How Important is Digital Transformation for Governments?
Government transformation is essential if public sector organizations are to deliver on their mission and meet citizen expectations against a backdrop of constrained budgets. Yet, McKinsey reports that around 80% of all government transformation initiatives fail to meet their objectives. A major cause of this lack of success lies within the digital deficit of where organizations are today and where they need to be.
The Institute for Global Government is stark: “Ossified institutions and approaches designed for the offline world are a poor fit for dealing with an operating environment that is now defined by the Internet and new technologies … Too often, citizens experience public services that feel like they belong in the past. Political leaders struggle to execute the agendas on which their mandate is based. Businesses and society more broadly face an uncertain future without the reassurance they need that governments are prepared for the path ahead.”
This may overstate the case as many digital pioneers within government agencies worldwide are already creating digital and data-enabled services and business models to better serve their constituents. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated this process with a massive increase in digital citizen services delivered in a matter of days or weeks.
However, many of the weaknesses within government systems remain as reliance on legacy and outdated technology continues. For example, Gartner estimates that, by 2023, more than 60% of governments will have tripled citizen digital services, but less than 25% will be integrated across organizations' silos.
Closing the Gap
The current digital gap cannot be allowed to widen. Increasing demand on public sector services and growing citizen expectations is creating more and more pressure. Digital technologies give the opportunity to break down silos, increase collaboration and innovation as well as improve the design and delivery of policy and services.
To achieve the ambitious strategies like Saudi’s Vision 2030, a major focus has to be placed on successful digital transformation. Key elements to address include:
Citizens want a simple and engaging experience that lets them get things done first time. It has to be frictionless, personalized and adaptable. The experience must be accessible from anywhere at any time and from any device. Importantly the digital experience should be part of a wider evolution of the relationship between government and the citizen from client/server to where citizens are engaged and empowered to take more control over their own service delivery.
Key to delivering citizen-centric government is a universal digital identity system. It is the foundation for the delivery of services in a way that is secure and protects the personal data of citizens. It enables government agencies to have authorized and trusted access to data to both improve how services are delivered and accessed. It is the basis for inter-agency – and broader, non-government organizations – information sharing and collaboration to drive innovation, accelerate delivery and reduce costs.
Digital identity is also the basis for inter-agency – and broader, non-government organizations – information sharing and collaboration to drive innovation, accelerate delivery and reduce costs. Open data initiatives has shown the benefit of trusted data sharing with government data sets made securely available to enable the development of innovative services in both the public and private spheres.
Intelligence and insight
Governments must fully harness the value of their data by applying advanced AI and analytics. To achieve this, internal information siloes must be removed and systematic data management applied. Over the years, government organizations have amassed data much of which is bad, inaccurate and redundant. In addition, this data is being produced daily in an increasing number of formats and stored on an increasing number of systems and communication channels. Intelligent, data-driven business operations and service delivery – using reliable, accurate data – will allow agile and pro-active operations while reducing the overall costs of government.
Today, very few public sector organizations can work in isolation. Each has a growing ecosystem of citizens, other government agencies, suppliers, contractors, technology partners and academic and research bodies. The drive towards public/private partnerships offers government agencies access to cost-effective innovation. To maximize the value of these ecosystems involves digital infrastructure to share and collaborate in real-time while maintaining the privacy and security of citizen data and the intellectual property of government.
Increasingly, some countries are moving towards ‘government-as-a-platform’ where technology components are created as shared across agencies. Each agency can then customize the component to their requirements. The result is agile development and delivery that encourages reuse to speed the delivery of capabilities across government. Designing interoperable platforms that can be made available to all levels of government can help the transition from legacy systems and enable new capabilities and system features to be quickly added while reducing development and management costs.
Addressing the digital deficit is something that all government bodies must do now. Technology change will only accelerate and, with it, citizen expectations will grow and the pressure on public services intensify.