From ‘Digitizing Public Services’ towards ‘Delivering Services to the Public’
Technology rapidly re-focuses and shifts what’s important in our society these days. Be it energy, where fossil fuels from the Middle East are being replaced with durable power sources; or 3D-printing and drones knocking on the door of retail, manufacturing and transport companies; or in the finance sector, where banks are reduced to smart software platforms delivering services cheaper, better and faster.
We’re seeing a wave of technology coming towards us: robotics, artificial intelligence, advanced neurological science, genetics, nanotechnology, new energy sources, quantum computers and more. It is called progress: at least for the happy few who can follow and prosper from these developments. With the right skill level and education, these are challenging and exciting times. But at same time, the system is under increasing strain. We’re expected to get much older, the inequality gap is widening, long-standing institutions like the EU are being challenged, and democracy is under pressure from an increasingly resentful part of the population.
So where are our Governments in all this?
Given today’s increasing citizen empowerment, it’s fascinating to see the part that technology can play in reshaping services from Government to citizens. Look how Estonia is using the e-Estonia program. It’s a great way to boost its economy (with foreigners able to apply for e-citizenship to do business in Estonia without ever setting foot there) and improve services to its citizens at the same time.
There is also the rise of new trends like Smart Cities, Smart Education, Smart Health, Smart Transport, and now even Smart Policing. These are a clear signal that technology is making irreversible – although sometimes hesitant – inroads into the public administration domain.
At the same time, Governments are being challenged on their very existence, their responsibilities, their role and their future. Technology in this context is an enabler to fundamentally reinvent Government services to the public.
Key in this new era of ‘Uberization’ is to deliver better, faster and cheaper services using lots of technology to guarantee resilient and user-friendly outcomes. Governments can foster better appreciation of public services, making life easier for citizens and eventually ‘making this world a better place’.
So instead of transferring existing Government processes into a digital form, it makes more sense to look at how digital services can change and improve the user experience of Government. Let’s not forget that in the end, there is a contract between Government and the citizen in which taxes are exchanged for a safe, fair, prosperous, resilient and trusted society. So why should we not expect modern, lean, smart services as part of this contract? Governments should innovate, or they become increasingly irrelevant.
Technology is (part of) the answer.