Many government agencies are already using digital technologies like virtualization, cloud, mobility, and advanced data analytics for key areas to increase efficiency and save costs. Sporadic use of digital technologies does not bring forward transformative power. Instead, digital government is about combining legacy and modern systems to deliver mission critical services.
In this article, we will be discussing the challenges of digital government and seven important factors that can help implement it.
The challenges with digital government
Unlike new start-ups that can initiate a digital transformation platform from scratch, government agencies find it rather challenging get transformation started. After all, not only does implementing new technologies risk a operational disruption but before implementing them, the government also needs to consider privacy and security implications. They also need to find a way to introduce digital governance while still continuing their services.
With many governments still using legacy systems, the best approach is a hybrid one by combining the old technologies with the new one. That way, the organization can provide services by leveraging the existing systems, while in the background there can be an incremental transformation taking place, moving towards a complete digital transformation. All in all, governments can transition into digital services, with minimal disruption of services.
The important elements of digital governance
1. Hybrid IT environment
With a hybrid IT environment, it becomes possible for organizations to store non-critical data on the affordable public cloud and for their sensitive data, they can invest in on-premises servers or private cloud. Since they are able to save costs by deploying the public cloud, they can use same savings to add an on-premises or private cloud, leading to smaller investments.
Usually, hybrid models consist of both external as well as internal infrastructure. So while some part of the infrastructure will continue to perform traditional roles, another part could be deployed as IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) and PaaS (Platform as a Service).
For government organizations, security is a major concern that comes with digital transformation. In May 2017, the WannaCry Ransomware affected German trains and NHS hospitals leaving the citizens in disarray. Then in June 2017, a cyber attack affected the UK Parliament, exposing over 90 email accounts.
As users now access applications anywhere and anytime from their mobile devices, it has become crucial to make the security protocols identity based, instead of device based. In the recent years, we have also seen that perimeter security models are not effective anymore. With firewall security, all hackers need to do is breach the firewall and then they can move through the system, making it easy for them to find, corrupt, and destroy data.
Micro-segmentation is a better and more cost effective approach which divides the entire system into smaller compartments. That way, even if the hackers are able to breach into a small segment, they won’t be able to access more critical segments and affect data.
3. Advanced data analytics
Digitization helps collect data from different parts of the government, and that data can be used to get advanced data analytics and in turn, predict future trends.
For instance, in case of a disaster, the government can predict supplies needed for relief purposes, based on the impact and the population of the area, and relay the same to the respective authorities.
At the same time, governments can also use data analytics to gather reports about the education sector and help fund education for kids from lower income households that might be doing very well in school but not have enough funds to go to college.
4. IT service management
With both legacy systems and digital systems working together in a hybrid model, it becomes important to setup an advanced IT service management that can ensure smooth functioning between the two. After all, both by government employees and citizens will use these systems and applications.
For end user support, there can also be a self-service approach set up allowing users to resolve their queries quickly, without having to contact the help desk and wait for an answer. These days, organizations are also using social media to connect with users and resolve their queries in real-time.
5. Application services
Development and operations used to be a slow process. Even if the development team was able to develop and deploy new functionalities quickly, the IT operations team followed a standardized process. Often, infrastructured changes required code and configuration changes.
To accelerate processes more and more organizations are using DevOps which recognizes the dependency of development and IT operations. In DevOps, both developers and operators work together to develop and deploy small pieces of tested code to the server, instead of waiting for the entire project to be completed. This process allows them to see what is working and what is not so that they can complete the rest of the project accordingly — which decreases mistakes. Since most of the process including building, testing, QA, and documentation is automated and there is a well-thought out plan from the start, it leads to faster development.
As the number of mobile users surpasses the number of desktop users for the first time, it has become clear that this trend is going to continue and agencies need to give mobility a serious consideration. With smartphones and IoT devices, not only can the agency employees use mobile devices to access data from anywhere and make quick decisions, but the citizens can also use it to get information.
The first thing that agencies will have to do is determine the applications requiring mobile use and methods to adapt them for mobility. Apart from an easy to use and seamless design, mobile applications also need to have micro-segmentation security, IT service management, and end user support for any queries.
7. User-centered design
With a user-centric design, agencies are able to pull together all the other six pillars of digital governance and allow them to work seamlessly. After all, without an intutive design, even the most feature rich application can be hard to adopt. That is why it is crucial to take that extra step to ensure the best user interaction.
While there are some challenges and hiccups to digital government, but when implemented the right way, it will prove to be advantageous to both the government and citizens.