Digital Behavior Change — GovTech

“Digital innovation is an opportunity — for governments, for business, for the public, and for the way in which they relate to each other.” — Axelle Lemaire, Secretary of State for the Digital Economy, France

With the data revolution, and a rise towards using technology towards opportunities to be more efficient, make data driven decisions, and also generate surpluses of +time towards other public sector gaps, the embrace of technology in government is presented as a feasible and forward thinking future offering. The growth in the public sector embracing technology forecasts that a digital transformation is here. Remarkable public sector transformation has been occurring across governments, particularly in Western and Northern Europe. It’s been coined as GovTech. So what is this movement about? And how can nations reap the benefits of this digital transition?

What does GovTech look like?

GovTech refers to the wide adoption of digitizing public services across governmental administrations. It is motivated by the principles to perform more efficiently, make data driven decisions in government, create plans toward shared data and provide new engagements through digital solutions to citizens. It aims to benefit users and administrations on their public service delivery. It is often adopted, or initially piloted in the business (commerce) and e-health space.

Why go “digital” in Government?
What exactly are the benefits towards going “digital” in government? There are many benefits, however the main ones according to the United Nations E-Government Survey 2020 and the Danish National Strategy of 2016–2020, the benefits are:

  • Mobility
  • Flexibility
  • Improved opportunities in public service delivery— both in supply and consumption
  • “Rethinks process and workflows in public sector” (Denmark, Digital Strategy 2016–2020)
  • Improves interaction between Government to Business
  • Improvements in Government to Citizen Relations
  • Open Government Data
  • Developed Telecommunication and ICT infrastructure across public administration
By Sameer Chhabra featuring an article on the new Minister of Digital Government, Scott Brison

What are the Benefits to digitizing Public Services?

While there are many benefits to digitizing public services, there are certainly some additional benefits in GovTech.

  • Efficiency
  • Circular loops between Gov to Business and Gov to Citizen
  • Improved ICT infrastructure for adoption to new technologies

What are some of the outputs that can be achieved with a digital government?

  • Secure systems and SMART Cities ICT Infrastructure supporting mobility, safety, weather predictions, climate planning
  • New Data for improved user experience and digital government visioning
  • Citizen Inbox (For citizens to engage directly with government in secure inbox)
  • Accessing Health Records quickly (Birth Certificates)
  • Business Registration (accelerated processes to allow commerce sector to move smoothly)

What does the Future look like with embraced GovTech?
According to Denmark’s Digital Strategy of 2016–2020, a nation embracing the future of digitization in public services can look forward to further embracing artificial intelligence and biotechnology.

The contributions of both artificial intelligence and biotechnology will move forward the public service delivery with new machine learning capacities and functions that can allow more efficient processes. In thinking about digital culture and new digital societies, according to the MIT Sloan Management Review (2019), the authors George Westerman, Deborah L. Soule, and Anand Eswaran share that in digital cultures, what can be expected are the critical values of: impact, speed, openness, and autonomy.

Westerman, Soule, and Eswaran describe the foundations to building a digital culture which for a future state require new “adopting” and “refining,” ultimately pivoting organizational performance.

Criteria, Conditions for a Digital Society

There are many conditions to building a digital society. From insights from the OECD, current Nordic National Strategies, and MIT Sloan Management Review, the following are important conditions to cultivate in a digital society

  • Adaptive Society
  • Flexible Society
  • Public Sector Trust
  • Public Sector Data (shared/reused data)

These dimensions are significant yet not easy to adopt in a changing society. Strategy is often much easier to change than culture, as culture is informed by values and norms guiding human interaction. Learning from the Nordic model of GovTech, carrying out trust, fulfilling a strong social welfare system can allow digital citizen trust. It is also significant to consider initial digital behavior has to exist for this movement to proceed forward.

Case Studies

There are many cases in successful digital behavior change. For the top GovTech case studies, according to the UN E-Government Survey, Estonia, Denmark, and South Korea are digital governments to look into.

UX Design | GovTech

While we have touched a lot on the social infrastructure and IT infrastructure, there are elements that can guide the design process, the UX experience of GovTech. As public services get adapted below are some principles to keep in mind in GovTech Design:

  • Agile, Adaptive
  • Must Guide Citizens through Changes and What’s Available
  • Sense of Security
  • Public Trust
  • User Centricity

How important is Public Trust in advancing GovTech?

According to the Danish case, it’s the most important. It’s what has allowed Denmark to score at the top of the United Nations E-Government Survey (2018). Public sector trust encompasses positive and optimistic intentions on behalf of the government. For Denmark, it’s been their strong social welfare state that has led citizens to give them the trust in the digital space.

For other Nordic and Western European countries, there’s been new experimentation in bridging GovTech with start ups providing a direct space and centralized solution design to public services. The extraordinary work of PUBLIC, a UK based start up , is scaling out this approach across Western and Northern Europe. Their start up and founder was my initial introduction to GovTech. Extending deepest gratitude to Daniel Korski for the moving introduction. ~ PUBLIC is building Leadership in the digital space with the GovTech Summit bringing together leaders from the EU to discuss, collaborate, and showcase cases of existing, successful governments that have embraced GovTech solutions.

Conclusion

In a changing society, it is clear the digital transformation decade will only continue to change our organizations and governments. The pandemic is increasingly demonstrating this, as well as providing the opportunity to commence it. There are many promising benefits from this digital transformation, however one can choose to look at the limitations, or embrace the positive gains to be made with more efficient and data driven solutions. Below are some concluding points to continue this accelerating movement in the public sector.

  • Gov Tech is revolutionizing institutional relationships
  • Gov Tech empowers individuals to participate in digital societies and economies
  • GovTech allows for a transparent government
  • GovTech allows for improved public policy through shared data

As GovTech continues, we must celebrate the achievements of e-governance and digitization. Fore more information on GovTech, feel free to follow:

PUBLIC, https://www.public.io/
GOVTECH SUMMIT, https://www.govtechsummit.eu/
APOLITICAL, https://apolitical.co/home

If you are interested in bringing digital culture and digital solutions in your organization or government, feel free to reach out to start ups above and gcorberaconsulting@gmail.com on GovTech Design and Strategy.

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Gabriela Corbera

Gabriela Corbera

Innovation enthusiast with a heart for cities, sociology, culture, policy, environment, and systems change.