Technology for Good Podcast: Justyna Orlowska, Prime Minister’s High Representative for Government Technology and Game Development and the Minister of Education and Science’s High Representative for Digital Transformation in Poland

“We need to be inspired by the young population…It’s our goal is to make sure that every student will find the place and do the jobs… that they are the best at. Looking for talent is a key thing” Justyna Orlowska, Prime Minister’s High Representative for Government Technology and Game Development and the Minister of Education and Science’s High Representative for Digital Transformation in Poland, shares some valuable insights in our Technology for Good podcast series.

For the next 5 episodes of Technology for Good, we are focusing on technological challenges and opportunities through the eyes of some incredible and inspirational women in tech, in the run up to and during the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference, or PP-22. This major event will gather policymakers from ITU’s 193 member states to take decisions that will shape the future of technology, making it greener, more gender and youth inclusive and more accessible to everyone on our planet.

This podcast is the sixteenth episode of Technology for Good- an ITU podcast series that focuses on how technology is helping to shape the world around us.

Listen now…and don’t forget to like and subscribe to be among the first to hear the next episode!

Available on Soundcloud, Spotify, Apple Podcasts and more.

Presented and Directed by: Maximillian Jacobson-Gonzalez
Co-presented by: Martina Camellini

Produced and Edited by: Gianluca Allaria

Production Assistants: Adeleh Mojtahed, Tiziana Ballester

TRANSCRIPT


Technology for Good – Justyna Orlowska, Prime Minister’s High Representative for Government Technology and Game Development and the Minister of Education and Science’s High Representative for Digital Transformation in Poland

Interviewers:

Maximillian Jacobson-Gonzalez, Senior Communications Officer, ITU

Martina Camellini, Junior Consultant, ITU

Max Jacobson Gonzalez:

Welcome to ITU’s flagship podcast series, Technology for Good. I’m Max Jacobson Gonzalez and I’m Senior Communications Officer at ITU. I’ve been interviewing an enormous number of interesting people in the world, from fledgling entrepreneurs to prime ministers, from chiefs of industry giants to young people taking their first steps towards scientific or engineering careers and even Hollywood film stars. But to balance things out a bit for the next five episodes of Technology for Good, which we’ve decided to devote to Women in Tech, I’m going to be joined by a different female co-presenter for every episode. And today, I’ve got the pleasure of introducing you to Martina Camellini. Martina, why don’t you tell our listeners a little bit about yourself?

Martina Camellini:

Hi, I’m Martina, junior consultant at ITU in the Corporate Communication Division, tech passionate and International Relations student. I am thrilled to be here with such an incredible woman.

Max Jacobson Gonzalez:

And we’re thrilled to have you. Thanks, Martina. Now, before we meet our guest today, why don’t we also tell our listeners who ITU is?

Martina Camellini:

So ITU, the International Telecommunication Union, is one of the oldest United Nations agencies in the world.

Max Jacobson Gonzalez:

But I think it would be right to say that is not the most well-known. I’m curious to know, how much did you know about ITU Martina before you joined?

Martina Camellini:

I’ve always been interested in tech, but I didn’t know how much ITU was important in our daily life.

Max Jacobson Gonzalez:

Exactly. And in fact, despite ITU’s 157 years, it’s surprisingly one of the most relevant international organizations on our planet today. But please, carry on Martina and tell our listeners why.

Martina Camellini:

So ITU’s aim and challenge is to connect people all over the world, through information and communication technologies (ICTs) bringing all the decision makers together from 193 member states, to discuss, study and make decisions about technology, standards, development and infrastructure, everything that affects us all.

Whoever people are, whatever their background, geographical location, economic situation, gender…

Max Jacobson Gonzalez:

And talking about gender…

Martina Camellini:

That’s why it you want to hear from women in tech related jobs so people can be inspired and, in particular the next generation, to not only inherit the future but shape it too.

Max Jacobson Gonzalez:

Not only inherit the future but shape it too. Indeed.

And this episode, we are focusing on a theme that’s intimately linked to innovation and the future: the contribution of youth to technology. Young people are the leaders, the creators and entrepreneurs of tomorrow. And our guest today has been listed in Forbes “30 under 30”. They’re playing a very important role in the digitization of the education system in Poland, and they’re also heavily engaged in fighting the issue of fake news. Welcome to Technology for Good, Justyna Orlowska, Prime Minister’s High Representative for Government Technology and Game Development and the Minister of Education and Science’s High Representative for Digital Transformation in Poland.

Justyna Orlowska:

Hi Max, hi Martina and all. I am very happy to be here today.

Max Jacobson Gonzalez:

Thank you very much indeed. Justyna, thank you very much for being with us. I’d like to start off by asking you if you could tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got to where you are today, if you don’t mind.

Justyna Orlowska:

I am working for the Polish government, and I have a very responsible role, but at the same time a very inspiring role. Why inspiring, because every day I am inspired by my coworkers, by citizens with their ideas because we are not doing the things just we made up with but with the ideas from the outside, from young people, from startups, because we believe that in cooperation we can do much more rather than doing by ourselves.

Martina Camellini:

Can I ask you when and why did you make it your goal to change something in the education system of your country?

Justyna Orlowska:

We started with a program which we call “Govtech”. It is the Prime Minister’s task force to drive digital transformation at the public sector, and we have started to have the hackathons, so to build bridges between public administration and citizens. And the first hackathon took place in 2017 and it was the first hackathon organized by the Ministry of Finance from around the world. So, we were like pioneers regarding Ministries of Treasure around the world. And that was, of course, a very fun fact. But at the same time, we have noticed that it works. It works to ask people who are not involved on a daily basis on what we are doing. So, they are not, you know, tax officers and they are they don’t know about this, anything. But at the same time, they are great experts, and they know how to solve the challenges. And that was very inspiring. You know, if you have been to hackathons, you know that you cannot sleep. It’s like 24-hour journey to solve the challenge. And so, it was very great. You know, once we were approached by those hackathon attendees and they were asking us, you know, the questions about the topics from taxes at 2.00 am, you know, and so it was very fun because basically everybody can think “Oh tax is so boring”, but for our tax officers from Ministry of Finance, you know, they felt so privileged that they were asked to, you know, and those programmers were very, very interested in this topic. So, they are doing very important job if so, many people are so interested at 2.00 am, you know, so it is, it was fun.

Max Jacobson Gonzalez:

I’m sure it was like a big, big endurance race there and that when that eureka moment comes at 2 a.m., exactly, something that people just don’t believe that is happening, but it’s true they suddenly find their second wins and then they’re working through to make that presentation the next day, which is amazing. So, I’m glad you had a great experience of that. So, we also run a few hackathons here that have been extremely successful. I wanted to also ask you, you were included in the “Top 20 Women in Cybersecurity” in 2019 and twice in GovInsider magazine “Women in the Govtech” list. You also won “Digital Shapers Award” in the Innovation Technology category in 2019, and you also received the “Digital Eagle” Award of the Digital Poland Association and the “Eagle of Innovation” Award of “Rzeczpospolita” as well. So numerous awards here. I wanted to ask you, what are you proud of, though, so far in your in your brilliant career?

Justyna Orlowska:

So, all those awards you mentioned are just the awards for my teams, because I would be in nothing if there was not a great team. And already now I have a set of teams, one of them is at the Prime Minister’s office and taking care of being like a consultant taskforce for the Prime Minister and for the whole government. And at the same time, I have teams at the Ministry of Education and Science because it turned out to be a very, very hard but even more important topic nowadays. We have just gone through the Covid and, during the Covid, around the world it turned out that there were educational systems needs to be refreshed and they need to be digital. At the same time to satisfy those skills that we call it “future skills”, but they are not necessarily based on digital skills. It means that you need to focus on such skills like cooperation, teamwork, and to be ready for interdisciplinary jobs and the jobs that even don’t exist still. There are estimates that 60% of jobs are still unknown, that will be in 2030, you know. So, it’s like it’s a big challenge for everybody to be ready for the unknown. So, what we can do, we can teach students from the very beginning to be ready for the unknown. So, it’s so crucial. And from for me, the team is the most important. And what drives me every day to wake up and to face all those challenges is that I have a great people and otherwise probably I would give up many times. But with my teams who are very focused on changing the world and they don’t know the word “cannot do” they only know the world “We can do that. We can do it together”. So, I wake up and we fight together.

Martina Camellini:

That’s incredible. I really like the fact that you work as a team. But I was wondering who inspired you?

Justyna Orlowska:

My team inspires me every day and all those people I’m meeting every day. Govtech started with one person. So, at the very beginning, only I was, even I can say, half paid for this role in Govtech, because half role was advising to the Prime Minister. So, at the beginning only “half me”, but it was formally. Informally, there were people who were volunteering in supporting Govtech idea. So, it started to have volunteers with people who had a vision to change the world of central public administration, where we wanted to really to give our support from the inside to the government in taking the greatest idea from the outside and to making a review of those ideas and advising the best of them. So, Prime Minister wanted us to set up such a taskforce for him and for his government. And from the very beginning, I was inspired by this challenge driven approach.

Max Jacobson Gonzalez:

Thank you. I just wanted to move on to a subject which I know is close to your heart and has certainly been affecting a lot of people around the globe: the topic of disinformation. Now, disinformation, as we all know, has become a global problem affecting citizens, governments and businesses. And identifying so-called “fake news” poses a major challenge across today’s growing digital information ecosystem. 37% of people living in the EU, in fact, believe that they’re coming across fake news daily. And there’ll be some high-profile cases in the news just recently of people spreading fake news, which has difficult consequences. And I think that it’s certainly a topic that needs to be addressed. Now, I know that you’ve been involved in a way of addressing that under the name of the “Fake Hunter project”. Perhaps you could tell us a little bit about that.

Justyna Orlowska:

So probably as you know, one of the naming proposals for the Internet used to be “infonet”. And in fact, this World Web is woven with information, of course, and unfortunately, false information and like you said, Max, can have the most real consequences. And once you are starting doing “Fake Hunter”, it turns out that it was pandemic, you know, how this information can be really dangerous for your health and not only for your health, for your life. And to illustrate the scale maybe, Facebook just between March and May 2020 added to warnings against 90 million false information about the coronavirus. And by June 2021, 20 million posts spreading pandemic disinformation had been removed and these are just those that were reported. So, it is estimated that around 60 million people follow fake pandemic contents extensively on major social media platforms. So, because of that, we started doing a solution. So, we prepared the tool that where you can send, and you can just highlight the phrase you are not sure if it is true or not and then the experts are answering are publishing all those results and verdicts and you can download your application on your mobile phone or you can use it on your PC. And what is very important for us, it was very important from the very beginning, is that also it is a tool that is built from volunteers. So also, if you want to be this “fake hunter”, you can be taught how to do it. We are given trainings and you can join a team of fake hunters. At the same time, we are preparing some trainings for schoolchildren, for schoolteachers and also some competitions to promote, to being hunter for fake news. And we are doing such programs like “Fake Hunter Challenge”, which is a weekend of competitions. Those people who find the biggest number of fake news, they are awarded and the biggest number so far during just a weekend was around 500 fake news.

Martina Camellini:

Yes, definitely. These initiatives are amazing. But going back to children and also the Internet, another pressing issue is the lack of Internet access, which not only reduces path to a world of information online, but it also limits the potential to learn and grow. So, did you know that about 258 million children are still out of school? So, I was wondering what changes would you like to see in education system? And also, which are the biggest challenges that you are facing in your daily work as High Representative for Digital Transformation in the Ministry of Education and Science?

Justyna Orlowska:

So, in Poland we face the challenges of transforming the educational system. So, it’s basically switching from a schooling that is based mostly on knowledge rather than skills. And it is a huge challenge because it cannot be done revolutionary. It needs to be done evolutionary because it is a huge, complex system, educational system. You mentioned that in some countries still there are no school buildings. And once you are starting thinking, okay, so we do need a place, a physical place, because what we have experienced during COVID, we know that physical place, physical meetings are crucial for the development, for the right development of young people, for any people anyway. There are a lot of questions and there is a huge, complex system. So, we have started a few years ago, but it’s an evolutionary process. And so, we want to promote more and more teaching skills and to, like I mentioned at the very beginning, to teach from the very beginning students how to be ready first for the unknown. So, skills that enable them to get a job to switch from one job to another job and to follow their dreams, because nowadays every skill and every competency is needed. You can have great salaries being a musician producer for the video games, I am saying about video games because we have just announced in Poland that in the curriculum at high schools, and primary schools too, there will be video games because we believe that being taught with the tools you like you can be, for example, attracted from video games to read the books. So, to attract, to take this book we promote such, for example, video games. Now our goal is to make sure that every student will find the place and the jobs, the things that they are the best at, looking for talents it’s a key thing. We started, for example, also the program, which is called “Future Labs”. So, every school in Poland has already 3D printers, microcontrollers, video studios, music studios, everything in order to support teachers and students to find their talents. And talents, of course, are diverse, that every person needs to find their expertise, because then we really as a society, we are much happier. So, it is very important, you know, to not to lose all those talents.

Max Jacobson Gonzalez:

You’re making me want to go back to school there, especially in Poland. In fact, sounds it sounds idyllic.

Justyna Orlowska:

You’re welcome.

Max Jacobson Gonzalez:

Thank you. I think it might be a little bit old in the class, but talking about singing and voices, ITU is actually giving young people a voice and empowering them in a different way to advance the global development agenda through the Generation Connect project, which have you may have heard of. I wanted to ask you, how do you think that youth could be more engaged in policymaking or be part of the digital revolution from your perspective?

Justyna Orlowska:

You can be involved from the very beginning. We are driving team-projects at primary schools and those projects are based on supporting local societies, local communities. From the very beginning, they are taught how they can be involved in order to support the society. To make public policies, we have an internship program. We have started with high school children. And I can tell you, I was at the beginning, I wasn’t sure if it works, but it turns out that’s, really, all those high school students, they are doing great job after school hours, let’s say, and they are really important members of our team. So, there are ways and really you are not going to be durably satisfied with all those participations because especially, okay you mentioned “30 under 30”, but it was a few years ago already. So it’s like, you know, we are getting older and older and we need to be inspired by young population because they are, you know, some things, technology things for them, they are like normal, you know, they are Tiktokers, yeah, etc., etc. It’s probably something more already and we can be taught by them, and I do believe freely that managers need to be surrounded, of course, by people with much more experience that are older but at the same time much younger, because they have fresh look and that especially when we are talking about the changing school educational system, they are experts because they are in that and of course, hackathons and brainstorms we are doing, organizing, there are young people who are open and we are very keen to listen to their ideas and that is why also we are doing internships because not only listening to the ideas but show us how to do it and to do it.

Max Jacobson Gonzalez:  

I couldn’t agree more. I think you mentioned a second ago, we are all getting older, which is which is true, but let’s just stop time for a moment here and in fact, go back in time a little bit. When you were 17 or so that say and sitting around dreaming what you were going to do with your life, what would you like to have known? I think it’s an interesting question. If you could go back in time and whisper some good advice in your younger self’s ear, what would you say?

Justyna Orlowska:

I try not to not to regret anything in my life. It’s like I always been very hungry for doing a lot of things. I was attending music school back then, so my day was like I was starting at 6 a.m. playing the piano very on silent mode. It was real piano. So, you know, this pedal in the middle was like making silence in the piano because my parents still were sleeping. So, I was coming back very late, like 10 p.m. because after school, after choir, etc.. But so, it’s like maybe what is what can be missed during such busy life is that you need to remember that you have friends. And it is so very important from the very beginning to be good for your best friends, like for real friends and just standing for a while for the purpose of your mindfulness is very important. And this mindfulness in order to not to forget what is the most important for you and what I believe from the very beginning, people are most important. And after that if people are most important, then you can do other things. But don’t forget about them, especially those real friends into your family.

Max Jacobson Gonzalez:

Keep connected and make sure you don’t to lose touch with your friends. And don’t try do everything at once. Perhaps if I could synthesize that a little bit, I think I think we’ve got time for one last question. So over to you, Martina.

Martina Camellini:

So, I’d like to know what your answer would be to the question we asked our listener on social media. So how do you think technology can support youth to create a better future?

Justyna Orlowska:

Technology can have both sides: this good side and this, like, devil side. And so, we have mentioned fake news, but it’s not just the fake news. And, of course, both young people and adults are very in danger of all those devil things from the Internet and technology. But to be ready, it’s like you need to be taught from the very beginning to what is good and to not good in the using technology. And it’s like, you know, is the same like we are taught, you know, we cannot enter the door to the people you don’t know. So it’s like there are the rules that we are told from the very beginning by our parents, by our friends not to do that. And it should be the same regarding technology. But not to saying only the Devil Sphinx: of course, technology can be a very useful tool to get to find your talents and to inspire you to do good things too. And that is why, like I mentioned before, we are implementing in the curriculum video games and for example, the first video game that is in our curriculum is the bestseller Polish game, which is called “This War of Mine”, which is the game when you are surrounded by enemies in the city that is in war and so you need to choose what to do. For example, you have a scarcity of water. So, what you are doing with this water, are you drinking by yourself or you are given to the older woman, you can see? So almost all those ethical challenges and we believe that technology is just a tool. And so you cannot say “okay, I am against technology” because you can say, if you are saying that, you can say I am against the life because technology is just a tool. And of course, you from the very beginning, you need to be taught how to do a life and to see how to live and how to use technology, the same. But more difficult, of course, because the knowledge is dispersed and the technology is changing very rapidly. It can be a tool for good things.

Max Jacobson Gonzalez:

Thank you very much, Justyna. It’s been an absolute pleasure talking to you and listening to your insights, both personal and professional, practical, and aspirational and above all, technological. And we hope to catch up with you again in the not-too-distant future. Before we go, a final word to our listeners.

Justyna Orlowska:

Final words. It’s always challenging, but I think do what you love and you will be happy.

Max Jacobson Gonzalez:

Some great advice here. Thank you. Thank you once again, Justyna. I’m Max Jacobson Gonzalez.

Martina Camellini:

And I am Martina Camellini.

Max Jacobson Gonzalez:

And we’ve just been talking with Justyna Orlowska, the Prime Minister’s High Representative for Government Technology and Game Development and Minister of Education and Science’s High Representative for Digital Transformation in Poland.

Martina Camellini:

A couple of points before we conclude. Next time you see data on the Internet, remember to flag any fake information and double check the sources to stop the spread of fake news. Why not, send us your feedback on Instagram @ITUofficial and also let us know who inspires you on LinkedIn. Let us a comment on the ITU LinkedIn account.

Max Jacobson Gonzalez:

And if you’ve got any comments or suggestions, anything or anyone that has inspired you and you’d like us to feature in future episodes, do write to us at podcast@itu.int and you can also visit our website at www.itu.com and finally, if you’ve enjoyed listening to this program, please don’t forget to subscribe to ITU podcasts. You can find us on SoundCloud, Spotify, Apple Podcasts and more as we try to dig ever deeper into how technology can truly serve the greater good for all the residents of our planet.

Martina Camellini:

Thanks for tuning in today. We can’t wait to share with you our next podcast with another great woman deeply involved in ICTs world and listening to her unique story.

Max Jacobson Gonzalez:

Thank you very much. And we hope to catch up with you again very soon.

You have been listening to: Technology for Good, an ITU Digital production.