3 steps for governments to stay relevant in our digital world


Posted on: May 21, 2018 by Kay Hooghoudt

With a staggering 90% of the world’s data created in the last two years, commercial companies everywhere are busy turning their data into competitive advantage.

Yet for governments, data is still a largely untapped resource. One of the biggest reasons for this is that systematic data-sharing within governments is still quite rare. Why is that? Decades of history and tradition have something to do with it.

Working in silos

Of course, in the era of paper forms and filing, it was simply not practical to share much of the data stored in dusty archives. But the reasons for the lack of data-sharing go much deeper. Even today, many government departments work in silos that make data-sharing difficult, and even unwelcome. It’s fair to say that civil servants have tended to take a conservative approach to sharing data unless explicitly ordered to do so; avoiding risk and keeping ministers away from parliamentary questions is paramount in large bureaucracies. What’s more, there may be legal constraints on sharing citizen information.

But now, with digital transformation all around us, these cultural norms are rapidly looking out of date – as long as data is secured. These days, citizens want joined-up, easy-to-use public services online and don’t care how these are organized behind the scenes. At the same time, powerful digital technologies mean it’s possible to analyze and visualize huge volumes of data to address problems that are simply too difficult to solve in any other way. Increasingly, having data that is incomplete, inaccurate or fragmented is something that no government department can afford.

Achieving real transformation

As governments join the digital revolution, innovation is high on their political and operational agendas. Yet many are still investing heavily in consolidating old IT infrastructures based on out-of-date silos and bureaucracies. Here’s just one example: while some governments are proud of implementing a ‘digital mailbox’ to communicate with their citizens, these – in the main – are just a digital way of filling in those same paper forms and waiting in the same queues to proceed to the next (virtual) counter. In other words, they are digitizing the red tape!

Three key steps

Without digital transformation, governments won’t be overthrown, but they can become obsolete in the eyes of their citizens. So, what makes sense for governments to stay relevant in the digital age? There are three key steps.

  1. Re-design their core services with citizens at the heart of service design. Start small, re-design the services that are in demand, and devise processes and citizen experiences that really make a difference.
  2. Classify and hold all relevant data where it is needed to meet the needs of service users (citizens and businesses). Eliminate or cut across silos to put that data in place.
  3. Apply big data and analytics to deliver more personalized services and identify service users’ needs and trends. Deploy machine learning to improve services, build in continuous improvement and keep learning.

This may all sound radical, but with new cloud capabilities, machine learning, big data and automation, we have already seen many sectors (banking, retail, media and transport) drastically reinvent themselves to survive the next decade. For governments too, this is fundamental to their purpose to meet citizens’ needs and make the world a better place for all.

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About Kay Hooghoudt

Global Director Digital Transformation & Cloud in Government
Kay is Global Director Digital Transformation & Cloud in Government at Atos. Kay advises governments, universities and public bodies all over the world on digital strategy and cloud adoption. He is a digital visionary, responsible for developing new themes and strategies in the public space. Having worked with public service leaders in Europe, Australia, the US, the Middle East and Asia, Kay addresses the fear in some parts of the public sector about cloud adoption. With his extensive international cross-market network, he has knowledge and stories to share about how leading public institutions have navigated the journey to cloud and the role of private, public and third-party cloud ecosystems. Kay advises on hybrid cloud orchestration, access to legacy systems, data classification, security, scalability, resilience, cost, data protection and data sovereignty. Kay’s career includes 15 years in Senior Management positions within the Government of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Since 2012 he was Vice-President Government & (Higher) Education, Atos International. He joined Atos in 2007 as Executive Account Director for Government & (Higher) Education in the Netherlands. Kay has a Masters degree in International Law (LLM) and a BA in Cultural Anthropology & Non-Western Sociology from the University of Leiden.

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