Written by Gert du Preez, BC Technology Consulting Leader at PwC Canada
Citizens increasingly expect governments to provide the fast, seamless service they’re used to from the private sector. They want to deal with the public sector on their own terms, whether it’s on a mobile device, at home on their computer, in person or through a combination of channels. And when they have an issue, they’re more likely to post a comment about it on social media than send an email or make a call.
To stay relevant you must continuously evolve and take a holistic look at your organization. This means putting the citizen and your employees at the centre of digital transformation. Citizen-centric governments are using a digital-first approach to improve, digitize and automate community interactions and internal processes. This builds trust with the public and offers a full view of the uptake of services, resulting in increased transparency, satisfaction, cost savings and compliance. An example of this is the British Columbia Ministry of Attorney General’s Civil Resolution Tribunal. Learn about this Vision to Reality award-winning digital transformation here.
Here we look at five critical ways to give citizens the experience they’re looking for.
№1 — Use analytics to make evidence-informed decisions
The challenge of a digital-first approach quickly becomes how to use all the data available effectively. Citizens say they’re willing to share personal information across agencies and levels of government to get customized services. But data is often siloed in systems that don’t talk to each other. What’s more, legislation often handcuffs departments by restricting where data is held, how it’s categorized and who handles it.
A well-planned and executed digital transformation will allow government to align new business systems with current policies — and leaves room to grow as these policies change. There are also security features available to control access and help reassure citizens their data is safe. Agencies can then analyze this data to inform future service decisions. For more on this, check out our on-demand webcast, Preserving trust in a digital world.
Services can be further personalized and improved through machine learning. Machine learning is an application of artificial intelligence (AI) that can generate remarkably accurate predictions. It functions by crunching vast quantities of data in search of patterns. Machine learning and other digital tools allow information and insights that were once lost in paper files or spreadsheets to be collected in seconds, freeing up time and allowing organizations to anticipate citizen needs.
As an example, fire departments can use data analytics to improve emergency response times. Through machine learning, the system can recommend to the dispatcher an appropriate response to a medical emergency call by taking into account several factors such as the type of call, location, weather and the outcomes of similar previous calls.
№2 — Manage costs and deliver better service with robotic process automation
Robotic process automation (RPA) is a powerful tool to perform manual, time-consuming, rules-based tasks more efficiently — reducing cycle time and lowering costs. RPA is an innovative solution that’s improving efficiency and service delivery to citizens.
Organizations across the private and public sectors are struggling to find and retain the right talent. Governments are sometimes forced to spend millions of dollars on contractor support, or shift resources away from critical tasks, to handle recurring, routine and manual tasks. Process robotics can allow government agencies to operate in a more effective and cost-efficient way by shifting resources from manual tasks to more complex and value-adding work.
RPA is a natural fit for many areas that follow rules-based business processes, including claims processing, employee onboarding, compliance reporting, patient registration, dispute resolution and credential verification. These “bots,” or computer-coded, rule-based software, require minimal integration and can often be deployed in a matter of weeks.
№3 — Connect to the Internet of Things
The Internet of Things (IoT) is transforming everyday physical objects that surround us into an ecosystem of networked information that can enrich our lives. From appliances, to parking spaces, to homes and buildings, the IoT is bringing more and more connected devices into a networked, digital world. The IoT has already been deployed in the public sector in areas such as smart grid programs and intelligent highways with sensors for improved traffic flow.
The IoT allows organizations to make real-time decisions and improve service delivery based on current conditions. This can improve both the citizen experience and efficiency. Governments should embrace the IoT and use these capabilities as citizens become more connected to the things around them.
№4 — Simplify legacy applications
Any agency’s technology portfolio is likely made up of multiple versions of software, databases and hardware, including systems that are nearing end of life or are difficult to support. While the public sector has been adopting more shared applications and centralized technology, governments are still wrestling with redundant systems and managing the overhead costs to support them.
A key outcome of all digital transformation should be a roadmap to reduce this back-end complexity. Governments across Canada can do significantly more in this regard to adopt digital solutions fully. From the start, think about how effective each legacy application is in terms of business value and technological health. If an application succeeds in both categories, expand it; if it’s deficient in one or more, re-engineer or replace it.
If you can simplify your technology footprint, you reduce costs and can redirect that energy into offering more innovative services to citizens.
№5 — Think strategically to adopt the right technology
A digital-first strategy encourages transformative change in how a government operates, often crossing agency lines. Be sure to consider all operations and departments before choosing a specific technology solution.
A successful implementation takes proper planning and preparation, and all stakeholders must agree change is needed. Take the time to figure out what specific issues need to be solved and identify the organization’s digital vision; this is crucial to avoid wasting time or backtracking. Understand your data and establish what information can be shared and who has access. When choosing a solution, make sure it’s consistent with all internal policies and procedures. It’ll be an ongoing process, so remember to build a project timeline, set goals and track them against the overall vision.
What do you see as the most critical element to navigate the road to digital government? Tell me in the comments below.
For more examples and related insights, visit PwC’s Digital government web page.