Digital transformation continues to progress in the government sector and this is unlikely to change in 2018. The underlying technologies are maturing and moving from implementation to optimization. That’s why my predictions for the tech trends of 2108 aren’t about revolutionary innovations. Instead, they cover areas where government agencies are likely to begin to realize real business value over the next twelve months.
The fact that my trends revolve around making the most of existing technologies shouldn’t be surprising. The mission for government agencies worldwide hasn’t really changed: provide excellent citizen experience, streamline service delivery and continually drive efficiencies and reduce costs. I don’t feel I’m going out on a limb to say that the investments made over the next year will be focused on applying technologies that will produce better outcomes for citizens while maximizing uncertain budgets.
With the U.S. Modernizing Government Technology (MGT) Act becoming law in December 2017, IT modernization has become the top priority for many Federal government CIOs. The need to transition from an aging, legacy technology infrastructure is well understood – especially where some agencies still have operational systems dating back to the 1980s. While the MGT act will provide an impetus – and funds – for modernization projects in the U.S. Federal Government, all government agencies in the world will need to redouble their IT modernization efforts.
Legacy systems are less efficient, less secure and more costly to maintain. More importantly, they simply can’t meet the changing needs of government agencies in a digital world. Government – more than many other sector – stands to benefit from the move from custom-built proprietary IT systems that lock data into silos to open, modular infrastructures that enable cross-agency collaboration and flexible service delivery.
AI and analytics
With the rapid maturing of Big Data, cloud technology, cheap storage and advanced algorithms, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and analytics are becoming more powerful. The combination of AI – through elements such as machine learning and natural language processing – and analytics allows government agencies to predict and deliver increasingly personalized services that will improve citizen engagement and experience.
Tapping into the vast volumes of data available to them – across channels as well as data and content types – government agencies will be increasingly able to access real-time information on everything from traffic monitoring to environmental circumstances to business activity to citizen preferences and sentiment. OpenText calls this AI-enhanced analytics. Modern platforms – such as OpenText™ Magellan – combine open source machine learning with advanced analytics, enterprise-grade business intelligence (BI), and capabilities to acquire, merge, manage and analyze the Big Data and Big Content to help improve decision-making and shape services and service delivery models that really do meet citizen needs and wants.
Internet of Things
Gartner estimated that more than 8.4 billion “Things” were connected to the Internet in 2017 – up more than 30% from 2016 – and that number is growing quickly. While much has been said about IoT applications in industries such as manufacturing and energy, the impact to government is likely to be increasingly felt. There are more and more connected devices in cars, street lights, traffic cameras, smart homes and electricity grids … to name only a few.
We are already seeing advances in Smart Cities. Amsterdam is a good example where the city administration is working with technology suppliers to develop energy and money saving smart technologies for the city and its citizens. But, IoT will begin to reach beyond the concept of Smart Cities, driven by the more mundane needs of efficiency and budget reduction. Day-to-day activities such as Facilities Management, Supply Chain Management and Fleet Management can all benefit from the real-time data that IoT devices can deliver.
Automation falls broadly into two areas: Reducing the amount of manual process involved in delivering services as well as reducing the amount of citizen interactions required to achieve a specific task. I think that automation will be driven by the first area. Deloitte suggests there are major cost savings in improvements to government efficiencies from automating mundane and routine tasks, reducing backlogs, accelerating discovery and augmenting decision-making. At the lower end of the scale – simply automating routine tasks – could free up 266 million US federal government working hours annually, potentially saving $9.6 billion each year. At the higher end – taking all aspects into account – as many as 1.1 billion working hours could be freed each year saving $37 billion.
In the second area, government agencies are using AI and chatbots to create more citizen-centric experiences. This allows citizens to gain access to the services they need when they need them while freeing government staff from much of the mundane tasks of collecting and processing the data associated with citizen interaction. Deloitte estimates that using AI to automate routine tasks can free as much as 30% of the government workforce over the next decade. Interestingly, few believe that – in the short term at least – increased automation will lead to workforce reduction. Instead, it will free staff to concentrate on activities that will deliver greater value to the government agency and the citizen.
Mobility also works on two levels: The employee and the citizen. It is clear that – like every other sector – government has an increasingly mobile workforce. Mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones enable always-on connectivity and boost government productivity and employee performance. With the new workforce dominated by ‘digital natives’, the ability to enable staff to work as they expect will be essential to continue to recruit the best and the brightest. Frost & Sullivan reports that almost three out of every four government organizations issue smartphones and more than half provide tablets.
The demand of mobility is equally strong from citizens. They want a seamless, omnichannel experience. Citizen-oriented apps on the smart phone boost engagement by delivering easy-to-navigate services via the citizen’s preferred device. Business-oriented apps allow for a great deal of self-service that reduces the amount of time and bureaucracy the business spends on paperwork while removing a good deal of the administrative burden from the agency. One of the most interesting research findings is that, rather than creating digital exclusion, delivering services designed for the smartphone drives inclusion as this is the only device that many citizens use today.
Cybersecurity is close to the top of the agenda for every CIO. This is especially true for government. With citizens’ increased virtual presence, large amounts of highly sensitive information now stored online and increasingly stringent data protection legislation such as the General Data Protection regulation (GDPR) in Europe, government agencies need to focus even more on cyber security and protection.
The traditional (reactive) approach that relies on antivirus software and firewalls to protect the perimeter and responds to incidents as they occur is no longer good enough. To pre-empt cyberattacks and information leaks, organizations will implement an adaptive security architecture with continuous, real-time monitoring, big data, AI and analytics. According to Gartner, adaptive security allows for real-time, risk and trust-based decision making with adaptive responses to incidents and threats as they arise. Over the next year, this type of security will start to be built into digital platforms to enable an end-to-end managed security infrastructure.
Better outcomes. Better experiences. Better efficiencies. That’s what’s expected of every government agency –no matter where they are – in 2018. The technology investments made over the next 12 months will reflect these demands. Luckily there are a range of technologies maturing fast – AI, analytics, IoT, mobility and digital security – that can help all government agencies fulfill their mission.
If you’d like to know more about how OpenText expects digital transformation to affect organizations and society as a whole, we’ve created a thought provoking white paper, OpenText™: The Information Company.