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Digital Revolution: Tech Is A Catalyst For Public Sector Change

Duncan MacRae is former editor and now a contributor to TechWeekEurope. He previously edited Computer Business Review's print/digital magazines and CBR Online, as well as Arabian Computer News in the UAE.

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Governments are recruiting the best talent and creating new initiatives. But what can they learn from the private sector? Andrew Lawson, UK Salesforce MD, discusses

Our technology-enabled world has made us more organised, efficient and sociable.

We manage our diaries and our bank balances from our phones; mobile apps help us to easily split expenses with friends; multiple apps make it completely effortless for us to arrange our social lives and business networks.

Ease-of-use

Accessibility and ease-of-use has people hooked, and as a result we’re motivated to keep on top of our ‘life admin’ and stay in touch with friends and family. This could easily extend into the world of government. What if the government could do the same for healthcare? What if systems were so easy to use that people felt incentivised to take better care of themselves?

I think we’re getting there – and faster than people might realise.

Globally, there’s widespread recognition that the drivers of private sector success are influencing governments. A thriving public sector requires the kind of efficiency, agility and effectiveness that more typically defines Silicon Valley. As a result, governments around the world are fundamentally changing how they approach technology and engage with citizens, and hiring some of the brightest minds in the private sector to help them make it happen now. In two years, the UK’s Government Digital Service (GDS) has hired more than 200 people, including some of the country’s top digital talent. In the United States, it’s a similar story: President Obama has even admitted to being inspired by the GDS in his own thorough review of the US Government’s digital services.

government parliament big ben public sector clouds bird © Samot ShutterstockSo what are the key aspects of the private sector that governments should look to echo in their own technological agenda?

· Respond to consumer demands: successful businesses are constantly tailoring their products or services to meet consumer expectations. Governments also should offer engaging, innovative and social solutions. We all lead busy lives, and technology should allow everyday jobs – and government interaction – to be done “on-demand,” from every device.

· Make the user experience the defining goal: Consumers don’t embrace a new technology unless it’s accessible and intuitive. While tech giants such as Facebook, Twitter and Google have revolutionised the way in which we live day-to-day, they have also created an expectation around user experience that applies to every organisation – including public service. It’s the difference between a successful take-up or a spectacular fail in the eyes of the public.

· Go mobile: Mobile apps and mobile-first design have become vital to private sector success. The app is the consumer go-to: and if there’s not ‘an app for that’ then a company better make one, and quick. Businesses are making huge efforts to design mobile-first enterprise applications for employees too – aiming for the high quality of consumer applications to encourage adoption and boost productivity. Consumers want their lives to be managed from the palm of their hand and we’re all now effectively running businesses from our pockets.

And finally – don’t wait. This needs to happen now. The longer it takes to adopt and adapt, the longer it will take for citizens to align with the goals of the government.

Governments, including the UK, are already using cloud technologies to build communities around policy issues, enabling closer collaboration between the public, local government and other stakeholder groups. The public sector can quickly, easily and cost-effectively build citizen-facing apps and can create apps that make data accessible to government employees on any device – and extend them easily across all departments – arming them with the information they need to solve constituents’ problems in real time.

It’s clear that the end user-experience is still crucial, whether we’re looking at the public or private sector, and responding to ever-evolving social change through digital services is the key to success. The private tech sector is buzzing – we’ve never seen so many innovative and game-changing tech start-ups disrupting the industry and driving social change.

Government must now keep its foot on the pedal by creating an equally vibrant and diverse technology industry in the public sector, ultimately offering solutions to local citizens that help them lead easier and more efficient lives – and therefore become more effective citizens.

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