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Digital Essentials for Good Government

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Craig P. Orgeron
March 14, 2022

Constituents expect interactions with government agencies to reflect the access, personalization and ease of use delivered by modern, forward-thinking digital companies. However, technology sprawl, limited human capital and security breaches, often prevent governments from fully taking advantage of technology innovations like cloud computing, to deliver online services in a timely and cost-effective manner. Research by Granicus reveals both public sector leaders and citizens acknowledge the impact of COVID-19 in altering expectations of governments in the delivery of services, with 54 percent of U.S. citizens expecting services to be offered online and 30 percent anticipating processes to become simpler. 

Since the advent of e-government services, the evolution of digital technology—specifically big data, analytics, mobility, social media, machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI)—has afforded governments the innovative tools to profoundly reform public services. Assumptions of what constitutes good government have been altered by the near-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, a chaotic period of heightened expectations for the delivery of modern, leading-edge online government services. Often, the strains of the pandemic on demand for digital services outweighed the inherent resiliency of government online systems and solutions. And, while the COVID-19 pandemic served as an accelerant for governments to rapidly invest in short-term technology solutions to ensure the continuity of government in a largely remote environment, the demand and expectation among citizens to improve digital services has only increased during the pandemic.

Even with advancements in computing and the transformative incubator of the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for impactful e-government solution design remains a top-of-mind issue for government CIOs. Recent survey data from the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) found 94 percent of CIOs report an increase in demand for digital services. With a growing acceptance of the scale, agility, speed and cost effectiveness of cloud computing, the next e-government solution design era will be defined by intelligent and resilient solution platforms at the top of the cloud stack. The three main service models of cloud computing—Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS)—will give rise to a potential fourth layer, one imbued with cloud-based, self-governing and intelligent solutions. In the cloud era, there is an opportunity for governments, in partnerships with private sector partners, to build and deploy resilient, full-service and intelligent solution platforms to deliver citizen-centric, agile and innovative government services—a Government as a Service (GaaS) layer dedicated to public sector. Digitally transformed governments can adapt to the evolving technological landscape and are able to invest in mobility, cloud computing and big data technologies as part of their development of digital experience platforms (DXP). In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, greater digitization and preference for an omnichannel approach has emerged as a key service differentiator.  

The capability of DXPs to collect, analyze and unify citizen data obtained from multiple touchpoints aids in the creation of a centralized view of the constituent experience, a need that emerged and was quickly solidified during the course of the pandemic. A key differentiator for platforms at the top of the cloud stack is the integration of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, big data and machine learning, into a solution that drives the digital experience platforms across multiple applications. To move forward and keep pace with citizen expectations, the citizen experience should equal a digital experience, underpinned by two key components: well-architected and curated data, and pervasive and precise identity management. To future-proof e-government, intelligent and self-regulating systems should exhibit five digitally essential attributes, and be: 1) Contactless – Demand for digital and no-touch services has grown, and governments are responding with online portals, contactless transit systems and chatbots; 2) Intelligent – Technology enhancements in virtual and augmented reality and AI will allow citizens to live smarter, safer and more productive lives; 3) Automated – Automated solutions can help streamline processes, lighten overhead and provide for better data and tracking of operations; 4) Persistent – Data, and the potential to glean insights from numerous sources, has the power to transform the future of citizen services; and 5) Secure – Organizations with strong security cultures are often more innovative. Security should be viewed as an enabler to innovation, not a blocker.

Increasingly, the concept of “good government” is becoming synonymous with a connected and digital government. COVID-19 has driven a fundamental shift in good government assumptions; overnight, many government organizations have had to shift their e-government strategies. In fact, in a Logic Monitor survey, 87 percent of global IT decision-makers agree the pandemic will cause organizations to accelerate their migration to the cloud, anticipating a decline in on-premises workloads by 2025, and increasing government’s resiliency in the face of adversity. Recently released data from the Internet Association suggests a unique opportunity for public sector agencies to reconceptualize how they connect with citizens, with most states lacking in key components of a modern digital government experience. While some governments are deprioritizing or delaying nonessential technology implementations, there is a singular opportunity to modernize their digital footprint by fully leveraging cloud computing to boost citizen satisfaction in online solutions, enhance levels of both institutional engagement and trust and future-proof government performance.

Author: Dr. Orgeron has extensive information technology experience in both the private sector and the federal and state level of the public sector. Currently, Dr. Orgeron serves as an Executive Government Advisor with Amazon Web Services (AWS). Prior to joining AWS, he served as the CIO for the State of Mississippi, and President of the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO).

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