Towards the new hybrid society

Towards the new hybrid society

Following the huge changes to public service delivery during the pandemic, governments have a critical opportunity over the next decade to evolve as Smart Touchless Governments.

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Kay Hooghoudt
Group VP Strategic Business Development for Public Sector & Defense, Atos

So, what does that mean and what is needed to make it a reality in these fast-changing times?

Traditionally, to interact with their local or central government, citizens have had to contact different departments separately and, often, wait in a queue in office hours either on the phone or at a government building. In contrast, confronted with the demands of Covid-19, governments everywhere have had to make large parts of their public services accessible online.

Finding a new balance

One benefit of this is that citizens will no longer need to physically present themselves to access a service. So public services can become ‘Touchless’. Another is that by providing services online, governments can store and use even more data to become more ‘Smart’. In other words, they can leverage insights data in order to act faster, trigger more targeted and personalized citizen experiences, and even anticipate and pre-empt citizens’ individual needs.

Of course, this kind of digital transformation does not happen overnight; yet let’s look at the pace and scale of what happened in 2020. Many citizens shifted from five days working in the office to every day working at home. In terms of decision-making at local and national level, the public sector has already embraced digital meetings, consultations and debates and – almost overnight – decisions made in this way can be permitted and approved by law, without physical attendance. We are fast creating to a new normal that blends the physical and digital worlds. The challenge now is to find a new balance between the two as our new ‘hybrid society’ takes shape.

Overcoming the silos

One of the barriers to transformation is that over the course of the previous two decades, when governments did start to digitalize, this tended to occur by department, which created siloed data stores. Even today, many public services are delivered in silos – especially when more than one agency is involved.

Multi-agency data-sharing requires governments to use more flexible and agile technology; they need access to ever-increasing massive computing power, plus enough storage capacity in the cloud for all national sovereign data to be processed, digested and protected in a resilient way and within national borders.

Radical redesign

It also requires a change in culture and mindset for public sector workers to collaborate. Traditionally, government agencies and internal departments may be accustomed to protecting information, either because they don’t know the rules of collaboration or can’t see the benefit of doing so. Equally, legislation can be a real blocker; but this too is changing. South Australian Government, for instance, passed its Public Sector Data Sharing Act 2016 to promote, enable and regulate data sharing across government, even when other legislation may prohibit it.

Clearly, different governments are at different stages of digital maturity depending on their particular circumstances. The move online should not merely be about digitizing existing bureaucracy or red tape. The capabilities of digital technologies make it possible to radically redesign services (with citizens at the heart) and revolutionize the way data is captured, analyzed and validated.

Paradigm shift

Enabled by cloud – together with new technologies such AI, chatbots and blockchain – comes a paradigm shift. While the backbone of government has for centuries been the keeping of 08 records through paper registration and validation process, now these processes can be much more easily automated and virtualized in the cloud.

Instead of paper or online forms, why not use bots and blockchain to hold digital permits and records, so that government is no longer the ‘keeper’ of all these records, but instead the official ‘verifier’ of a single digital version of the truth?

Sustainable hybrid society

This period in history is about leadership not only out of the pandemic, but away from old paradigms and towards investment in major structural change. What’s more, with pressure to expand digital transformation across the public sector, it no longer makes sense to keep all IT in the old-fashioned way that means it’s too inflexible, costly or slow to keep pace.

The pandemic has underlined how important it is for the public sector to innovate and lead the evolution of a balanced, sustainable and hybrid society. Governments in the 21st century are public bodies with critical national sovereign data that they can orchestrate, secure and use in powerful ways to deliver Smart and Touchless Government that’s ready for the challenges and opportunities of the roaring twenties decade to come.

Related resources

Finding a balance in the new hybrid society

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The requirements of social distancing have resulted in a dramatic rise in the use of digital services and demand for data. The challenge for governments and citizens will be to find the right balance between the physical and the digital.

Future-proof digital government

Download the white paper >

Now is the time for governments to take more coherent measures, show leadership, and set out a clear digital strategy for this new decade, showing how new technologies and data are vital for governments and their citizens in today’s increasingly complex society.

Smart touchless government: towards the new hybrid society

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This paper is the third in a series exploring the new hybrid society; it examines more closely the steps that need to be taken as the world begins the process of recovery once the pandemic is under control.

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