By Tony De Sousa
As more and more citizens gain access to mobile internet and embrace digitalization, citizens are also expecting government to follow suit.
As in the private sector, government also need to deliver digital services and enable access to such services anytime anywhere to its customers – citizens. This requires government to shift the focus from implementing systems, processes and policies for its own ends, to that of a “citizen centric” approach.
In most instances, government departmental systems are designed to serve a specific department’s needs and often in isolation of other departments, which results in disparate systems (by design). This prevents government from being able to serve citizens in a consistent manner and results in differing “citizen experiences” on a department-to-department basis. After all, we have one government and should have one common experience in dealing with government.
In explaining the context and need for a “Platform” approach to better serve citizens, let’s consider some of the challenges or problem statements from both the citizen and Government perspectives.
Citizens: One of the biggest challenges is that citizens need to be familiar with how government is organised before they know where to look for information and who to contact for assistance. If you consider the portfolio of government departments and entities across national, regional and local levels, this is a rather complex “maze” for any citizen to navigate.
In the absence of a “citizen friendly” digital capability, most citizens revert to calling the department specific call centre and/or visiting the department’s local office. While this may appear as a logical step, let’s not overlook citizens who travel from afar, situations where citizens show up at the wrong department and/or missing documentation, which will require additional visits.
Tony De Sousa
Again, as in the case companies in the private sector, citizens expect to be able to interact with government and its various departments at the citizen’s convenience. Digital enablement is more than just a website.
Government: Every government puts a tremendous amount of effort into simplifying processes and better serving its citizens, but many of these initiatives are hampered by the complexity of existing systems and/or antiquated processes, different technologies or systems used by different government entities and different capabilities. This makes the adoption of new technologies such as digital difficult.
Government is also challenged with improving efficiency of employees, reducing operational costs and delivering services in an efficient and economical manner.
Why a Platform
Common in the technology sector, platforms typically enable a higher level of abstraction, scalability, rapid delivery of new products or services, and shield the user from the complexities associated with managing multiple levels of underlying technologies and integration of such. The platform approach also enables the separation of information creation from information presentation.
Some of the organizations that have used a platform approach include the likes of Google and Facebook. Both commenced their respective businesses as single product vendors, but embraced a platform approach to enable scalability, fast go-to-market, and delivery of new services in a consistent and innovate way. The backend systems are complex no doubt, but this is not evident to the user, not even when new services are launched – in fact, both Google and Facebook now have the ability to diversify into other areas.
e-Citizen Platform provides the user with a simple, consistent, friendly 24/7 capability to engage with government, while government benefits from the ability to provide access to information and services from across government, in a seamless integrated way.
Adoption of a platform approach will also enable all levels of government to “share more effectively”, accelerate adoption of digitalisation, drive innovation and reduce costs of serving the citizen.
The sample Digital Framework for Government above provides a view of the citizen centric approach in the context of digitalization in government, and areas where digitalization can make a difference.
Adopting a citizen centric initiative across all government departments and levels is a difficult task, but the benefits of doing so outweigh the “business as usual” approach.
Tony De Sousa is a managing executive at Telkom Business Solutions, Telkom Business