I have not being blogging for quite some time, but a lot has happened in Gartner government research over the last few months. Perhaps the most remarkable achievement has been the redesign of our research agenda to align with the digital government priorities that many of our clients are dealing or are about to deal with.
There is no doubt that there is still a fair amount of confusion in the marketplace about what constitutes digital. While I received some pointed criticism when I said that there is a risk that digital government looks pretty much like e-government, client conversations over the last few months clearly show that there is no single definition of what digital means and that the risk of turning it into more of the same is clear and present to several people.
Now, to set the record straight, I do believe digital government is profoundly different from e-government as well as from government 2.0 (although in some jurisdictions the latter terms still looks more relevant than “digital”). Whereas there are many differences as far as technologies and what they make possible,political will, and evolving citizen demand, my contention is that the single most fundamental difference is in the relevance of data and how new and unforeseen uses of data can truly transform the way governments deliver their services and perform their operations.
This is not at all just about government as a platform or open government, where government is primarily a provider of data that constituents – be they citizens, business or intermediaries – use and mash up in new ways. It is also about government themselves inventing new ways to user their own as well as constituents’ data. It is only by striking the right balance between being a data provider and being a data broker and consumer that governments will find the right path to being truly digital.
During the Gartner Symposia I attended last fall, I had numerous interesting conversations with people who are exploring very innovative ways of using its own data, such as:
- tax authorities contemplating to use up-to-date financial information about taxpayers to proactively suggest investments that may provide tax breaks,
- education institutions leveraging data about student location from their original purpose (giving parents information about students’ whereabouts) to providing new tools for teachers to understand behavioral patterns and relate those to more personalized learning
- immigration authorities leveraging data coming from video analysis, whose role is to flag suspicious immigrants for secondary inspection, to inform public safety authorities or the hospitality sector about specific issues and opportunities with tourists.
In the second half of 2013, Gartner government analysts focused on distilling the fundamental components of a digital government initiative, in order to be able to shape our research and advice in ways that hit the most important issues that client face. The new government research agenda has just been published (see Agenda Overview for Government, 2014) and eight key issues, grouped in three distinct areas, that need to be addressed to successfully transform into a digital government organization.
- Service Delivery Innovation: How will governments use technology to support innovative services that produce better results for society?
- Open Government: How will governments create and sustain a digital ecosystem that citizens can trust and want to participate in?
- New Digital Business Models: What data-driven business models will emerge to meet the growing needs for adequate and sustainable public services?
- Joint Governance: How will governance coordinate IT and service decisions across independent public and private organizations?
- Scalable Interoperability: How much interoperability is needed to support connected government services and at what cost?
- Workforce Innovation: How will the IT organization and role transform to support government workforce innovation?
- Adaptive Sourcing: How will government IT organizations expand their sourcing strategies to take advantage of competitive cloud-based and consumer-grade solutions?
- Sustainable Financing: How will government IT organizations obtain and manage the financial resources required to connect government and engage citizens?
This agenda is meant to both answer immediate questions about whether and how to deploy cloud solutions, how to deal with mobile service delivery, how to better leverage data, how to make shared services more successful, and so forth. But it also aims at looking beyond the obvious, at challenging the common wisdom, at warning our clients about jumping into the future without absorbing the lessons from the past. As usual, our research will reassure clients in certain areas and challenge them in others. We do not write research to please but to help.
I wholeheartedly hope that our effort will help the government community – both technology users and providers – find effective ways to advance the digital agenda, optimize the use of limited financial resources and skills, and set the pace for a transformation where digital becomes business as usual and second nature to government business leaders, IT executives and ultimately every single civil servant.
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