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The COVID-19 pandemic has produced disrupted governments while altering levels of public trust and underscoring the importance of strong digital government foundations. On the positive side, this has created an opportunity for governments worldwide to revisit their strategic approaches to using digital tools and data to improve the delivery of public value.
Digital government in the post-pandemic age is recently understood as “the use of digital technologies as an integrated part of a government’s modernization strategies to create and deliver public value,” according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
The article hereby intends to gaze upon some of the best practices in strategy execution as far as the enablement of a digital government in various countries around the globe from perspectives as important as a framework for strategy execution, initiative management, strategy implementation costs, and communication strategy for results strategy.
1. A Comprehensive National Government Data Strategy (the Netherlands)
Data Agenda Overheid is the Netherlands’ national government data strategy developed and led by the Dutch Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations. The strategy aims to accelerate the ethical use of data within central and local governments to foster better policy-making and resolve social challenges, paying specific attention to legislation and public values, data management, knowledge sharing, and investment in people, organizations, and cultural change. Below (see Table 1) are some of the main costs for action points in the Data Agenda Governments:
2. Communication Strategy on the Outcomes of the Digital Government Agenda (Colombia)
Part of becoming more proactive is having a well-equipped public sector capable of responding to citizens’ requests before they are submitted. For this process to function, the public sector must have in place referential strategies or policies to anticipate future scenarios, prepare for the next steps and guide civil servants in their actions.
For example, the Ministry of Information Technology and Communications of Colombia (MINTIC) has developed a communication strategy called Estrategia de Comunicaciones 2018 that functions as a policy lever to inform citizens about the outcomes of the digital government strategy and initiatives of the Colombian government.
The strategy consists of general and specific messages and communication channels targeted to the respective relevant audience. It specifies available tools and communication toolkits that public servants can draw on to communicate proactively with the public. The strategy also includes a detailed action plan with information on the topic, content, and channels to convey the government’s message.
The existence of a communication strategy enhances the anticipatory and organizational capacity of the Colombian government to engage with citizens and guide public servants to promptly communicate with the public once outcomes from the digital government strategy or initiatives emerge. Ultimately, this approach enhances public trust by fostering transparency regarding the result of projects and improving contact with citizens, thereby reinforcing the legitimacy of the government’s actions
3. Initiatives for a Secure Cloud Strategy Execution (Australia)
The Secure Cloud Strategy has been developed to guide Australians through the digital change brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic and make sure everyone has the opportunity to make the most of what the cloud has to offer. The strategy is based on several key initiatives designed to prepare agencies for the shift to the cloud and support them through the transition:
- Initiative 1: Independent cloud strategy for government agencies. Australian agencies are encouraged to develop their journeys to the cloud based on the following: value case, workforce plan, “best fit” cloud models, service readiness, and transition approach.
- Initiative 2: Layered certification model. Sharing information and assessments through a Common Assessment Framework to help improve security practices while at the same time reducing the burden on agencies to recreate material.
- Initiative 3: Redeveloped Cloud Services Panel to align with the procurement recommendations for a new procurement pathway that better supports cloud commodity purchases. Streamlining the current cloud strategy arrangements in alignment with the implementation of the ICT Procurement Review will create a commodity procurement pathway that will ensure the government can procure and access a wider range of innovative cloud services for use by the government.
- Initiative 4: Dashboard to show service status for adoption, compliance status, and services panel status and pricing. The cloud dashboard capability seeks to provide enhanced transparency of cloud usage and compliance cross-government and support clearer guidance regarding the costs, service suitability, and government status in a cloud environment.
- Initiative 5: Cloud service qualities baseline and assessment capability. A cloud qualities baseline capability and assessment framework were developed to enable assessments for the new and existing cloud. This framework includes a baseline and measurement criteria to assess the cloud service. Once complete, assessments are published to provide greater visibility of how services can meet requirements and enable the re-use of assessments across the government.
- Initiative 6: Cloud responsibility model supported by a cloud contracts capability. The approach will include evolving ICT contracts to articulate the responsibilities across the different deployment and service models and strengthen these baseline contract provisions.
- Initiative 7: Whole-of-government cloud knowledge exchange platform. Deliver a platform for agencies to better collaborate and reuse common capabilities for their cloud adoption and use. The development of the platform considers how users interact with the service, accessibility, governance, operations, and technology.
- Initiative 8: Building a Digital Capability program to include cloud skills. A long-term approach to developing a cloud skills capability to ensure the value and opportunity of the cloud is harnessed.
4. Digital Government Roadmap, Strategic Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), and Maturity Model to reflect on a High Commitment to Digital Transformation (United Arab Emirates)
The UAE is among the world’s leading countries in various digital life indexes, including The KPI Institute’s Government Services Index (GSI) 2022 due to the significant advancement of its information and communication technology sector.
The United Arab Emirates is the top performer in the Middle East as far as digital transformation, consistently moving towards a data-driven and paperless government. The Strategy for Government Services states that 100 percent of government services will be accessible from anywhere and 24/7 by 2030. The UAE Strategy for Government Services aims to boost its competitiveness in the services sector and position it as the best in the world in rendering government services.
As far as digital “content provision” is concerned, the UAE is ranked high on the availability of basic public information and resources online. The UAE Institutional Framework reveals a strong focus among other things, on digital government strategy, organizational structure, legislation on access to information and privacy, and open data policy.
The UAE Digital Strategy may be one of the most comprehensive in the world, built on a well-designed digital government roadmap with enablers, a results-measurement framework based on strategic KPIs, and an institutional maturity assessment model to guide successful digital transformation. The UAE Digital Government Roadmap comprises six main pillars encompassing 64 national digital enablers.
The Digital Strategy Measurement framework reveals four areas of measurement, such as public satisfaction and digital capabilities, and 10 strategic KPIs, which all exhibit 2025 targets for achievement of digital government transformation results (see Figure 1).
Figure 1. Strategic KPIs | The UAE Digital Government Strategy 2025
The UAE Digital Government Maturity Model aims to assess the UAE government organizations on both federal and local levels against a framework that helps create clarity about the UAE digital government capabilities and to inform investments in new capabilities. The maturity model comprises eight main dimensions (See Figure 2). Each dimension has a set of sub-dimensions that guide enabling actions that each government entity might take to increase its maturity along each dimension. Each sub-dimension has a set of specific items to be used by each UAE government entity to determine their level of maturity for each sub-dimension and dimension.
Figure 2. The maturity model’s eight main dimensions | The UAE Digital Government Strategy 2025
The five levels of maturity range from Level 1 representing a very low level of maturity to level 5 representing a very high level of maturity (See Figure 3). The assessment responses provide an outline for a roadmap for a successful digital government transformation.
Figure 3. The five levels of maturity | The UAE Digital Government Strategy 2025
The objective is 100 percent a very high level of maturity for all UAE government entities on both federal and local levels by 2025.
This article was first published in the 24th printed edition of PERFORMANCE Magazine. You can get a free digital copy from the TKI Marketplace here or purchase a print copy from Amazon for a nominal fee here.
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“What you should see is an exponential improvement in the quality of service. You will have proactive service delivery. You will have the best quality output that will make you feel like the government understands you, that it feels you, that it serves tailor-made services for you specifically as an individual. That is the impact of AI in your life.” – The UAE Minister for Artificial Intelligence Omar Al Olama, via Euronews.com
The COVID-19 pandemic has emphasized the discourse about the importance of digital transformation to the survival of an organization, especially in the public and government sector. At the World Government Summit 2022, it was evident that digital government has become a top priority as governments worldwide try to keep up with technological advancements and rapid change.
Digitalization provides more efficient and high-quality services and boosts communication between governments and citizens. The three most captivating qualities of a digital government are its capacity for effective service delivery, affordable scaling, and quick adaptation. Many large-scale digital innovations from telemedicine to telework, as well as from virtual courts to virtual education were implemented to aid the needs of the citizens and maintain government services. These initiatives show how relevant digitalization is now more than ever.
Despite the progress made by many governments, reaching a mature level of digitalization is not an easy endeavor. The development efforts of countries under unusual circumstances are still being hampered by persistent problems, especially in the least developed countries. For instance, in Africa, the price of mobile broadband connections remains extremely high relative to per capita gross national income making e-government developmental initiatives compromised.
From analog government to digital government
The digitization of government operations and public services—the switch from analog to electronic governance—has advanced dramatically during the past few decades. Governments have attempted to modernize their working practices through extensive public sector reforms to accommodate new technologies and citizen needs.
In the public sector, digital transformation plays a significant role in enhancing the potential of community participation, as well as process efficiency improvements in government organizations. Giving citizens a voice and the opportunity to participate in and work on governance increases public trust, and meeting evolving customer service needs remains a top priority.
Denmark recently introduced an e-participation initiative where individuals can suggest new legislation through the use of electronic petitions. The Danish parliament oversees the Borgerforslag (https://www.borgerforslag.dk/) initiative, which translates exactly to “citizen proposal.” As of now, this project already received a total of over 1400 proposals. The program is open to everybody who is eligible to vote in general elections in Denmark. They can propose, evaluate, and vote on proposals in the portal for the changes they believe the government or society should address. The proposal may be submitted as a motion for resolution if it is supported by 50,000 eligible voters in the general election.
In discussing digitalization in the government, e-government and digital government are two concepts that should be defined. Although these two ideas are commonly combined, they nevertheless refer to separate notions. E-government is described as the government’s use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) to improve public services in the “E-Government Services Adoption: An Extension of the Unified Model of Electronic Government Adoption,” a study led by Isaac Kofi Mensah in 2020. Moreover, e-government deepens citizens’ connections to their government and promotes greater citizen involvement in the decision-making process. E-government aims to advance the effectiveness and transparency of the government by delivering services faster and cost-effectively and empowering citizens through participatory governance.
The idea of digital governance signifies a fundamental change in how governments globally are approaching their role. Governments are transforming how they use the power of information technologies: from establishing quantifiable administrative objectives to enhancing the provision of public services, from data-driven decision-making to implementing evidence-based regulations, and from providing more accountability and transparency within the government to boost public trust.
Furthermore, digital government services save employees’ time for bigger projects and reduce the production time and materials for the public services. According to GovOS, an organization that provides “innovative solutions and industry-leading services” to governments, digital government services, such as business license renewals, fishing license applications, and filing tax returns, do not require manual manpower to process an application. This allows the employee to focus on the more important projects.
Similarly, Secretary-General of the Asian Productivity Organization (APO) Dr. AKP Mochtan mentioned in the Digitalization of Public Service Delivery in Asia report that the delivery of public services can change from “being reactive to citizens’ needs to becoming proactive to anticipate future needs” as a result of the use of digital technologies.
Realizing the opportunities demands a paradigm shift in the use of digital technologies and data within governments, from e-government to digital government. In an effort to increase efficiency, an e-government approach sees technology as the answer for digitizing the delivery of an existing analog process. It puts emphasis on its implementation. In contrast, digital government practices place less emphasis on technology and more on re-engineering and revamping services and procedures to satisfy user needs. The establishment of digital-by-design cultures, which alter organizational behavior, goes hand in hand with this digitalization.
Benefits of digital public services
When properly implemented, e-government makes it possible for individuals, businesses, and organizations to connect with the government more conveniently, promptly, and affordably. The potential savings in expenses are also enormous. According to the European Commission, electronic billing in Denmark saves businesses and taxpayers a combined €200 million annually. Savings might reach $50 billion annually if implemented all over Europe. Meanwhile, e-procurement systems in Italy reduced expenses by nearly €3 billion.
E-Government results in increased internal productivity and efficiency of government workers, having more time for critical duties rather than more time-consuming tasks like filing reports or paperwork manually. It also boosts better cross-departmental collaboration since key documents are shared and can be easily found in a digital repository. Digital government services can lessen paper-based workflows that save governments money and benefit the environment. This will also result in decreased labor expenses.
Governments may accomplish more with fewer resources and provide greater services to their citizens using digital government services instead of sticking with conventional ones. These digital services for the government can also promote transparency and strengthen ties between the public and its governing body when any suspicion appears.
The conventional approach to service delivery entails several paper-based procedures, a minimal to no understanding of the business processes, a significant time and labor commitment, and no public access to the data collected. The advantages of digital government services not only assist in solving all of these challenges. But they also strengthen the bond between governments and their constituents.
Drivers and challenges
In times of social distance, the digital government has also played a crucial role in enabling public institutions to continue to be available and functional so they can meet citizens’ requirements. Only the governments in the region with the appropriate digital infrastructure have been able to provide services like transferring resources to people in need, distance learning for students, telemedicine, and the distribution of basic information on plans, strategies, and policies during the pandemic.
Governments increased their digital journey to meet their constituents’ needs by expanding digital infrastructure through automation and artificial intelligence, utilizing cloud-based services, and building a digital architecture for the entire government. Moreover, the government makes the public sector workforce more digital and invests in the interconnectedness of citizens to accelerate digitization during the pandemic.
In the coming years, a number of countries plan to considerably boost the amount they spend on digital infrastructure. The “digital divide” between the most and least connected communities will be addressed by investments in updating technology infrastructure and establishing fiber networks to boost internet access. As part of the Digital Spain 2025 initiative, the Spanish government plans to invest €20 billion in digital infrastructure in the next three years, with an additional €50 billion coming from private sources. The French government plans to invest €7 billion in digital projects, including modernizing public information systems and stepping up initiatives to include older individuals online.
In Thailand, 5G networks have facilitated cooperation between the public and private sectors and are a key part of the government’s Thailand 4.0 digital recovery plan. In a similar manner, the Scottish Government committed £4 million in financing as part of the Scotland 5G Connect Program for the construction of a number of hubs that would roll out 5G services throughout the nation. In addition, the Australian government invested over $21.2 million in commercial 5G trials and testbeds across important industry sectors to speed up the implementation.
Meanwhile, the United States has a reputation for being a leader in digital government services. Based on The KPI Institute’s Government Services Index (GSI) 2022, the United States is the top performer in the Digitalization dimension. The GSI 2022 report compiles and ranks 66 countries around seven regions in the world based on their performance in different dimensions and indicators. It highlights the Digitalization dimension, which refers to the significance of technology and redefining ways in how residents and public services interact.
The United States started its e-government journey two decades ago when the country published The E-Government Act of 2002. Its goal was to foster the utilization of the internet and new technologies across government agencies, as well as the provision of citizen-centric government information and services. The United States Digital Service (USDS), whose goal is to provide a better government experience, was also established.
This article was first published in the 24th printed edition of PERFORMANCE Magazine. You can get a free digital copy from the TKI Marketplace here or purchase a print copy from Amazon for a nominal fee here.