You could easily be fooled into believing governments going digital is a new fad. Everything nowadays has an ‘i’ or an ‘e’ in front of it.While the launch of myGov is still within recent memory for Australians, digital Goverment across the globe has been doing the rounds for at least 20 years.
In 1997, the first government website was created by people representing the Information Network of Arkansas, and since then, digital government has developed into a fluid and agile beast that is only set to get stronger and more resilient with improvements in technology.
This post looks at some of the biggest digital government milestones from the last 20 years to give us an exciting picture of what the next 20 years may hold.
1. e-Residency and digital identities
In 1991, Estonia became the first sovereign nation to offer electronic residency to people outside its borders. This created the idea of a “country without borders”, as people outside the country can apply for a smart ID card and access all the necessary online services.
Contrary to popular belief though, e-Residency is not legal residency; it’s not a path to citizenship and it is not recognised as an official travel document or photo ID. e-Residency feeds into the notion of digital identity; the notion of an online self that can be verified by a government agency.
To clarify, you would issue a digital ID card so that the person can become an e-Resident, to access public services online. One large factor government agencies need to consider with digital ID’s and e-Residency programs is security. And once again Estonia knocked this one out of the park.
The Estonian ID card is a “cryptographically secure digital identity card (powered by a blockchain-like infrastructure on the backend) that allows an Estonian citizen to access public services, financial services, medical and emergency services as well as to drive, pay taxes online, e-vote, provide digital signatures, and travel within the EU without a passport.”
The Estonian e-Residency program was the first, and is still the most iconic example of creating an online identity that can recognise a user through a specific set of attributes. Back in the land down under, the Digital Transformation Agency is working on a way Australian’s can prove who they are online, but more information on this is yet to be released.
2. The unified customer experience
It’s true. Cumbersome and confusing websites frustrate users. When it comes to eCommerce within the private sector, the goal is to provide the customer with a seamless experience from the moment they land on a homepage, right up to the moment they click “Submit my order”.
You may be thinking why is this relevant to the public service? Government service delivery and eCommerce cart abandonment are not incredibly dissimilar. The goal of a digital service is to get a citizen to complete a particular task. Whether it’s applying for their online digital identity, or submitting their tax online, they cannot complete their task if the process is cumbersome and confusing. This is where user-centric services come into play.
User-centric services put the needs and wants of the user at the forefront of design and delivery. Common methods of ensuring the customer is satisfied often involve moving services online, modernising websites and ensuring they are mobile-friendly, and utilising data for continual service improvement.
This concept has really shifted the way governments think about delivering services to citizens. Digital transformation teams are now throwing around new terms like “measuring citizen satisfaction”, and “understanding the citizen journey” to ensure their services are constantly improving and adapting to the changing needs of consumers.
3. Open data
Although many in the public sector would probably have nightmares about releasing data when it seems as though almost everyday there is a new cyber intrusion story in the media. It’s actually the case that open data does not relate to sensitive information and it only refers to use data sets that can improve the way a city functions.
One of the most successful countries utilising open data is Singapore, who developed a site filled with public data that is free and totally accessible to all. Data.gov.sg contains data sets on the economy, education, environment, finance and health all made available to help improve the lives of citizens.
Digital transformation and open data really go hand-in-hand. Governments across the globe are working with expert teams to harness open data for improved policy-making. We’ve now moved from the stage of familiarisation with the concept of open data, to now being able to learn from agencies that are using data everyday to improve services.
Open data is one of the most effective ways to bring about change in a nation. The more agencies that collect and collaborate, the better picture we will have on the intricacies of the way a nation works and how it can be improved. Eventually, open data will create urban hives where information networks will create a tightly organised ecosystem of data feedback loops.
4. The Digital Marketplace
One of the key milestones of the Digital Transformation Agency, has been the endeavour to connect government buyers with the ever-expanding tech industry. Essentially there is an infinite amount of technology providers and start-ups just waiting to get their solutions in front of new buyers. And this is where the Digital Marketplace comes in.
The Digital Marketplace was reincarnated from its UK counterpart to help connect Australian approved sellers with registered government buyers. This is a great step for Australian small businesses who now have the opportunity to access government contracts, when normally it would have been nearly impossible to beat large, international enterprise at the bid.
Digital services and bespoke products can now be browsed and purchased within one central area. The Digital Marketplace really ties together all the offerings of digital government, because without quality sellers, we wouldn’t have the online tax portals, mobile friendly web services, or even an interface to visualise the data from thousands of citizen interactions, all of which form the foundation of what is digital government.
The future of digital government
New technologies will continue to transform the way government operates and the way citizens interact with services. A new wave of change will eventually be brought about through the emergence of conversational interfaces, artificial intelligence and cloud technology. And the better these technologies become, the easier they will be to use, and the more dramatic their impact will be.
The future of technology is definitely exciting, and within the context of government, technology has the potential to improve not just individual lives, entire nations. Let’s see what the next 20 years will bring.
To learn more about the future of eGovernment, join us at CeBIT Australia 2017’s eGov conference on May 24. You’ll discover the ways government agencies are working toward a digital future from speakers such as David Hazlehurst, Department of Industry, Innovation and Science’s acting Deputy Secretary of Innovation. Get your ticket today!