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Digital is not the future, it is today

An astronaut sitting on a beach with a laptop


COVID-19 has undeniably been a catalyst for digitisation. At the start of the lockdown, Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella said they’d easily seen a year’s worth of digital transformation in the space of about two months.

Today sees our local government departments doing things remotely that would’ve seemed impossible back in March. Online meetings and entire services have developed quickly to be delivered remotely. 

It’s given the public sector the motivation to continue this steady progress, now it’s seeing the benefits. The drive also comes from the expectation that everything should be online. The private sector has been advanced in this offering for many years now and the public expects apps and ease of access to services across the board. 

Though with the spending the government has been doing, it’s likely that we’ll see a lot of spending controls very soon. This might mean less essential spending gets booted. The whole challenge with going digital-by-default has been a need to spend less whilst digitising more. It’s a conflicting problem. Hopefully, the urgency hasn’t created any vulnerabilities in a rush to implement a solution.

The irony is that undergoing these fundamental digital transformations does mean significant improvements to efficiency for the public and staff as well as long-term cost savings. 

Leaders should show enthusiasm for maintaining this momentum for change. 

Worldwide Examples of Positive Changes

Estonia employed a unique approach in March 2020. Termed ‘hack the crisis’, 96 ideas from 830 people came together in an online collaboration hub. This was in the first two hours. They now have 27 teams spanning all manner of digital reform from arts and culture, healthcare to community volunteering.

Canada won the race for this digital-first mindset for their public sector. Initial discussions about ‘when’ public services would become fully digital turned into a smooth rollout across all levels of the government. 

Australia’s Department of Education in New South Wales launched a digital strategy to help students how to learn in a way that best suits them. Teachers are now able to offer a richer learning experience.

What’s needed?

There are several fundamental factors that need attention for the public sector to progress this journey. Cloud, data and analytics, security and mobility. 

There was a reluctance to adopt the cloud by many departments. Largely put down to security concerns. These issues have since been placated and openness has improved.

The importance of data is being seen now more than ever. Data is critical to the government. Analytics offer insights about citizens, the body itself and enables evidence-based decision-making.

Legacy systems are still very much in place within the government but it cannot be said enough that this causes a security risk and needs to be addressed. The solution lies in digital transformation because it’s a route to upgrading obsolete systems while improving the resiliency of services.

Mobility doesn’t just relate to smartphones. More, the ability to produce accessible applications for all kinds of devices so people can access services however and whenever they want to. 

Many parts of the government have made a rapid move toward going digital by default and are reaping the rewards. This momentum should continue, rather than resting legacy ways and systems simply because they’re comfortable. The public sector as a whole needs to realise that digital transformation will deliver long-term savings and increased efficiencies as well as improved experiences for citizens and staff.

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