Transforming the public sector with digital technologies

Like the private sector, the government or public sector worldwide is looking at greater speed in delivering citizen services with greater transparency and scalability. Governments are rapidly adopting the paradigm of Digital Transformation and this is evident in some of the recent initiatives, be it Digital India in India or Digital Government in the UK. At the crux of this wave of digital transformation is customer centricity.

At the epicenter of this disruption are a set of digital technologies including Big Data Analytics, Mobile Apps, IoT and Artificial Intelligence which are helping public sector enterprises reinvent themselves and provide a wide range of services to citizens and residents.

Transforming the Public Sector with Digital Technologies

In today?s digital world, governments are under the power of digital technologies in engaging with citizens in a more open and transparent way. This has led to numerous initiatives across the world, which could be summarized as follows:

  1. Digital Identity ? Have a single digital identity for all citizens and residents and link them to different government schemes as well as utilities to understand the services used by citizens as well as measure customer feedback. Digital identity has significant value in 3rd world countries where public distribution system tracking of benefits becomes transparent and gives unique insights into progress of social benefit schemes. Digital identity is also used to vote in many countries.
  2. Smart Cities ? With the advent of digital technologies in an interconnected, instrumented world, smart cities are being built globally. Smart cities are projected to be a USD 400 billion market soon covering over 600 cities. These are based on data collected in real-time from IoT sensors across different utilities in the city which are then analyzed using Big Data Analytics and Visualization technologies to inform citizens about traffic, weather, power, waste management, etc.  The services around smart cities include smart transportation, smart energy, smart infrastructure and operations data.
  3. Open Data ? Public bodies produce and commission huge quantities of data and information. By making their datasets available, public institutions become more transparent and accountable to citizens. Open Data sets are used by the governments and opened to use by citizens and private sector enterprises in creating value for end users. Open data sets could include tourism maps, places of attraction, details of government spending on utility projects etc. For example, during the Covid19 pandemic, governments worldwide have provided open data sets for citizens to consume to under the growth of cases, potential hotspot areas, etc. Extensive use of Big Data Analytics and GIS is being used to leverage the power of open data.

  1. Data Sharing by Public Entities ? Data sharing guidelines were drafted by the Government of Australia as part of Consumer Data Rights as well as ensuring better collaboration between government entities. For instance, the telecom department planning to lay new optical fiber lines would share data with the department of transportation to ensure better co-operation and lower disruption of services. In the UK, the Transport for London (TFL) often shares insights with customers about planned engineering works in the weekend and its impact on travel services helping citizens plan their journeys better.
  2. Citizen Services ? The digital technologies enable public sector enterprises to provide services around customer data (consumption patterns, amount billed), transparency of customer information around utilities provided as well as customer portals and chatbots for providing information and log feedback and complaints.

The key disrupting technologies that are reshaping the way public sector providers are making a difference to citizens are as follows:

  • IoT ? At the core of the smart cities? initiative is the use of IoT sensors in equipment and assets that provide real-time data about the usage of the assets and help citizens make informed choices about how they plan their day.
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Big Data ? AI and Big Data are crucial differentiators for smart cities as well as open data sets by ingesting data from across the varied public sector data sources and providing unique insights to citizens and residents. Use of AI chat bots in citizen services is helping make the customer experience better and providing these services 24*7. Big Data Analytics is used in the procurement and supply chain functions of public sector enterprises for insights into supplier performance and supply chain efficiency.
  • Mobile Apps ? Mobile apps are the key to access to information for citizens and navigate the wide range of public sector utilities from power and transportations to education.
  •  Geographical Information Systems (GIS) ? GIS systems provide citizens with diverse data sets from road maps, land use patterns, weather maps that empower citizens with knowledge of cities and towns and help them make informed decisions about land purchases, travel, etc.

As is evident from the transformational impact of digital technologies in the digital transformation of public sector, there are key benefits that can be derived as well including:

  • Cost Optimization ? Digital technologies have helped optimize the cost of operations by analyzing data integrated across the various public sector utilities which can be analyzed to generate insights across Procurements, Operations and Customer Servicing.
  • Transparency and Customer experience ? Armed with digital technologies and enhanced customer service capabilities, public sector providers are better placed to understand customer complaints as well as acquire new customers by understanding customer preferences better. Access to open data sets brings in lot of transparency of government objectives and helps enhance the customer experience.
  • Revenue Models ? With customer centricity at its focus, public sector enterprises will look to create customized offers to meet customer buying behavior. The sharing of open data sets creates an ability to generate new revenue streams as well as look at cross sell opportunities-based on customer segmentation and competitive intelligence. The ability to merge multiple data sets and generate insights creates new revenue generating models and opportunities.

Digital transformation in public sector is a growing trend worldwide as governments realize the benefits of the disruption it brings to citizens. There are challenges to digital transformation adoption in terms of 1) public-private sector participation in funding projects and providing services 2) skill gaps in public sector to take the transformation initiatives to completion as well as 3) differences in opinion among government departments. McKinsey predicts that government digitization could free up to USD 1 trillion annually in economic value worldwide, through improved cost optimization and operational performance. The increase of e-governance projects at both center and state level reveal the transformation sweeping across India.

The author is Data Platform Solutions Lead at the Services Integration Hub in IBM and has written three books

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