4 minute read 2 Jul 2017
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How digital can bring better government


Ruta Makareviciute

EY EMEIA Public Finance Management Solution Leader

Leads transformations in government and public sector. Makes change happen. Open-minded. Passionate traveler.

4 minute read 2 Jul 2017

Disruptive technologies are transforming the way we work and live. But how can they be harnessed by the public sector?

Disruptive technology poses serious challenges for every organization, and government is no exception. While it’s tempting to focus on the negatives, such as rising unemployment caused by robots taking people’s jobs, there are vast opportunities for government to harness digital technologies and improve the workings of the public sector. Two technologies stand out as having the potential to make the biggest possible impact: robotic process automation (RPA) and blockchain technology.

Robotic rewards

RPA means machines carrying out tasks that were previously done by people. When it comes to the adoption of RPA, the government sector is behind industries such as financial services. The threat of mass public sector job losses, lack of capacity to implement the necessary changes, citizen perceptions of robotics and concerns over data protection and security are some of the barriers to adoption that the public sector faces.

RPA best applies to time-consuming, data-intensive tasks that are simple, standardized, repetitive, monotonous and prone to human error; tasks that are based on rules rather than judgment, have electronic start- and end-points, are performed across multiple systems and are undertaken out of office hours.

RPA can free up scarce resources to be spent on strategic projects.

Government agencies could benefit by applying RPA to business areas such as HR, finance, IT and procurement, but there are a number of specific areas in which the public sector could benefit, such as:

  • Social security payments
  • School placements
  • Student loans and enrollment
  • Building standards
  • Passport applications
  • Immigration processing
  • Child care payments
  • Local authority tax administration
  • Business registrations

Government is under pressure to make itself more effective and efficient. Automation could substantially reduce people expenses and improve efficiency, and it could free up employees’ time for higher value-added activities in areas that really matter to citizens and communities. Reduced lead times and error rates, and the reduction of repetitive tasks also allow the delivery of a better quality service. Secure, centralized collection of management information, audit records and process logs reduces risk of noncompliance and financial or reputational harm. And RPA can enable continuous improvement by freeing up scarce development resources to be spent on strategic projects.

Blockchain benefits

Blockchain is a distributed decentralized ledger that receives, validates and stores transactions permanently. The potential implications of this technology for governments are substantial, and could help drive improvements in the services that government provides.

Potential benefits include:

  • Ledger consolidation
  • Transparency and traceability of transactions
  • Shared trusted processes
  • Reduced cost and complexity
  • Trusted record-keeping
  • Consolidated audit trials
  • Interoperability of different technology systems
  • Immutable digital registration

Blockchain can improve a wide variety of government transactions, such as collecting taxes, delivering benefits, issuing documents and recording properties. Governments can use blockchain in sectors such as public safety, social services and identity management. The technology enables governments to deliver these functions in a more effective way.

On a practical level, the introduction of blockchain technology promises significant potential impact for government and public sector organizations in the areas of operational costs, customer experience, risk management and transparency.

While blockchain has much potential in the government sector, there are several key challenges to overcome, including:

  • Unclear legal rules and regulations
  • Lack of formal digital standards
  • Uncertain governance and lack of techno-legal expertise to regulate smart contracts
  • Undersupply of individuals with necessary skills
  • Lack of trusted qualifications that verify an individual’s training
  • Privacy and security issues surrounding algorithms and programming language
  • Loss of jobs due to automation of repetitive tasks

Governments have an important role to play in unlocking the huge potential of blockchain. They should act as early adopters by delivering services to citizens and guaranteeing robustness, security and scalability. They can be facilitators by creating a regulatory framework, setting standards to ensure security and building interoperability to allow the integration with existing non-blockchain systems. And governments can be collaborators by partnering with technology companies to enable widespread adoption of blockchain technology.


New technologies, including robotics and blockchain, can help government organizations provide better services to citizens.

About this article


Ruta Makareviciute

EY EMEIA Public Finance Management Solution Leader

Leads transformations in government and public sector. Makes change happen. Open-minded. Passionate traveler.