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COVID-19 Accelerates the Acceptance of Agile Government

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

By Bill Brantley
March 15, 2021

Ten years ago, I was inspired to create four scenarios for the future of the Federal government. I had recently started a detail with the Office of Personnel Management’s Open Government Project. It was a great detail that taught me much about scenario planning and the other federal agencies’ digital transformation efforts. After the detail, I continued exploring the government’s future through articles in the PA Times and other outlets.

2040 – The Golden Age of the United States Federal Government

In late 2018, the IBM Center for the Business of Government invited the public to create short scenarios of their visions of the Federal government in 2040. They received many entries, and many seemed pessimistic. I entered an optimistic vision of the future —the Golden Age of the United States Federal Government:

“It was a combination of three factors that created the highly effective and efficient federal government of 2040. The first factor was the establishment of the national universal basic income in 2024 in response to the increasing use of specialized-intelligence AI and robotics in the United States economy, government and society. The AI agents performed many of the menial and even some skilled jobs, which freed people to pursue interests and occupations better fit for human imagination and creativity.

The second factor was free and universal lifelong learning for all of the United States after the 2028 ‘Second Sputnik Event’ when China established a Moon base and successfully landed on a Martian moon. Every United States citizen received a personalized cloud-based AI virtual tutor from the age of one. The federal government supplies and manages virtual tutors that create personalized, adaptive learning experiences for the citizens. The government has benefited from the increased number of highly educated citizens as many people pursue government careers to serve their country better.

The third factor was the establishment of the Department of Technology Strategy (DTS). DTS’s mission is two-fold: mitigate or prevent potential or realized damage from technology while increasing the nation’s physical and cyber infrastructure’s safety and sophistication. Thanks to the DTS’ backing of national railroad electrification, renewable energy and increased rail traffic has created an economic boom for rural America while supporting the development of smart-city hubs across the United States. Both 3D and 4D manufacturing have created an abundance economy, which has helped alleviate poverty in almost every part of America.

Citizens are now healthier, happier and better engaged with their government. People’s basic daily needs are met in the economy of abundance, which leaves citizens free to pursue businesses and causes that best use the talents and interests of the United States citizenry.”

Deloitte’s Government Trends 2021

Fast forward 18 months, and we have just started the worldwide COVID-19 quarantine. Governments around the world are struggling with the pandemic. We all are familiar with the sudden move to teleworking, online education, and public health professionals’ massive mobilization to combat and contain the virus. Some experts observed that the worldwide pandemic advanced technology, business and societal innovations five-to-ten years ahead.

According to Deloitte, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the digitization of government, “In some cases, by years.” The most surprising trend in government due to the pandemic is the significant increase of trust in government. “[G]overnment became the most trusted institution globally for the first time in two decades.” The increase in trust most likely explains the other eight trends Deloitte notes, such as, “Seamless service delivery,” “Agile government,” “Inclusive, equity-centered government,” and, “Government as a cognitive system.”

Agile Policymaking

I am especially interested in the trend toward agile government. During my open government detail, I created a model for agile policymaking. I presented a poster on agile policymaking at the 2014 American Society for Public Administration conference in Washington, D.C. My first posting for PA Times was about agile policymaking, where I explained how complexity theory, big data and data science research was changing policymaking practice. Three years later, I revised my agile policy model by incorporating Dr. Room’s theory of nuzzling citizens toward self-beneficial actions.

Bringing About the Golden Age of the Federal Government

Some of my colleagues thought that my vision of the 2040 Federal Government was too optimistic. After reading the Deloitte report, I feel more hopeful that the Federal Government (along with state and local governments) will take advantage of the renewed trust from citizens to accelerate the digitization of government. All the governments made mistakes and stumbled in coping with the COVID-19 pandemic. However, government officials learned much and made great strides in reinventing government policymaking and delivery of services. 2040 is less than twenty years away, and I hope that a more effective and efficient government that better serves citizens is being built today.


Author: Bill Brantley teaches at the University of Louisville and the University of Maryland. He also works as a Federal employee for the U.S. Navy’s Inspector General Office. All opinions are his own and do not reflect the views of his employers. You can reach him at http://billbrantley.com.

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