Delivering the Digital Government

Local governments stand at an inflection point. While forces reshaping our world have increased citizen engagement, now it’s time for CIOs and IT directors to accelerate the transition to a fully digital government.
min read

Following the COVID-19 pandemic and global staffing shortages, rising concerns over future disruption in critical digital infrastructure have increased pressure on local governments to digitally transform. That’s because delivering digital services is imperative to the sustainable operations of schools, small and large businesses, hospitals, and now, local governments.

But while budgets have increased 75% to optimize existing solutions, few governments have diversified their digital programs enough to scale and digitally transform across departments. To really make a change, IT directors and CIOs should deploy new technologies to move from simply optimizing to transforming — while laying the foundation for what local governments should look like in the future.  

Prioritizing User Experience: Auditing Government Services  

Across the world, trust in our public institutions has waned. To restore the faith, citizens need to see a system that works for them and can provide tools that are easy to use, mobile, and transparent. Tangible progress, in the form of digital experiences that help our society run better, is the key to building broader trust and increasing citizen engagement.

This change begins by providing services that prioritize the user experience, especially in times of crisis. CIOs and IT directors can gain a deeper understanding of their citizens by first auditing their experience with government services. Then, these leaders can invest in the right technology to build a digital government that is responsive and reliable.  

Adopting contemporary practices — such as user research, human-centered design, and journey and life event mapping — is the first step to understanding how digital practices can scale across departments. These practices also allow CIOs and IT directors to see what needs to be transformed and optimized; that is, what can be digitized, what requires traditional paper models, and what can be streamlined. Redesigning end-to-end processes to include digitally enabled services and automated processing that prioritize the user experience rebuilds a citizen’s trust in government and the path toward a more digital government.  

Automating Government Services: Unlocking with Robotic Process Automation  

Historically, technological advancements have made processes across industries better, faster, and cheaper. Disruptive technologies — like the rollout of the smartphone and the boom in enterprise software — create new approaches to how we conduct our lives. These disruptive technologies, including robotic process automation, break long-standing practices and enable us to overcome what had been costly, difficult, or simply impossible.  

Automation is critical to the modernization of local governments and offers the opportunity to streamline administrative tasks and improve the citizen experience. By creating automated workflows, RPA helps local government agencies significantly reduce low-value workloads. Used to perform mundane tasks, remove typing errors, and reduce processing time, RPA frees up the workforce to focus on more valuable activities. Preliminary results from government agency adoption of RPA showed that the annualized hours saved by automations deployed increased from 285,651 to 848,336 — a 195% increase.  

CIOs and IT Directors as Leaders: Emerging Tech’s Role in Government  

Technology is one of the biggest drivers of the future of government. As such, governments must move from passive tech adopters to tech leaders. Traditionally, innovation begins in the private sector and eventually finds its way into public usage. This approach leads to an uneven rate of adoption across departments, states, and agencies, which creates siloed user experiences and huge amounts of technical debt.  

Faced with today’s rate of technological change, CIOs and IT directors need to prioritize how to narrow the lag in adoption. Being a tech leader does not necessarily mean risking public funds to innovate or invent exactly as the private sector does. Instead, a tech leader in the local public sector means weaving technological change into the core of a government’s DNA. By adopting a digital mindset that pays attention to the private sector and is open to new solutions, CIOs and IT directors can identify complementary technologies that magnify and optimize digitization strategies.  

From parks and recreation departments to court hearings to 311 calls, local governments are embracing new methods of technology to deliver services. When brought together, artificial intelligence, predictive analytics, and augmented reality, can offer data-fueled services to create a better experience for all involved. For example, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs turned to AI-enabled systems to slash its processing time from 10 days to four hours.

Taking it up a notch, machine-learning tools can be combined with AI to accelerate decision-making and allow local governments to make contingent action plans faster. In the initial days of COVID-19, governments used AI-based scenario analysis to understand the causal linkages of different drivers and make a plan.  

Creating a digital government, and being the leader to make it happen, may seem daunting but it’s also never been more critical. Local governments must prioritize the citizen experience, look for ways to adopt existing technology, and implement a strategy that weaves technological innovation into its core. No one expects the government to operate exactly like a tech startup, but through strategic partnerships and a faster response to citizen demand, it is possible to deliver a digital government of the future.

About the Author

As head of product management and marketing at ACTIVE Network, Byron Carroll helps drive the company’s mission to make people more active in their communities and to make the world a more active place. Throughout his career, he has helped organizations across industries digitally transform. Before ACTIVE, Byron oversaw internet booking technology at Sabre Airline Solutions, productized co-created services in telco at Infosys, and led secure file transfer solution businesses for datacenters in retail, manufacturing, and banking at Sterling Commerce (an AT&T subsidiary that IBM later acquired). Byron received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from UT Dallas and resides in Dallas with his wife and two children.

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January 31, 2023
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