Carol Brock

Carol Brock
Carol is the Industry Marketing Strategist for the Public Sector worldwide. An Information Governance Expert by education and training with 20+ years of experience in federal and state government, she is passionate about facilitating digital government to provide electronic services to citizens. With initiatives such as digital first, open data, and smart cities, there is much to talk about.

Personalized Public Services Require a new era of Information Sharing

personalized public services

Citizens want to interact digitally with government. It’s not just the young. People of all ages are happy to have service delivered digitally as long as they are targeted, easy to use and secure. Personalization not only offers a better citizen experience, it can deliver the holy grail of agile, low cost operations. All it takes is a new era of information sharing between government, NGOs, businesses, communities and individual citizens. So, where do we go from here? It’s time to re-assess. I want to suggest that the first generation of digital Government – think of it as eGovernment 1.0 – is reaching its conclusion. We knew there was a need to deliver services digitally and we wanted to be able to provide them on the channel that the citizen prefers. It would radically improve citizen experience and make our operations more efficient. Well, there’s some good news and there’s some bad news. The good news is that digital adoption has been a success. Over 40% of respondents to a recent survey reported that the majority of their interacts with government were digital. Almost 90% stated that they want to maintain or increase their digital interactions. The bad news? Only a quarter of the people surveyed by Accenture were actually satisfied by their digital interactions with government. Consider that the respondents’ top five priorities included ‘the ability to have my question answered definitively’ (91%), to ‘be able to see the status of my request or activity’ (79%) and  ‘information organized by my need or issue'(69%) when it came to digital public services. It’s clear the investment made in digital government has yet to consistently deliver the level of information and personalization that citizens want. UK government minister, Ben Gummer has stated that although their digital services ‘delivered excellent web interfaces that better met user needs, back-office processes were often unchanged. In eGovernment 1.0, our focus on citizen experience – while perfectly justified – is failing to deliver the full benefits of Digital Transformation’. eGovernment 2.0 So what about eGovernment 2.0? McKinsey says ineffective governance; a lack of web capabilities and a reluctance to allow user involvement have held eGovernment 1.0 back. I’d like to add something a little more fundamental to that list: a model of information sharing at the heart of service provision and delivery. This is implicit in how the OECD defines ‘digital government‘ which, it says, relies on an ‘ecosystem composed of government actors, non-governmental organizations, businesses, citizens’ associations and individuals, which supports the production of access to data, services and content through interactions with the government’. This requires a new ethos for the sharing information in a sector where even different departments within the same government organization have jealously guarded their own turf. To fully benefit from digital government, the walls have to come down between departments and agencies while becoming much more porous when dealing with the private sector and the individual citizen. Personalized Public Services  In order to achieve the ambition of the personalization of service, governments have to move from the position of service provider to service facilitator or broker. The citizen needs to be able to self-select and self-manage if personalization is to be fully adopted. There has to be an acceptance that this is not something that government can achieve by itself – and, in fact, there are great benefits to be achieved in terms of cost of taking a partnership approach with citizens and private enterprise. We will see an increase in the co-creation of services as we move into eGovernment 2.0. There is plenty of evidence of it beginning to happen. The US Smart Cities open data initiative is a great example of encouraging government, the private sector, NGOs and citizens to collaborate and jointly develop solutions. Underpinning this collaborative approach to delivering co-created personalized services has to be a government platform that allows for the open and secure exchange of information. There has to be a means to centralize access to all content in order that all parties can access and interrogate all the information – both structured and unstructured data – surrounding an issue or service. While the current focus has been on the creation of ‘open’ data that anyone can access, reuse or distribute, there has to be a move towards an Enterprise Information Management approach  that can deliver the single view of service information. There are, of course, many challenges – not least the difficulty of sharing sensitive information between public and private sector organizations. The passage of the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act to enable information sharing between public and private bodies on something as uncontentious as tackling Cybercrime shows the complexity opening the exchange of critical data. Next month, I’ll look at approaches to governance that can enable this new era of information sharing. In the meantime you can read further blogs on government-as-a-platform and agility, and digital transformation vs digitization.

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Government-as-a-Platform: Toward a Digital Infrastructure Designed With Agility by Default

government-as-a-platform

The change of US presidency brings a focus on the agility of government IT systems. A rule of thumb is that you have 60 days to implement large mandates – 30 days for smaller ones – in US state and federal governments. These expectations place a strain on aging government systems that may not be able to effectively respond. I wanted to take a look at whether the “Government-as-a-Platform” approach of the UK government may offer a model that other Public Sector organizations could follow to build agility into their IT infrastructure – and provide a solid foundation for increased Digital Transformation. Let’s face it. No government on the planet has a spotless record on IT project delivery. Examples of high profile IT failures are easy to find. Bob Charette, Contributing Editor of IEEE Spectrum provided one (slightly tongue-in-cheek) reason for this: “A lot of times the systems are politically mandated in the sense that you have somebody on the Hill or Congress who will mandate a system and they’ll mandate a particular period of time and they’ll mandate the amount of money to spend and they have absolutely no idea what they’re talking about.” It’s not just the Public Sector. The history of large-scale IT projects shows a large number of programs where the costs rose exponentially and the expected benefits weren’t achieved. An incremental, evolutionary approach is always more likely to deliver than a big bang. This is especially true for Digital Transformation and that’s why, in my opinion, a ‘Government-as-a-Platform’-type approach has so much potential. The concept behind Government-as-a-Platform is simple: To create a technology infrastructure based on common, reusable components – systems, services, process, analytics, etc – that can be adopted across all levels of government to build systems, work collaboratively and share information. Kit Collingwood-Richardson, Deputy Director at the UK’s Department of Work & Pensions said: “We are going to have to start bleeding between organisational boundaries and say, we’re not this department or that department, but here is the service that we offer as a collaboration between departments.” The UK government believes Government-as-a-Platform will contribute £10 billion of efficiency savings between 2017 and 2018. Government-as-a-Platform could be seen as a response to to the EU eGovernment Action Plan for 2016-2020. The main principles includes digital-by-default, the once-only principle and the modernization of Public Administration using ‘key enablers’ such as Electronic Identification (eID), Electronic Documents (eDocuments) and authentic data sources. The key advantage, for me, is that encourages Public Sector organizations to focus as much – or more – time and effort on transforming their middle and back-office systems as they have on multi-channel digital service delivery. There is a very good reason why this is important. A recent survey into the status of eGovernment in Europe found that 81% of public services are now available online – that figure falls to only 3% when looking at fully automated services. Although governments have made major strides to provide services digitally, the speed and ease of use have advanced poorly according to system users within the research. In effect, the digital channels are in place but the actual services still need to be properly transformed. This is where the Government-as-a-Platform concept wins. It provides the building blocks for systems and data to only be created once and then shared on a cross-government basis. The ability for all government agencies to have one single view of the citizen allows for much more cost-efficient and effective service delivery. It allows the agility for new systems to be created to meet the deadlines set within political mandates. It also gives a basis for innovation and a new joined-up approach to what new services are needed and how they’re delivered. For the citizen, it means the trust and confidence that their engagement with public sector bodies – whatever they are – will be based on the proper and correct data. In essence, what Government-as-a-Platform describes is a comprehensive Enterprise Information Management (EIM) infrastructure. It’s built on the ability to bring structured and unstructured data together and allow people to collaborate using all the content and information within the organization. This centralized control allows for the use of analytics to define the insight into data needed for new service provision. It’s interesting to note that the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) recently found that Big Data came third out of the 50 forces leading change for the Public Sector globally. As importantly, selecting an EIM platform from a service provider like OpenText allows government organizations to introduce an evolutionary approach to Digital Transformation. The legacy systems that still reside within every level of Public Sector don’t need to be ripped out. Instead, they can be integrated into the central EIM system so that the benefits of Digital Transformation are realized and a longer term migration plan can be established for those systems that can’t support the delivery of modern digital services.

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Are we in Danger of Confusing Digital Transformation With Digitization?

digital transformation

Digital Transformation has been at the top of the priority lists of Public Sector CIOs for some time now. Yet, Deloitte research has shown only 41 percent of Public Sector leaders are satisfied with their organization’s current reaction to digital trends. Perhaps, part of the reason for this under-achievement can be found in Gartner’s study of public and private CIOs that put digitization as top of their priority list. With a focus on digitization, we may be in danger of missing the truly transformative potential of digital technology. Let’s not understate the importance of digitization though. There are great cost and efficiency benefits from converting paper-based to digital-based processes. Deloitte report into the Digital Transformation efforts in Australia found that a paper-based transaction was over 3000 times the cost of an online transaction. But, when the OECD countries signed its recommendation in July 2104 that ‘government’s develop and implement digital government strategies’, the organization made explicit that digitization was only a first step. An OECD report states: For me, the danger in digitization lies in an over-emphasis on the citizen experience to the detriment of the operational and process improvements inherent in Digital Transformation. I agree with Rick Howard, Research VP at Gartner when he says: “digital government is currently being deployed as an extension of earlier e-government initiatives, which largely preserved existing operational or service models”. Famous examples of Digital Transformation in the Public Sector – like gov.uk in the UK and census.gov in the US – demonstrate just some of the benefits of digital service provision. The more that e-government moves beyond digital information provision to end-to-end digital process the more benefits Public Sector organizations will achieve through customer engagement, targeted service provision and efficient business operations. The UK – currently the world’s leader in e-government according to the UN – has put in place a policy of ‘digital by default’ for all new services. The UK government sees success as multi-dimensional. It stated: Perhaps some early Digital Transformation programmes have been framed from the citizen to the government agency rather than from the agency out. So, we have looked at the interfaces and channels for good citizen engagements and not spent enough time on the back-end stuff. However, there is evidence that Public Sector organizations are increasingly turning their attention to the systems and processes needed to support Digital Transformation. The 2017 NASCIO survey of the technology priorities of US state CIO’s place system consolidation/optimization and legacy modernization in second and fifth places respectively. To fully reap the benefits of Digital Transformation, Public Sector organizations have to move beyond a closed business system model to introduce a platform that extends across and beyond the organization. Gartner’s Howard neatly sums it up by saying: : “In government, the system business model’s function is to deliver value isolated to the citizens within allocated jurisdictions, budgets and risk tolerance. In contrast, a platform provides the business with a foundation where resources can come together — sometimes very quickly and temporarily, sometimes in a relatively fixed way — to create value that may extend beyond budget and jurisdictional boundaries”. Implementing an Enterprise Information Management platform provides such a foundation for government agencies to re-engineer their business processes while creating the secure citizen engagement across channels that characterises effective digital government services.

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