Building Governments That Are Fit For The Digital Age
This article originally appeared on Forbes.com as part of Delphix CMO Monika Saha's ongoing column. See the original post here.
As younger generations become increasingly digitally savvy, the upcoming group of digital citizens is creating an interesting dilemma for governments around the world.
Findings from Mary Meeker’s latest “Internet Trends Report” show that more than half the human population is online -- 51% of the world, or 3.8 billion people, used the internet in 2018. In addition to that, 96% of U.S. adults between the ages of 19 and 29 own smartphones, according to a Pew Research Center study.
As a result, a large number of us today manage essential aspects of our lives digitally. For example, we manage our health care benefits and banking transactions online. We trade in the stock market online. We shop for everything from milk to furniture to cars online. We even access most of our workplace applications online.
So, it’s no surprise to me that an Accenture survey of 6,000 citizens in Australia, France, Germany, Singapore, the United Kingdom and the United States revealed that 86% view digital delivery of public services “as equally or more important” than traditional methods of public service delivery.
The Reality Of Building An Engaged Citizenry
An effective government is one that successfully engages with its citizens and efficiently delivers basic services to its citizenry. But what if that citizenry is at risk of “disengaging” with the government because the process of dealing with the government seems antiquated compared to the rest of the world?
I’ve found that agencies within governments across the globe still struggle to connect data across their systems and deliver services effectively, leaving communities to wrestle with long lines and burdensome paperwork (e.g., paying taxes, renewing drivers’ licenses, renewing passports, applying for benefits, finding public transportation information).
However, there are signs that governments are taking steps to innovate and keep up with an increasingly digital-savvy population.
For example, Australia’s digital transformation strategy aims to make all government services available through digital channels by 2025. Furthermore, the state of Victoria has set aside funds for digital service delivery and citizen engagement. And in the city of Melbourne, public transit passengers are adopting a new application called the myki mobile app to pay fares.
With signs of progress, not all efforts have been flawless, as is the case with the government’s My Health Record system, designed to align the care and information-sharing of Australian Medicare users. But while 2.5 million have reportedly opted out of using the system, it’s estimated 90% remain enrolled.
Another example of deliberate investments aimed at transforming governments to digitally engage citizens can be found in India. India has been investing in infrastructure aimed at promoting digital innovation. The infrastructure is called India Stack, and the most talked-about piece is a biometric identity assigned to every Indian citizen called Aadhaar.
Individuals with this identity can use it to access a number of government services, as well as link it to their bank accounts to use it to pay for goods and services. It offers the convenience of direct-to-consumer relationships that many of us are accustomed to today, but without vendor-specific or public/private silos. It’s reported that 99% of the adult population in India is enrolled.
Overcoming The Data Dilemma In Government
All of the above are signs that governments are increasingly making real investments to engage their citizens in digitally innovative ways. But I believe these are also signs that today’s citizens are becoming more comfortable with trusting their government to use their data wisely to deliver better services.
This creates an interesting predicament. As governments create more and more digital channels for us to engage with, we as citizens begin to share an increasing amount of sensitive data with the government via those digital applications.
The innovation we’re seeing in the government sector is welcomed and much needed if the government does not want its citizenry to “disengage.” But it does make us wonder how government agencies manage the use of our data, and whether that data is safeguarded across all instances of its existence within the range of a government’s technology real estate.
Just like the private sector, the public sector will also be subject to pitfalls of the explosion of data in terms of size and complexity, and somewhat ironically, subject to its own data privacy regulations. As governments increasingly respond to the need to innovate in order to better serve a more digitally savvy citizenry, they will no doubt face daunting data-related challenges.
These challenges will require governments to:
- Invest in technology and infrastructure that enable teams across various agencies to rapidly design, build and test new applications with the most valuable and realistic data with the least amount of effort.
- Avoid their own data privacy and security policies from becoming a bottleneck to their innovation by finding ways to leverage realistic data, while at the same time obfuscating or masking that data which is most sensitive, with the least amount of overhead.
- Automate the process for any team within any government agency to easily work with data that is scattered across sprawling, multigenerational, on-premise and hybrid-cloud data terrains, regardless of data type or data volume.
- As lawmakers scrutinize the use of data by behemoths like Google and Facebook, they will also need to look inward and help their internal agencies accomplish all of the above.
As lawmakers scrutinize the use of data by behemoths like Google and Facebook, they will also need to look inward and help their internal agencies accomplish all of the above.