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Government 2.0: How to Elevate the Online Citizen Experience

Creating meaningful citizen experiences in a post-COVID world requires embracing digital initiatives like secure and ethical data sharing, artificial intelligence and more.


It is no secret that government agencies all over the world have been long caught in the outer ripples of technological advancement. Bureaucratic barriers, budget limitations and a general risk-averse mindset have hindered government and public-sector agencies’ progress in the digital age. In fact, 80 percent of government organizations are still at the initial or developing digital maturity stages.* Perhaps in the past governments could get by thinking that creating compelling digital experiences was a task best left to Silicon Valley, but the COVID-19 pandemic has since thrust every public-sector agency into the main wave as demand increases for services to be both accessible and delivered online. Private-sector experiences like online shopping, curbside pickup and food delivery continue to escalate consumer expectations, and government agencies must rise to the challenge if they hope to deliver meaningful citizen experiences across their services.

As discussed in a recent Deloitte Digital and Adobe Experience Management trends report, many agencies are already starting to embrace technology initiatives that deliver the right service to the right citizen at the right time through responsible data stewardship. One of these efforts is the “next-best door” approach, which streamlines citizen journeys across various government websites and touchpoints. Using web analytics in the Adobe Experience Cloud, agencies can make personalized recommendations to citizens based on their audience segment, offering them the next-best government service from whatever “door” they happened to walk through. For instance, if a young pregnant woman goes online to renew her driver’s license, that website can offer her a recommendation for free prenatal care offered through the state’s health department. Intelligent systems like these can anticipate citizen needs and create a more unified experience without requiring heavy development and training to implement – a major plus for any cash-strapped government agency.

Another way organizations are reducing administrative burden while simplifying the citizen experience is public-private specialized data portals where citizen information is securely shared between government agencies and approved public-sector businesses. Several nations, including Canada, Ireland and Portugal, have already utilized this technology to implement “tell us once” policies that allow citizens to only fill out one form for a variety of secure online transactions. Data sharing is also being used to benefit a wide variety of public services – from pandemic response systems to natural disaster mitigation.** The numbers speak for themselves – the social and economic benefits of public-sector data access and sharing range between 0.1 percent to 1.5 percent of GDP, proving that cross-industry collaboration and efforts to streamline data sets improve cost efficiency for public agencies.**

Taking data management a step further, other public agencies are embracing automation, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to replace manual tasks and provide better overall service. Technology like AI-powered virtual assistants and chatbots create smoother, faster government-citizen transactions as well as overcome language barriers. One state deployed a cloud-based AI platform that gathers data from connected cars, road cameras and apps like Waze to predict where accidents are most likely to occur. This program reduced crashes by 17 percent and secondary collisions by 23 percent. Examples like this demonstrate the push to expand a government’s digital presence can do much more than reduce inconvenience and paperwork. Government services are vital and affect many core aspects of daily life for each citizen. Therefore, the data that powers those experiences should be treated as a priority.

What some could view as the ultimate end game for data evolution in the public sector is digital identity technology that can maintain a single source of truth for each citizen across channels, email addresses, devices and timelines. Many countries have already adopted digital identity programs, including China, Italy and the United Kingdom. Estonia’s digital ID system allows citizens to pre-populate tax forms, vote and access e-health records online. Beyond reducing effort and time on the citizen end, these programs also provide meaningful cost savings on the government side. Nigeria saved an estimated one billion US dollars on civil service staff thanks to its digital identity system, while Estonia’s helped it achieve two percent annual GDP savings.***

One question that always comes up around implementing new digital infrastructures is “How do we train people to use it?” Creating a digitally literate public workforce to interact with these technologies is as equally important as developing the technologies themselves. Unfortunately, due to budget restraints and other factors, many government agencies struggle to compete with the private sector recruiting and retaining the necessary IT talent.**** That’s why public agencies are instead developing in-house training programs that support reskilling and upskilling their existing staff. For instance, Abu Dhabi launched a specialized platform to improve technology skills in the public sector, while India created a development program to educate civil servants through a subscription-based, public-private model.****

In addition to training the public workforce to work with next-generation technologies, governments must ensure they are practicing ethical and secure data management through every step of their digital journey. As organizations scale their digital ecosystems, they must also scale their cybersecurity systems across departments. At the end of the day, the government-citizen relationship is built around trust. If people trust that their sensitive data is being used responsibly, they will embrace public agencies’ digital initiatives and experience the value they can provide to their lives. Establishing that trust requires giving citizens full control and visibility over their data – what is being shared and with whom. One telling trend is that where some of the most expansive digital initiatives are found around the world, those same countries have the most advanced protocols in place for protecting data privacy. Estonia allows citizens to monitor how the government uses their data through time-stamped digital logs, while India’s advanced digital identify system allows citizens to use a randomly generated virtual ID in place of their real identifier if they wish to remain anonymous.**

Another consideration for any public agency looking to expand their digital presence is ensuring any data used in decision-making is protected against bias. Inequitable data is inaccurate data, so it’s important to interrogate digital systems for errors, like undercounting individuals of a certain age, gender or ethnicity in facial recognition software, which have the potential to drive harmful policies. We can point to several examples of governments already addressing this issue head on. New York launched a task force to evaluate automated tools the city was using for resource allocation and recommend more equitable approaches. Across the world, New Zealand’s Māori community created a project backed by government funding that explores tools to enable more ethical and equitable data use across agencies.**

No matter where in the world you are or what your organization’s specific goals are, one thing is clear. As the private sector continues to launch disruptive technologies, transform operating models and adjust to changing digital-first ecosystems, citizens expect public agencies to also deliver a personalized, human experience that recognizes people as individuals, values their time and uses what we know about them in a safe, secure way to bring utility and add value to their lives. Organizations that go beyond delivering on the citizen experience to elevating the human experience will be better positioned to create more meaningful connections and, ultimately, build trust between citizens and government.

Sources:

*https://www.gartner.com/en/industries/government-public-sector

**Deloitte, Government Trends 2021, 2021

*** Deloitte Insights, Government Trends 2020: What are the most transformational trends in government today?, 2019

****Deloitte/Adobe, A blueprint for enhanced citizen experiences: The case for simple, smart and personalised government services, 2021
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