Cities across the globe are adopting new digital technologies to improve the lifestyle of its citizens. Dubbed as Smart Cities or Connected Cities, places like London, Seoul, New York and Dubai are increasingly making use of digital platforms like IoT, Robotics, Drones and 3D Printing to break the norms of services offered to their constituents. These technologies are being used for autonomous street lighting reacting to changing weather conditions; for search and rescue operations in the event of a disaster; dispatching medical supplies for the injured in remote locations and 3D printed buildings.
Precocious as they may be, a closer look will unveil that cities are no stranger to the challenges faced by many others in Europe and the rest of the world. Start with an aging population that is draining budgets and resources, a decaying infrastructure in need of continuous maintenance, a growing immigration crisis, not to mention economic stagnation and escalating unemployment rates.
Also to note is that these smart city programs are seldom a part of a broader all-encompassing Digital Transformation action plan on the Federal or Local Government level. Some of them are running side by side country-wide modernization efforts, but the connections are loose. And that is unfortunate because by definition citizen services should be inclusive and oblivious to class and location.
This leaves way to a Digital Government Agenda that should be followed to create public value for the greater population; taking into consideration that the cornerstones of a Digital Strategy have to be the citizen, his data and the services to be offered to him. The aspiration of this agenda will ultimately be to move from analog processes that come with long service delivery times; lowering TCOs of current systems to give way to new innovative solutions and balancing between information transparency and privacy to cater for Open Data initiatives.
To that end, there have been many guidelines to which strategies should be opted for on the journey towards Digital Transformation. Four recommendations are presented here into what I call the Digital Government Blueprint. These focus on the essential ideas without which a Digital Government Strategy is not complete.
Information is key to Better Decision Making
Governments that build a data strategy covering various angles of the citizen’s daily life, will be able to aggregate enough of it to be able to leverage Analytics to unlock significant decision making power. Adjacent to that, with the proliferation of social, new data types are emerging that need to be managed to better understand citizen expectations. Aggregating all these data types and more will empower governments to rethink their policies in a way that addresses citizens’ needs first and foremost. What this also provides is an opportunity to uncover areas of fraud, waste and misappropriation of budgets.
Building a Citizen-Centric Digital Platform
Transforming processes into a “Citizen-Centric” service model will render them more effective as services are redesigned from a citizen perspective. By adopting mobile platforms and turning towards an Open Data model, governments are able to score points in accessibility and openness. These are heightened even more when citizen engagement is undertaken, creating an opportunity to gain insights on service level acceptance; establishing trial programs for service adoption and launching new “Digital First” services that citizens need and will embrace.
Adopting a Digital-by-Default Service Delivery Strategy
Mobile-ready, always-on Digital Services designed with context and convenience in mind will promote value for money to encourage citizens to follow the path of a more intuitive service delivery approach. Public sector agencies should therefore start to transition existing services and paper-based processes to a Digital Platform and develop these services in partnership with citizen representatives, private sector and NGOs to ensure inclusiveness and broad reach. However, an integral part of successful service delivery is having a workforce that is skilled in the use of digital technologies; which imposes a need for updated training programs and incentive schemes. Finally, where appropriate, the implementation of these Digital Services should be in a way where data can be made openly available in support of a government’s initiatives around Open Data and of citizens’ demands of transparency reports on government effectiveness.
Governance Framework to Optimize Information Value
As efforts are exerted to avail more information for public use, data governance challenges arise. As Open Data models begin to form, new data sets get created to be used by local governments and the private sector for new apps and services. This presents an opportunity to monetize this data; but again not on the expense of a lack of governance. It is therefore crucial that governments are able to strike a balance between trust/transparency from one side and privacy/security from the other. Creating a Citizen Digital Identity can be the first step towards achieving this. Personalized access, authentication and monitoring will allow citizens to have consent on what data can be shared. This will also assist Federal Governments in creating data security standards that can be tailored by local agencies according to the needs of their constituents.