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A Grim Picture About Government IT in Most of Europe

by Andrea Di Maio  |  October 4, 2010  |  5 Comments

Over the last two weeks I have been visiting Italy, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium and Sweden, meeting a fair amount of clients in each country.

With the notable exception of Sweden, almost all conversations revolved around the need for cost savings, something I have touched upon in a previous post. The other common theme is the fragility and even awkwardness of political alliances that are required to either form or keep governments afloat. It appears that the only topic where governments can agree is indeed on the need to reduce the cost of government. Sweden, in spite of high unemployment and the struggle of the traditional manufacturing industry, is still doing ok and there is palpable confidence that, while efficiencies are important, there won’t be any major budget cut or emergency measure for IT.

Elsewhere the situation is different. Pressure can be felt at both national and local level, and the topic of efficiency dominates. Most agree that, in tough times, when most savings come from reducing headcount and automating processes, IT should become more important. But, as I have been arguing for the last two years, IT professionals and vendors have not been effective during the good times to show how IT investments were contributing to demonstrable improvements in service levels and in mission effectiveness. The mythical issue of demonstrating the “business (or public) value of IT” has remained unresolved in most cases, leaving IT vulnerable to be seen as a commodity. This impression is reinforced by all the vendor messaging about “cloud computing”, which give politicians the impression that getting rid of IT is as easy as buying electricity from a utility.

While government organizations need to be taking steps toward the use of commodity technology where it makes sense and it safe to do so, they also have to look for new, creative ways to use IT to slash (not just reduce) the cost of operations. This requires to take a close look at how IT can help transform and even revolutionize the way of doing business to make it sustainable. One example is the use of social media to engage constituents in service delivery, leading to completely new levels of self-service. How can this be achieved if government agencies do not give technology a central role?

The problem is that this runs partially contrary to the common wisdom, where IT gets more and more shared and centralized and individuals are more and more deprived of their IT investment autonomy, hence leading to fewer chances of discovering how IT can transform their respective businesses.

Interestingly, Sweden is one of the countries where the development of shared services is most difficult, due to the constitutional independence of its agencies. Of course they are looking into common solutions, but they do so in a somewhat gentler and cooperative way, as opposed to jurisdictions where centralization is a mandate (see previous blog post). I bet they will stay better off.

Category: europe-and-it  

Tags: consolidation  shared-services  

Andrea Di Maio
Managing VP
15 years at Gartner
28 years IT industry

Andrea Di Maio is a managing vice president for public sector in Gartner Research, covering government and education. His personal research focus is on digital government strategies strategies, Web 2.0, open government, cloud computing, the business value of IT, smart cities, and the impact of technology on the future of government Read Full Bio

Thoughts on A Grim Picture About Government IT in Most of Europe

  1. @iJohnDNS says:

    “..has remained resolved in most cases..” – ‘unresolved’?

  2. Of course John, I just fixed it. Not even a freudian slip, just too little sleep due to a missed flight connection :)

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Adriel Hampton, Gov 2.0, Jovi Umawing, Andrea DiMaio, Cockpit Project and others. Cockpit Project said: RT @AndreaDiMaio: A Grim Picture About Government IT in Most of Europe – #gov20 @egov #cloud […]

  4. The situation in Sweden is probably common to the other Nordic countries, Denmark, Norway, Finland and Iceland: Relatively high IT-spending, strong privacy protection and a most national national databases have been of digitized for decades.

    “Reuse of public sector information – The Norwegian story”

  5. IoM Allan says:

    Come visit us in our island jurisdiction – we think we’re balancing cost optimisation with service optimisation, and still transforming government.

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