supervising his research on the organisation of digitalisation in government; a good example of transdisciplinary collaboration.

Hemin Hawezy (31) began his learning life in secondary vocational education (vmbo). This was followed by senior general secondary education (havo) and higher professional education (hbo) before he went on to university. He then started working as a government I-Trainee (in Dutch) and discovered that the combination of working and learning suited him well. He has now been working as a political & international adviser at the government’s CIO directorate for two and a half years. This month, thanks in part to an I-Partnerschap I-Doctoraat, he started his PhD research at Leiden University, alongside his regular job.

Hemin thinks it important for him as a person to keep on developing and gaining knowledge, but he also sees this as beneficial to the government. ‘Digitalisation is playing an increasing role and at the same time we have a shortage of IT professionals’, he says. ‘It’s really important that the government develops in-house expertise and incorporates the latest scientific developments. The government information strategy states that in-house knowledge and skills are priorities for our work for society.’

Academic insights

As a policy officer, he had hoped to regularly talk to professors but that did not turn out to be the case. He is definitely going to do so as a PhD candidate. ‘We’re constantly responding to issues and external factors increasingly determine our policy. Quantum computing, generative AI, digital sovereignty: these are developments that the academic community has been considering for much longer. Researchers and academics can offer insights about trends and help us arrive at our own insights.’

Network perspective

Hemin’s research is about how to strengthen governance in the information domain seen from the network governance perspective. Network governance means governance in collaboration with public, private and academic parties. The different parties have different interests but some degree of interdependence. By interacting and sharing knowledge and resources, they hope to achieve common goals.

Hemin explains that the idea of the state as a network and of us all working together is a relatively new development. ‘New public management tried to run government as a business. In a classic welfare state, the government wants to do everything itself. The government’s Information Strategy 2021-2025 is about doing “things” together.’ Hemin’s research will help the government organise digitalisation. It will show what is happening now and suggest ways to do things differently. This should make services faster and more convenient.

Literature survey

The first step in Hemin’s research is to see what shape the governance of the information domain takes in the Netherlands. He will do so by reading the literature and speaking to colleagues. ‘What do we mean by governance in the context of digitalisation? What are the strengths and weaknesses and what challenges do we face?’

Hemin is international in outlook, so will also look at how other countries are dealing with things. ‘The GDPR is a European rule that we have translated into the AVG. But Germany and France must also follow those rules. How do they do that?  What works and what doesn’t? What knowledge can we exchange with each other?’ He will make sure to remain objective and keep an academic distance because ‘otherwise it is not research.’ Ultimately, he hopes to arrive at a number of factors and insights that will help strengthen governance in the I-domain. ‘So we can all contribute to the digital transition.’

In Leiden

Hemin will spend two days a week at Leiden University, where he is part of the academic community working in this field. He will also meet other PhD candidates. His specific research project is being supervised by Toon Kerkhoff and Bram Klievink, with whom he regularly discusses his progress. ‘They are also helping define what direction my research proposal will take. That is changing a lot at the moment but will be fine-tuned as we go along.’ Hemin is taking six years for the research but will be able to apply his initial findings to the field before then.

He considers this a good time in his life to devote six years to research alongside his career. ‘I like the way the government invests in its employees and in me. We commit to the government and the government commits to us.’

Text and photos: I-Partnerschap Rijk-Onderwijs

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