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NUPS is becoming a professional and social community

Interview with Norbert Kis, professor of the University and Vice-Rector for Continuing Education and International Affairs

Mr Norbert Kis was leading the establishment of the National University of Public Service as a Ministerial Commissioner in 2011 and now he is a professor and Vice-Rector for Continuing Education and International Affairs. This year he was awarded the Knight's Cross from the Order of Merit of Hungary. With Mr Norbert Kis we talked about past and future, about political sciences and international relations.

(Summary of the original interview concluded by Ádám Szöőr.)

Five years ago, an interview was published in the Közszolgálat (Public Service) magazine, in which you have expressed future plans about NUPS as a Ministerial Commissioner. Those who are reading that article now might see you as a prophet, since almost all of those plans have been realized. Was it possible to see so clearly into the future back then?

Norbert Kis: At that time the preparation of the University had been going on for almost a year. Thus we could draw up plans that were realistic. Governmental proposals, laws and mid-term development plans were created. The University has performed better than we anticipated 5 years ago and we all should be very proud of this achievement.

NUPS has come along a long development path during this short time and has made progress in all areas.  How can you explain this dynamism and efficiency?

Norbert Kis: The Governing Board of the University approved NUPS’ Institutional Development Plan in last October that summarizes the developments and results of the past five years. In my opinion, becoming a professional and social community is the most important. It is the community of lecturers and researches that can create a real university in the long term, not the leadership.  I think that institutional interests, working groups, individual ambitions and goals are coming into balance. As part of the current developments, that are partly results of the recently launched KÖFOP operative programme, smaller working groups, research centres and individual creativity are playing a greater role.

As a Vice-Rector you are responsible for two important areas. Regarding international issues, the establishment of the Faculty of International and European Studies can be considered as a significant achievement, which is closely related to the message that the training and education of diplomats will be conducted here in the University. Nevertheless it seems that this determination is less emphasised nowadays in the everyday life of the Faculty and the University.

Norbert Kis: In those public service positions that are closely connected to Hungary’s international and European network there is a need for specific expertise, international experience and language knowledge. All these needs required a greater emphasis on the training of diplomats within curriculum development. In a broader sense there is a connection between this process and the strengthening of the University’s international capacities. During the past few years European and international studies became available within an independent Faculty, while the Academy of Diplomacy programme and the Ludovika Ambassador’s Forum were also launched. We have also started the International Public Service Relations Master Programme in English that deals with certain attributes of diplomacy, as its name suggests. I could also mention any other programme of the Faculty or the English language joint degree program in law enforcement, in which we are also participating. Nobody can expropriate tertiary diplomatic education, however NUPS has become a key player in this field as well.

International relations of the University are constantly expanding, our participation in mobility programmes is also more and more significant, although it is a question whether NUPS is seen as a known and acknowledged University within the international community after five years. 

Norbert Kis: We have to see that the predecessors of NUPS did not have strong international embeddedness. It is a time consuming task for a new university to build its presence at an international level, thus being known among international students, lecturers and the scientific community. It is relatively easy to create promotional materials, while building professional and social trust with international partners is a much more difficult and slower process. Internationalization, like many other things, is a communal process, therefore the contribution of each member of the university is important, from lecturers teaching abroad to international students studying at our University. The brand, prestige and international trust towards the University are built up from these numerous individual efforts. If we consider that we have international students from 30 different countries, or if we take a look at our participation in international scholarship programmes, the European and international Erasmus+ programmes, or even the Stipendium Hungaricum programme then we can say that we are the most successful Hungarian University in the student proportional utilization of mobility grants. There are different layers of internationalization, therefore welcoming an increasing number of international students who can spread the University’s reputation is very important. The same applies to our international guest lecturers. It is of our great pleasure that we are more and more frequently invited to partner universities and conferences to participate in joint projects. We still have a lot to improve, however I think that each colleague can be proud of what we have achieved so far.  


All information collected by the government should be open and available

    • beth noveck

Following the 2016 CEeGov Days, Beth Noveck, director of the Governance Lab gave an interview for the university magazine Bonum Publicum. Ms. Noveck was the United States deputy chief technology officer for open government and led President Obama's Open Government Initiative. Her interview can be found in the June issue.

It’s not quite typical for a woman to be deeply interested and involved with computer technology. When and how did the topic find you?

I am lucky enough to have been born during an age of great technological innovation. As a child, I was exposed very early to technology because my mother had a computer terminal in the house for following stock prices – a late-generation ticker-tape machine – and later, when she opened a travel agency, a dedicated terminal for checking flight availabilities. We bought the first-generation IBM PC and Apple MacIntosh and, of course, I was part of the first-generation of World Wide Web users in the early nineties. But more important than technology was an early interest in democratic institutions that came from studying history, especially European history, and the rise of fascism, totalitarianism and communism. It was natural to ask how the new technologies could be used to strengthen democratic institutions just as, for example, the new technology of the inexpensive paperback book advanced political awareness and understanding among young people in the 1920s.

How can governing bodies build on the power of ICT? Is online presence a must these days?

Institutions have always embraced new technology from radio to television and now the Internet to propagate their messages and further entrench their power. It is a commonplace today to know that it is not enough to write press releases for television without communicating via social media like Facebook and Twitter or even Medium. These are simply different venues and formats for broadcasting out. What is less well-understood and accepted is how to use ICT to get information in and foster a conversation between government and citizens designed to make institutions more effective and legitimate, such as when an agency, for example, solicits advice and expertise online or even mines social media to learn more about what people are feeling, saying and thinking about the institution’s performance.

How much do you think web 2.0 can engage older generations? What are the steps of involvement? Are social sites the only way to young voters?

To the contrary, I think it wrong to stereotype on the basis of age. I know lots of older people who are avid technology users and, more important, content producers with wisdom to share, if only we ask. Furthermore, we should not limit our thinking only to the electoral process where engagement is focused on getting people to vote or volunteer to promote the candidate. That’s such an anemic view of democratic life. And, in any case, before we know today’s younger generations are tomorrow’s older generations.

How much do you think campaigning have changed during the years?

Campaigning has become much more “scientized” as a result of big data with candidates and their campaigns using large scale open data sets, including voter registration rolls (where they are publicly available), demographic information and data available from public and private sources to target what issues they speak about where, where they spend money on advertising and what they focus on and where they target their get out the vote efforts. In addition, political parties are using the web and social media to engage party followers beyond the ballot box, including asking them to blog on the campaign website, share ideas and policy suggestions, and, in a new twist, share more about their skills and talents as Podemos is doing in Spain and Neos in Austria.

On what grounds can governments decide which pieces of information to give publicity and which shall be held back?

As a general rule, all information collected by the government should be open and available on the grounds both that taxpayers paid for its collection and because, in a democracy, the actions of government should be transparent. This includes information about the workings of government, such as the information about how government spends money on grants and contracts but also the information government collects about the economy, society, and the environment through its regulatory activities. Where possible, information should be collected and published in digital form and in raw form to enable re-use by third parties. This is what we refer to as open data. The impact of opening up government data is significant. It can help government work better, citizens make better choices, and new businesses get started. For more examples and detail, take a look at these case studies on the impact of open data at Some information that government holds, of course, contains personally identifiable information, which should not be openly published to safeguard personal privacy and civil liberties. There is also information, which should be restricted for national security reasons. But even in such cases, it is important for government to publicly share the information it has and collects. Only then can we have a public discussion about whether information should be published as open data or shared with limited parties (ie. giving your own information about your health care records back to you and your doctor) or classified. Above all, we need to know what information government has.

What are your personal beliefs, do you think the future is purely digital? Do you think a time will come when online presence will be a prerequisite of exercising basic democratic rights?

If by democratic rights, you mean voting, yes, in more countries we will move toward automatic voter registration and voting online. But, to me, the future is not about voting alone, which is too passive and limited. Rather, we will, I hope, use technology increasingly to contribute our skills, know how and expertise to help improve our own communities. Giving people outside as well as inside institutions opportunities to share their knowledge could save time, financial resources and even lives. Take the example of Dobrovoletz, which cataloged the skills of professional rescuers and certified volunteers (RosSoyuzSpas) to coordinate more effective response to floods in the far east of Russia in 2013. Or PulsePoint, a smartphone app created by the fire department of San Ramon, California. Now used by 1400 communities across the United States, PulsePoint matches those with a specific skill, namely CPR training, with dramatic results.

By tapping into a feed of the emergency calls, PulsePoint sends a text message “CPR Needed!” to those registered members of the public near the victim. Effective bystander CPR immediately administered can potentially double or triple the victim’s chance of survival. By augmenting traditional government first response, Pulsepoint’s matching has already activated almost ten thousand rescues.

Concrete examples like Dobrovoletz, where you register that you are a trained healthcare worker, or PulsePoint, where you register that you know CPR, are still few and far between. But they are evidence of the promise data-driven technology holds for invigorating the opportunity to participate in the life of our democracy beyond going to the ballot box. When a person responds to a targeted call to off-duty medical professionals to come to the aid of accident victim, she is participating in governance, even if only in a small way. This has nothing to do with support for partisan causes or candidates. It has everything to do with what it means to be a citizen in a contemporary democracy.

You have worked both in the USA and Great Britain. What differences do you see in the two countries relation to ICT and e-governance? Do you think there are best practices worth sharing?

Both countries have made great strides in three areas:

Personnel: Institutionalizing and Integrating Innovation - The creation of new positions like Chief Technology Officer and Chief Data Scientist and new offices like a Government Digital Service in both countries that have helped to create a new culture of tech-enabled innovation. Both administrations have also recruited and attracted more tech-savvy personnel.

Policies: Creating the Legal and Policy Frameworks for Innovation - The enactment of far-reaching policies on open government, open data, open source, procurement innovation, and more have helped to create the legal framework for greater innovation.

Platforms: New Technologies to Make Innovation in Governance Real in Practice - Pronouncements and laws, by themselves, are not enough. Simply declaring a policy of open data is not as effective as standing up an open data portal where agencies can put and the public can search for open data. It is the combination of law, policy and technology that make the difference.

You have served along Obama and are familiar with the American system. What do you expect from the upcoming election?

I focus on what happens the day after the election. Regardless of who is elected, the legitimately selected candidate should be able to govern as well as possible and be able to take advantage of innovations in technology to improve how government solves problems and makes decisions. No matter who the candidate or the party, we all want a government that works. 

Text: Dorottya Petery
Photos: kepszerkesztoseg


Interview with the Dutch ambassador

    • he gajus scheltema

With regards to the Ambassador’s Forum HE Hugo Gajus Scheltema, the Netherland’s Ambassador to Hungary has paid a visit to the Ludovika Campus earlier this year. While in his presentation he spoke about accountability and practices of good governance in the Netherlands, in an interview for Bonum Publicum he talked about Hungarians, his experiences about his stay and the rotating EU presidency.

Since 2013 you are the Netherlands’ Ambassador to Hungary, while earlier you have served in Vienna, Bratislava, New York and Islamabad, to name a few places. In what respect does Hungary differ from all the other places in which you have held a position? What are the main features of living in Hungary?

Each country has its own particularities. I wanted to come to Hungary as I have been at several posts in Central Europe and I like this part of the world. I believe that one of the best things that happened to the European Union was the enlargement process after the changes in 1989. As far as living here, I am pleasantly surprised by the development of foreign languages spoken in Hungary compared to the situation twenty years ago. A common language is the basis to understand each other. One may like it or not, English has become predominant in Europe. I feel at home in Budapest even though the differences with the Dutch society will remain.

Do you think it is possible to eliminate a “national character” without thinking in terms of clichés? How would you describe the Dutch and the Hungarian for those who know absolutely nothing about the said nations and countries?

So, what are those differences? I think the Dutch, with their maritime and colonial tradition, have always had a strong exposure to different cultures. We may have had the same “Habsburg” roots but our history went in a different direction. Our society has been shaped by post-war economic dynamics, rather than the Socialist capture of the society. Fifty years of Communism has been a heavy burden for Hungarians, but the changes since 1989 have been profound and moved Hungary rapidly and structurally towards European integration in all fields.

The Netherlands is one of the main investors of the Hungarian state. The two countries have lively business connections, e.g. Philip’s leading light R&D centre is located in Tamási. Tourist are frequent, meanwhile the area around Balaton is getting populated by Dutchmen. What do you think, what makes Hungary attractive and what could draw even more investors to Hungary?

Hungary offers space, a nice summer climate and very hospitable environment for Dutch tourists and investors. We have been investing in your country for twenty years, and this is continuing. I am actually quite proud of all these Dutch firms here on the market, such as Heineken, Philips, ING, AEGON, Unilever and many, many smaller ones. I was also happy to see that two Dutch farmers recently increased their landownership. As I keep telling decision-makers in Hungary, transparency, predictability and level playing field are main criteria for investment, next to more economic arguments such as location and costs of labour. Hungary is a central hub in Europe and must be seen as such by all.

According to Joseph Nye, “soft power is the ability to shape the preferences of others through appeal and attraction,” whilst the currency of soft power is culture, political values and foreign policies. Looking at the 2015 global ranking, Netherlands is ranked 10-13th most powerful on different surveys. What do you think, what is the key? What would be the steps to take for Hungary to evolve?

I think these strengths are a combination of working mentality and matter-of-fact approach in society. We recognise a lot of that in Hungarians, which is one of the reasons why Hungary is attractive for the Dutch. As a Protestant, I of course claim this to be a mutual Protestant gene, but my Catholic wife does not accept this oversimplification at all...

The Dutch EU presidency sets out to tackle terrorism and radicalization in various forms. After the infamous Paris attacks, do you think political/governmental/secret service methods can be still effective in fighting extremism? What do you think about the effectiveness rate of certain “uproots” or even illegal bodies, e.g. Anonymous?

First of all, I am happy that Hungary has been spared the terrorist attacks by extreme ideology that we have seen in other countries, including the Netherlands. However, let us not fool ourselves. Terrorist attacks can happen anywhere and for any reason. Just think about Mexican beheadings or mass rape in India, or again our own recent European history. Atrocities are a horrible extremist behaviour of mankind, which history shows can happen anywhere, anytime, alas. So I do not have too many illusions about the possibility to stop terrorism with purely legal instruments.

The Dutch EU presidency programme places a great emphasis on education and its role in the reception and integration of migrants. Do you view integration as a question of how liberal/tolerant a host society is? Is the level of willingness to integrate shown by migrants taken into account at all?

Education is a cornerstone of every society, or at least it should be. If we accept refugees in our midst, they should of course profit from education and maybe even catch up through an extra educational investment. No society is served by second-class citizens. Hungary as much as the Netherlands has shown a great ability to cope with people from different cultures in the past. Our challenge is now to continue to do that even if the numbers of newcomers seem at first glance too high to handle.

The Netherlands’ presidency strives for transparency in decision-making. Can such be carried out without additional red tape?

This is a difficult question. Everyone knows that red tape is a dangerous side-effect of decision-making which involves bureaucracy. We have no panacea for this. However, we know that checks and balances in decision-making actually make decisions more acceptable for the whole society and therefore easier to implement.  I always use as an example the following: in the Netherlands, we have one of the highest direct income tax regimes in the world. In my own case, more than 50% of my salary goes to taxation. Still, the Netherlands always ranks in the top 10 of the world`s happiest nations. Why is this? Because the Dutch have a certain amount of trust in the way the government spends these taxes.

Another main priority of the Dutch presidency is innovation, growth, and the creation of jobs. What do you think, what is more useful from an EU perspective: letting workforce wonder around in search for fitting opportunities or trying to keep workforce in place? Can a free internal (job) market be realized?

One of the cornerstones of the European Union is of course free movement of labour. This is at present under pressure because of the mass migration and also because of the recent terrorist attacks. By the way, to link these two phenomena is a gross oversimplification. However, our common market depends on that internal mobility. What we would like to see however, and I know Hungary agrees with that, is that these workers have the same working conditions irrespective of where they come from. In other words, no exploitation of labour for the sake of cheap labour.

Text: Dorottya Pétery
Photos: Dénes Szilágyi