For many years now, the buzz in government has been around digital transformation. A technological metamorphosis is a must for any government, so as to deliver greater value to its citizens. But this change, even though it has been proclaimed for many years, and in different quarters within government, has been one that was met with great resistance.
This opposition, as strange as it may seem, comes from our human nature. It does not want to change. It does not like changes and will only change or consider changing if maintaining the status quo is going to be detrimental to our wellbeing.
English Naturalist and Geologist Charles Darwin once said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”
It is by adapting to change that a person, business, community or government can survive. This is a law that once we complied with can increase our chances of survivability. It is by how well a business adapts to digital transformation that will ensure its future competitiveness and eventually its survival.
This digital change is not a one-time change though. It is a transformation that must be ongoing. As innovation continues to grow and evolve, so must digital transformation. It is about transitioning with the new technology, accepting updates, learning to embrace new ways of doing things to better serve the overall goals of an organization.
The Next Industrial Revolution
Digital transformation is being talked about as the next Industrial Revolution. It is the means that will change business models, products, services and experiences that will not only impact organizations and governments but society as a whole.
While digital transformation is mainly about operational efficiency today, the revolution that is germinating will have greater effects in the future. However, to reap these benefits, the journey of digital transformation must begin now. The time for research and examining whether digital transformation is needed is now in the past. Digital transformation is vitally needed for the survival of society.
Transforming Service Delivery
Many governments around the world see the value of this digital change. Some are at various stages of investing and implementing business processes for a digital world. This includes providing the means for public servants to capture data at the point of origin while communicating and collaborating virtually.
Some governments in different countries, regions and cities are well into their journey of transformation. These examples, as we will see later, reveal that digital government is now a realistic and achievable goal. It is no longer a buzz word but an essential means to improve service delivery to its citizens.
“The pace of change is unlike anything we’ve seen before,” said Jason Hermitage, Vice President, Public Sector for Microsoft Canada.
This is revolutionary for governments around the world including our government. “This is an unprecedented time, not just for Ottawa but for Canada and all Canadians,” said Hermitage. He went on to point out that this is an opportunity for government to rethink how to deliver “government as a service” that will enable businesses to make the jump that they need.
Given the swift growth of cloud and mobile technologies, government employees can use digital tools to enhance service delivery in many areas. From virtual town halls for direct citizen engagement to the always-on virtual office for a mobile workforce, cloud-based services are being used as the key tool for this change. Those that have started this transformation are finding it to be uncomplicated, and fast to achieve while gaining a speedy return on investment.
Examples of Improving Productivity and Citizen Experience
When one thinks about digital government, Estonia is the poster child. It is commonly known that Estonia was an early adopter of e-government. As the smallest nation by population in the European Union, Estonia implemented e-government before the advent of cloud. Today, less than 5 per cent of government transactions are paper-based and the nation is moving data and legacy applications to the cloud. Estonia offers pre-registration for different government services as part of its citizens’ digital ID which can be accessed from anywhere in the world.
“Estonia took a different approach, they thought of government as a service. Everything is going to the cloud. Agility, security, and the ability to deliver on demand are all apart of Estonia’s e-government.” Hermitage said.
Just over a decade ago, Brazil passed a law that allowed judicial entities to receive processes in a digital format. The Chief Information Officer (CIO) of The State Court of Justice of Sao Paulo (TJSP) at that time, Rosely Castilho, saw it as an opportunity to change how the court did business to better serve the State of Sao Paulo’s 50 million citizens, and to comply with its Federal law.
Castilho’s plan to digitize the TJSP was enormous and bore risks in security and business continuity. The end goal was to have all new judicial processes stored digitally in databases, train over 50,000 employees, and establish governance policies – all to be done in 10 years. By the end of November 2015, a month ahead of the deadline, TJSP became 100 per cent digital.
Other examples of digital transformation resulted in cost savings for many governments. The City Council of Renton in Washington state in the US ordered its municipal court to reduce the number of employees by 23 per cent. This prompted a digital transformation to cloud-based digital court technologies. With this transition, the Council was able to provide service to its constituents with ease and reduce the time spent on cases. The result, a savings of nearly half a million per year to Renton’s taxpayers.
Various other governments in Mexico, South Africa, the Netherlands, Australia, the UK and New Zealand are in different phases of their digital transformation which have resulted in improved service delivery, better staff morale, the ease at which to collaborate and increase efficiency.
The common denominator in all of these cases is Microsoft. These governments embraced the technology and services of Microsoft in embarking on their digital transformation. As a leading company in cloud-based services, Microsoft is working with governments globally to accelerate the rate of digital transformation.
The Roadmap to Transform
As part of its digital transformation strategy in helping organizations begin their journey, Microsoft has pinpointed four key focus areas. These are core drivers for the transformational journey.
The first area is to engage citizens. Engaging citizens through mobile services can enable governments to better understand citizen needs and how to satisfy it. This requires governments to sanction mobile citizen services and interacting with citizens on secure mobile government platforms.
Next is to empower government workers. It is about providing the infrastructure for public servants to collaborate and increase productivity through mobile platforms.
Another key area to focus on is to optimize government operations. With a trusted cloud service and solution, governments can increase operating efficiencies and cost savings.
Transform services is the last core area in Microsoft’s roadmap to achieve digital transformation. The vast amount of data collected by being digitalized can be used to create actionable analysis, insights and aid in better decision making.
Once these core pillars are applied by governments in their digital transformation, they often result in many fantastic and innovative ideas that enable greater citizen engagement, productivity, cost efficiency, better insights into data and boost service.
The Driving Force
Governments are faced with the challenge of delivering greater value to their citizens. Added to the increasing pressures from an aging and diverse population, citizens are demanding better and more digital engagement with governments at all levels.
“They need to meet their citizens from where they are coming from,” said Hermitage. “Citizens are demanding that government change. The same way they interact with their banks is the same way they want to interact with their governments.”
This driving force is pushing governments to deliver better services. By adopting cloud and mobile computing, governments are becoming more equipped with new tools to meet the challenges and demands from their citizens.
This demand from its citizens is helping governments to see the need to digitize so as to deliver better services.
The Main Obstacles
One of the main obstacles in moving to the cloud is security or the lack thereof.
“In the last five years security was an impediment to moving to the cloud. Today, it is an advantage for why governments are moving to the cloud,” Hermitage pointed out.
He went on to add that cloud is more secure than what organizations can deliver on premise. The change came about with the realization that the cloud can be as or more secure than what they have within their organization.
“Who can afford to replicate what Microsoft has done on security, research, innovation and security certifications,” Hermitage added. Microsoft has invested billions in research and development and security to become a trusted partner and provider of cloud technology around the world.
The other obstacle is how they think about embracing the cloud. Rather than working in silos, IT and business need to go hand in hand to deliver a better service. “It is not an IT initiative nor a business initiative. It is a joint initiative.” The way to solve this, according to Hermitage is to identify the biggest issues and make sure that the partners, both IT and business departments go and deliver.
There is no doubt that the digital transformation will continue to expand at a rapid rate. To help in this area, Microsoft is investing more in research and development to improve personal computing.
“It’s not about a device, it’s about you. You are the mobility that we care about,” Hermitage explained. “We want to make it more personal; like being able to use your voice, ink, cognitive services to enhance the experience you have, to make it work for you.”
Another area that is a big focus for Microsoft in digital transformation is business productivity and reinventing productivity. “The single biggest thing we all wish we have more of is time.” Hermitage went on to highlight the example of using Microsoft Outlook. “On your phone, you can use ‘Focused’ which is a small feature that can save you a few minutes a day. Over time the minutes add up. If it saves you 24 hours every few months. What would you do if you had 24 more hours?”
The intelligent cloud is also a focus for the leading technology company. “It is about how do we create an intelligent cloud that will help us make decisions. The amount of data that is being generated is incredible but it is not about how much data that is being created but about what can you do with it?” It is about making sense of the data to see what is going to happen. With AI and Machine Learning, Microsoft is positioning its customers to make decisions based on forward-looking. An example of this is predictive analysis, it is the use of data to see for example what impact a policy is going to have if implemented.
“It’s exciting and we’re just getting started,” Hermitage said.
Jason Hermitage is one of the speakers that will present on the topic of digital transformation at TechGov, an event that will be held on January 29 and 30 in Ottawa. His goal at TechGov is to inspire the attendees to walk away with what is possible that they can do in their work. It is about what they can do to help embrace the 4th Industrial Revolution as it relates to government. He will share stories on how other governments are taking advantage of new technology to deliver better citizen services and more open government. Also, he said that he wants to leave attendees inspired by what they can do today, not 10 years from now, to make an impact in their organization.