The role of individual government departments, agencies and local governments
While central government policymakers create the national digital strategy and provide the right enabling environment, it falls to individual government departments, agencies and local government to make the necessary changes on the ground. The road map for digital transformation can be built around the following 10 actions:
- Align digital plans with overall vision and purpose
- Gain support from senior leaders
- Create appropriate organizational and governance structures
- Design better citizen experiences
- Adapt culture and working practices
- Build a flexible IT infrastructure
- Adopt an agile approach to delivery
- Build specialist digital skills and capabilities
- Encourage innovation and experimentation
- Monitor and evaluate progress
The role of the wider ecosystem
In an age of digital disruption and convergence, governments that act alone are no longer able to deliver the social and economic outcomes that citizens expect. The most progressive governments are proactive in harnessing the knowledge and resources of the wider ecosystem, including start-ups, SMEs, entrepreneurs, academia, civil society and citizens themselves, to source innovative digital solutions to public policy challenges. Their innovation agenda actively seeks out collaborations with third parties. Since the public purse will be even more constrained post-pandemic, these partnerships will be vital to help finance government’s capacity for service improvement.
- Consult with stakeholders on new service design: In some cases, the launch of new government digital products and services relies on the participation or contribution of partners, end users or other external stakeholders.
- Participate in innovation networks: Governments can foster innovation by building or participating in networks that bring together businesses, entrepreneurs, start-ups, finance companies, academics and civil society organizations. Through effective collaboration, they can co-develop solutions to strengthen competitiveness, improve economic outcomes and raise living standards.
- Adopt new business models and GovTech solutions: Governments are increasingly looking to harness emerging and disruptive technology solutions developed by various players — notably start-ups and scale-ups, but also medium-sized and large enterprises, universities, non-profit organizations, social enterprises and citizens themselves — to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of public services.
- Modernize procurement practices: The acceleration in the uptake of GovTech solutions will require changes to the established way governments procure technology and services. One option is to create a single, user-centric “digital marketplace” to simplify access to public tenders. Another is to adopt new procurement practices to help departments find more innovative solutions to support their transformation efforts.
- Build data exchange platforms: Most governments and public authorities across the world have launched open data initiatives and set up data exchange platforms. The focus is on making data widely available to third parties, including citizens, to help develop solutions to complex problems, and to create greater transparency and accountability.
- Engage citizens in co-production: Governments have traditionally been slow to engage citizens and stakeholders in the development of new services, in contrast to private sector companies. But citizens have a major role to play as a source of fresh ideas to reinvigorate the public sector. Governments have also sought to harness the skills and knowledge of citizens and local communities to ease some of the burden and help build resilience during the pandemic.
COVID-19 has truly rewritten all the rules in the book for governments. In the months and years to come, as we reflect on the digital response to the pandemic, few leaders in the public or private sector are likely to argue that going back to “business as usual” is a viable option. Although COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on lives and livelihoods, it has also acted as a positive disruptive force for long-term transformation, especially for the government and public sector. It’s now clear that the rewards are tremendous for governments that can effectively plan and manage the transformation journey, ignite a vibrant conversation with the public, and tap into the potential of the ecosystem around them.