CIOs and the transition to digital government

Ongoing economic uncertainty and a slowdown in government technology investment continue to delay or limit the adoption of digital innovation and radically redesigned service models.

But CIOs at all levels of government can help ease the path.

Part of the problem is that the structure of government has remained largely unchanged for more than half a century, while the needs and expectations of citizens and businesses have outpaced the ability to adequately address them.

Technological capabilities and social forces have now converged to move government organisations beyond simple online efficiencies. Technology now enables them to optimise, transform or create entirely new services, while renovating back-end systems.

As the digitalisation of society progresses, many government organisations are focused on digital transformation strategies. Gartner believes their CIOs need to take the lead in opening government to citizens and industry, while breaking down the traditional barriers that stifle innovation.


Leading the transition

CIOs can lead the transition to optimised and secure public services by adopting organisational capabilities that take advantage of available digital and data analytics technologies.

In addition to deploying proven technologies – the cloud, social, mobile, data analytics and the Internet of Things (IoT) – to support the optimisation and transformation of government services, CIOs should explore the potential of emerging trends. These include blockchain, distributed ledgers and applied artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning.

Government organisations are increasingly operating in large digital ecosystems. Public and private sector enterprises, competitors, customers and citizens, regulators and other stakeholders are forming interdependent, coexisting business networks.

While these ecosystems will give CIOs unprecedented opportunities to revolutionise government business, they also add an entirely new dimension of technical complexity and risk.

Given the pivotal role of information in digital ecosystems, CIOs must affirm the value of their role by stepping beyond hardware provisioning or network performance. Instead, the need to pay attention to design standards-based digital platforms that focus innovation on citizen experience and service model transformation, while promoting rapid experimentation and change.

This increased organisational visibility and leadership responsibility are changing the CIO’s role to that of a business executive who is also competent in technology and data management.


Developing an effective strategy

Many government organisations struggle to articulate a compelling business vision to base a digital strategy on. There is often confusion about how previous eGovernment objectives differ from those of digital transformation.

Digital government relies on the use and reuse of data and analytics to simplify transactions for end users. It creates information from data to support and enhance decision making. It fosters the creation of new, collaborative and disruptive service delivery models.

In the process, underlying service models are re-engineered to improve mission effectiveness and to achieve long-range cost savings through optimised outcomes.

Government leaders recognise the critical role of data as a strategic asset. It is the innovative use and reuse of digital data that powers business transformation and delivers value that is recognised by legislative bodies, citizens and the workforce.

Leveraging its vast repositories of data, government leaders can drive transformative change by ensuring that data is semantically defined and available, accessible and readily shareable. It can then be analysed and combined to create new value streams across wide service networks.

To be successful, a digital government strategy must address a variety of issues. These include:

  • Establishing a sustainable collaboration among stakeholders in different domains and tiers
  • Adopting more flexible funding, agile procurement and project management processes
  • Improving IT workforce skills and management practices
  • Securing the technologies and services needed to support the digitalisation of government business functions.


Successfully implementing a strategy

There are many challenges that affects a digital government strategy. These include the workload impact of increased levels of migrants and asylum seekers on border control, the struggle to boost economic growth and curb unemployment, the improvement of education, retirement and health care for an aging population, and continuous pressure to reduce the cost of government.

All of this needs to be done while staying on pace with the increasing levels of government services that citizens require.

Digital government strategies are shaped by the level of direct citizen interaction. Activities such as motor vehicle registration and licensing, social services, law enforcement or the adjudication of legal cases, are often administered in collaboration with other agencies and jurisdictions.

This drives the need for better application integration and interoperability across back-office systems, so that front office, point-of-service interactions are effective and efficient.

Where citizens or businesses engage with government more frequently, CIOs face greater urgency to transform their public services to deliver better outcomes within a large portfolio of services, and with severe resource constraints.

Successful digital strategic planning and implementation require strong governance maturity to ensure that these initiatives deliver real business and mission value on shorter time horizons, while positioning the government organisation to continually develop its digital capabilities, sustainably across administrations.

When appropriations are tied to individual programs that operate in silos, CIOs must develop strong collaborative relationships among peer executives to ensure visible and sustained business sponsorship, direction, oversight and support.

Rick Holgate is a research director at Gartner, advising government CIOs on digital government, cloud, mobility, digital workplace, information security, IT procurement, shared services, case management and legacy system modernisation. He will speak about the future of digital government at Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in Australia, 30 October-2 November 2017.

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