Like private businesses, governments are driven by information. Consider the amount of information associated with a single citizen: a birth certificate, passport, driver’s license, student loans, social security, health-related services, etc. Now multiply that across an entire population. If information is the new currency, then many government organizations are rich—so rich, in fact, that some don’t know what to do with this wealth (of information).
The rate at which governments can effectively use their information as an asset is impacted by departmental or application silos. As illustrated below, information that should flow securely and effortlessly across departments, partners, and citizens is often disconnected and processes are fragmented. When this happens, governments don’t have a consolidated view of their information, which means they don’t have an accurate view of their resources, projects, or citizens. The result? Agencies work harder, not smarter.
A digital agenda helps government organizations optimize their performance, without compromising governance and security. As part of implementing a digital agenda, digitizing information and processes is a critical first step. It lays the groundwork for collaboration and agility by removing silos that can hamper access and productivity—allowing information to flow freely across departments.
Digital transformation requires coordination and collaboration across departments, sectors, jurisdictions, and policy domains; a host of changing relations and communication patterns; and a shift to citizen-centric service delivery. Implementing a digital agenda is critical. Broadly speaking, a digital agenda consists of three phases:
- Overhauling operations to improve efficiency and profitability. Agencies must reduce costs and increase competitiveness by digitizing their information and processes.
- Bringing agility into business processes to quickly adapt services and operations. Information processes and platforms need to be relevant for digital citizens, a new workforce, and emerging technologies.
- Delivering new services to citizens with continuous collaboration and innovation. Efficiency hinges on increasing the speed of information delivery through integrated systems and across projects.
Many governments are making great strides in mandating the adoption of a digital strategy. Here are some examples of digital transformation at the federal level in government agencies in the U.S., Canada, and Europe:
- The U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ), Office of the Federal Detention Trustee (OFDT) has the typical mandate to do more with less. Their average daily population exceeds 55,000 prisoners in federal custody with an annual budget of more than $1 billion. Improving time and cost savings across the organization is paramount. By automating administrative activities like prisoner designation, OFDT has eliminated manual, paper-based processes and the use of outdated file-sharing methods (fax, postal mail and FedEx), at a projected cost-savings of $38.8 million.
- A Security Enterprise in the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) relies on an e-government process automation solution to improve its performance. The automated, collaborative nature of this solution enables the agency to efficiently manage 4,000 Foreign Military Sales (valued at $49 billion) while effectively fulfilling its mission and characterizing its motto: “Strength in Cooperation”.
- CIZ (Centrum Indicatiestelling Zorg) oversees the Dutch Ministry of Health, handling over one million cases a year and supporting over 18,000 users. Challenged by a lack of business process control around the handling of cases combined with siloed data (spread across 17 databases), CIZ implemented an integrated case management solution so they can adapt more quickly to changes in legislation. By digitizing key processes, CIZ has been able to meet their target of processing 100 percent of their cases, reducing costs and increasing citizen satisfaction.
- Transport Canada works with over 50 partners (including Crown corporations, port authorities, and airport authorities) to ensure a safe, secure, efficient, and environmentally responsible transportation system. Fulfillment of their mission is based on timely and informed decision-making. Transport Canada relies on a combined information and records management solution to enable collaboration with all stakeholders, including citizens. Through digitization they have consolidated more than four million records in a single library, bringing together 5,200 users across 117 sites—the largest single library deployment in the Canadian Public Sector.
In a Digital-First World, governments will have to support digital business models with new processes. Whether by design or by decree, government organizations will be required to build an e-government infrastructure that digitizes information-based processes. In doing so, they will unlock the potential of information to empower both public servants and citizens, and improve their ability to govern in the process.
Agencies around the world are already reaping the benefits of an integrated digital agenda—such as increases in productivity and revenue that amount to cost savings in the millions of dollars; easier access to information through complaint, standardized IT infrastructures; decreases in costs and inefficiencies with automated processes; and improvements in citizen relationships and satisfaction through innovative services. It’s evident that the rewards far outweigh the effort. And the technology is available. You can read all about how governments around the world are implementing digital agendas in my book e-Government or Out of Government.
1. Paul Tellier and David Emerson, “Seventh Report of the Prime Minister’s Advisory Committee on the Public Service,” Clerk of the Privy Council, March, 2013: http://www.clerk.gc.ca/eng/feature.asp?pageId=314 (accessed December 2013).