New Era Newspaper

New Era Epaper
Icon Collap
Home / Letters - Innovation and creativity in the public sector...a dream far-fetched

Letters - Innovation and creativity in the public sector...a dream far-fetched

2022-10-07  Staff Reporter

Letters - Innovation and creativity in the public sector...a dream far-fetched

Rainahard Nambinga

One of the concerns in Namibia’s public sector management is the need for creativity and innovation. Innovation is a major source of improved service delivery in the public sector as governments are operating in new landscapes.

But how does Namibians intend to achieve and embrace the culture of innovation and creativity, and how well equipped and prepared are the citizens to accommodate government’s big dreams of reinventing the wheel to address the increasingly sophisticated demands of our citizens?

A definition of innovation in public sector provided by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) (2016) states that, “innovation in the public sector refers to significant developments to public administration and/or services that government has a responsibility to provide, including those delivered by third parties.”

Namibia’s Public Sector Innovation Policy (PSI) (2020) speaks of how “innovation in public sector is complex and knowledge-intensive, and it is characterized by various uncertainties”.

There are ever-changing interests, demands and expectations of many stakeholders, being it politicians, private sector, civil servants, and the citizens to mention a few; and to sustainably deliver services there is need to constantly engage them.

Secondly, the complexity of public sector innovation is coupled with “multiple and multi-faceted regimes of policies, regulations, legislation and institutional structures that form the public sector”.

The countries’ experiences and policy recommendations stipulated in the document titled ‘Innovation in the Public Sector’ (2017) by the United Nations, further comprehends the challenges and “uncertain nature of the innovation process”, in the public sector.

It states that there is a “lack of competition” in the public sector and the public sector does not accommodate competition, as competition is seen as a “destructive force”. There is need for openness and public servants are constrained in their ability to act when opportunities present themselves. There is intolerance of failure and any exposure to possible failure is seen as being irresponsible. This is just to highlight a few.

One is curious to find out how Namibia intends to have an “innovative public sector that efficiently and effectively delivers social and economic services to build an inclusive, industrialized and sustainable nation”, as stipulated in the PSI.

Firstly, the PSI implementation modalities speak about “programmatic initiatives and activities” to be implemented in a five-year plan and it is yet another top-down approach which allows for little participation in the innovation process.

Secondly, with the “multi-faceted” policies and regulations that make up the public sector, coupled with slow implementation of measures to address the uncertainties, Namibia’s dream to achieve innovation and creativity in the public sector might just be far-fetched.

It is true that stimulating innovation in the public sector requires a holistic, systematic, and dynamic approach. Whilst policies and frameworks are excellent for pathfinding and guidance, they can also be a stumbling block and may hinder the innovation we seek in the public sector.

Innovation requires an understanding of people, be it the citizens as the users, the stakeholders, or public servants, who are the frontline of innovation. Let the focus be on human capital. Embrace and empower public servants in providing them with the space and freedom to do things differently, and possibly even better. For an ordinary public servant to think of “something big” and it eventually gets implemented in a public institution, is a dream come true for many innovators sitting in public institutions. But will the systems and excessively complicated administrative procedures in government allow them? Bureaucracy and legal frameworks can overly constrain public servants, restraining their capability to revolutionize.

Furthermore, Namibia needs to rethink the leadership it gives to its public servants. Leadership is crucial to develop the workforce and ensuring that there are opportunities to innovate. Solid and transformational leadership is required to support employees. Does Namibia’s public sector have the type of leadership that support employees in ensuring that there are opportunities to innovate?

People drive innovations, and they need to be empowered to do so. Developing capacity for innovation is central and the workforce is a strategic partner for innovation.


*Rainahard Nambinga is Master of Business Administration (Public Sector Management) student at the University of Namibia. She can be reached at

2022-10-07  Staff Reporter

Share on social media