It’s time for governments to undergo a digital revolution

By Ranga Shetty, General Manager, Granicus, India

Across the globe, governments have traditionally been late adopters when it comes to the implementation of new technologies. The hesitation is quite understandable given the cost and limited reach of emerging technologies. However, with digital technologies, these are no longer concerns. Citizens have accepted digital technology into every aspect of their day-to-day lives. So much so that there is a growing expectation that governments too must cater to their needs through online self-service options just as private businesses do. The traditional ways of working, where citizens needed to physically visit a government office, fill out a form, stand in line, etc. are simply not acceptable to a digitally savvy populace.

In addition to providing better customer experiences, embracing technology platforms can also help the government achieve significant savings in cost and resources while speeding up the delivery of citizen services. The pandemic was a game-changer for governments around the world when it came to the use of digital technologies to optimize healthcare.

In other areas such as traffic management, taxation, grievance management, etc., technology adoption has helped to improve the effectiveness of governance. Perhaps even more important, it has helped to minimize corruption, enable consistent and transparent communication with the public, and allow for remote management of systems.

The advantage of Digital systems for GovTech

Digital systems form the base for better communication and collaboration. But while building smart GovTech solutions is important, it is equally important to ensure that the solutions are intelligent and aligned with the needs of citizens to facilitate citizen collaboration and engagement.

Community connections forged through digital engagement can help receive rich feedback and enable data-driven project decisions for a more responsive government. In the City of Baytown, in Texas, USA, for example, the city administration launched a public art contest for columns to be placed around the community. The government received an astounding number of responses through their platform, much higher than they could reach through their open houses or in-person meetings in the past. The success has spurred the city to provide accurate information about local projects and their impact, as well as address concerns in one place.

Beyond these perceivable merits, the large volumes of data generated in the backend of a digital government can be used in new and innovative ways through the power of data science. This data can then be analyzed and utilized to enable smarter decision-making, especially to solve complex problems such as building large, sustainable communities or combating fraud.

While the digital transformation of governments is urgent and important, it is not a single-step process. Successful transformation also involves restructuring within departments, appointing the right people for critical roles, and implementing technology under efficient leadership.

The use of automation and ML-powered systems to compute and develop solutions can also ease the transformation and enable a smooth and efficient digital transformation strategy. Take the example of the City of Dallas, TX in the US. Back in 2015, responding to code enforcement violations, especially those involving multiple departments was extremely difficult for city administrators. Using automation, the city has simplified the process significantly, eliminating the need for manual intervention. Due dates are automatically calculated, and reminders/escalations are automatically sent to citizens.

Similarly, tools such as predictive modeling can help guide decisions, especially when it comes to investing in large projects that involve significant time, money, and effort for the government. Simulation tools can also help anticipate issues in projects and address them during the execution stage. Let’s take the example of building a housing community. A housing simulation tool can help community members to view and build hypothetical housing plans and their potential impact on existing neighborhoods. Not only will this help iron out issues at the planning stages, but it can also engender a sense of ownership and create better buy-in for such new projects from community members.

Of course, building such a solution also requires an experienced talent pool of engineers who are trained in building these massively scalable, highly secure systems that are purpose-built for government and civic engagement.

Citizens today expect and demand that government services be easily accessible and responsive to their needs. They seek online systems that are seamless, accessible, and secure. So, while various government organizations might be at different stages of technology implementation, the future direction is clear. Technology platforms will play a key role in helping governments improve their processes and provide more effective and convenient services to residents.

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