Digital engagement in the public sector is fast becoming the new norm, especially as citizens become more demanding of government to provide digital services. By interacting with citizens using digital platforms and leveraging data in a more meaningful way, governments can now offer services that previously weren’t available or even possible.

However, further digital transformation success in the public sector requires a new era of information sharing between government, non-government organisations, businesses, communities and citizens, with an emphasis on ease of use and more robust security protocols.

The question now remains… where do we go from here?

The first generation of digital government focused heavily on increasing new technology uptake in government departments to modernise processes, reduce paperwork and increase efficiencies. For example, automated accounts payable processing, online forms processing and enhanced human resource functions.

The next wave is centred on delivering digital services to citizens, through platforms like myGov, which connects government services including JobSearch, the Australian Tax Office, Medicare, Centrelink, Child Support and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

Delivered across multiple devices, these solutions are aimed at removing the silos between public sector agencies while improving information sharing to enhance citizens’ online experience with such services.

However, as each new platform or online service has launched, it’s been challenged by both internal and external factors including the existing IT infrastructure and citizen expectations or political agendas.

A recent audit by Australia’s Digital Transformation Agency revealed that there are more than 70 significant IT projects currently in play within the federal government. With an estimated total lifetime cost of A$7.2 billion, these projects make it clear that digital transformation in the public sector is here to stay. However, what every one of these initiatives and future projects needs to keep central is: How can digital transformation be used to best meet citizen needs?

As we enter an era of extremely rapid technological change, the next generation of public services face a host of new challenges and opportunities including the Internet of Things, smart cities, artificial intelligence and greater information security.

Governments across the world now understand the importance of delivering digital services to citizens, particularly via platforms they use on a day-to-day basis. But there’s still more to do. To navigate the next set of challenges, governments must be willing to work across agencies and with external groups, sharing information in a manner that will facilitate better service delivery.

Data sharing is key

McKinsey research has found that having a single view of the citizen allows for more cost-effective and efficient delivery of services. In addition, using the same information across multiple departments makes it easier for citizens to navigate and engage with various agencies.

Digital government requires better information management tools that provide a consolidated view of service information and allow for more secure, open exchange of information to improve cross-departmental collaboration and enhance the citizen experience.

Ultimately, this demands a stronger technological information architecture to support information exchange, coupled with widespread change management. But there are great examples across the world, such as the UK’s Government as a Platform and Ontario’s Digital Government, that we could emulate.

The latter emphasises the economic benefits of a ‘digital first’ government and encourages citizens to activley participate and provide feedback in government decision making.
Studying the success of these models can help to determine the best solution or even a combination of solutions for Australia.

Breaking digital transformation into smaller projects, rather than one big, all-encompassing program of work can make it easier to implement and source citizen feedback as each project progresses. This will help to build a solid foundation for digital transformation and foster greater employee and citizen trust. It will also help to facilitate information sharing across all parties for better user experience.