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This article is a continuation of my series looking at how digital transformation trends are changing various industries. I’ve previously discussed sectors such as healthcare and finances, and today we’ll focus on how digital transformation is revolutionizing government.
Local, state and federal governments are using technology to improve their citizens lives. From automation, to using the IoT to make cities smarter, these entities have discovered how to use tech to improve workplace efficiency and improve the lives of citizens. Let’s look at the top digital transformation trends making waves in government.
IoT Connected Cities
With the use of built-in sensors in cars, street lights, traffic cameras and electricity grids, data and information are automatically collected and distributed. Common uses for IoT are smart meters that “talk” to utility companies to save energy and road sensors that track and manage traffic patterns. In addition to these infrastructure projects, IoT is also at work behind the scenes of service efforts like public transportation, public safety, and sustainability. While smaller, localized government projects are more difficult to implement because of lack of funding and technical support, some states have been using IoT for years without even realizing it. More than 20 years ago, Texas began tracking stream levels in an effort to identify and prevent potential flooding. To do this, the Lower Colorado River Authority installed sensors along the Colorado River, an example of IoT in its infancy. Connected cities are improving efficiency and the lives of its citizens.
Any organization will attest to the 80/20 rule of budgeting: 80 percent of the budget goes toward “keeping the lights on,” while only 20 percent is dedicated to innovation. Automation is the solution to freeing up more of the budget. Government sectors, realizing the benefits of automation, have been using technology like AI and chatbots to create more citizen-centric experiences. Automated call centers in social services is an example of how chatbots are revolutionizing the Department of Human Services. The White House Office of Science and Technology has been considering more ways to further incorporate AI into law enforcement.
Cognitive chatbots have the capacity to replace white collar pencil pushers, virtually eliminating paperwork and countless hours working data. Though the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics “optimistically predicts that government workforces will see almost no job losses between now and 2024,” this kind of labor-saving technology like this makes us both excited and anxious. While automation isn’t yet mainstreamed into government procedures, the future seems promising, especially when you consider the possibility of AI potentially freeing up 30 percent of the government workforce in less than a decade. With that kind of manpower available, we’re looking at safer cities, more technological advances, and happier citizens.
Security and protection
Cybersecurity attacks are a form of 21st century warfare which is why governments are working around the clock to protect citizen data and infrastructure. With citizens’ increased virtual presence and the large amount of highly sensitive information now stored online, all sectors continue to make improvements to cyber security and protection. Understanding that a risk-based approach is best to aid in governments’ informed decision making, technology is now being used not only for defense, but detection. The Department of Homeland Security reports current technology issues “alerts…at machine speed when events are detected to help protect networks across the government information technology enterprise and the private sector.” Because cyber threats are constantly evolving, the National Cybersecurity Protection System (NCPS) provides “intrusion detection, advanced analytics, information sharing, and intrusion prevention capabilities” on an ongoing basis. Security advancements will continue, especially in an effort to protect the increasing mobile capabilities of the government. Traditionally, wireless connections haven’t been as secure as wired, so mobile apps are cause for the same cyber concerns.
The IDC reports more than 70 percent of the U.S. workforce will be mobile by the year 2020. This will streamline countless procedures and processes, including many at the federal, state, and local levels. Citizen-oriented apps aim to deliver public services as well as engage the communities. Apps for public libraries, parks and recreation, and motor vehicles provide information and services faster than ever before. Enterprise-oriented apps boost government efficiency by limiting the amount of time humans spend on paperwork and other mundane tasks that can be automated and mobilized. For example, citizens can apply for and ask questions about government services by swiping left rather than having a 30-minute phone conversation.
Contrary to the initial belief that moving these entities to mobile would further alienate low-income populations, current research supports the opposite. Improved mobility has actually bridged the digital gap because for many, a smartphone is the only technology they own. Now, government at all levels can reach more people, changing the relationship between citizens and their governing bodies.
Data collection and analytics
What was once a rigid and tedious process with major lag time in reporting is now a simplified, autonomous process that provides real-time data about everything from traffic monitoring to weather patterns to business activity. Data collection and analytics continue to improve various facets of government, with officials acknowledging the necessity of establishing concrete rules for how data will be used. “The citizen experience is among the top drivers in digital transformation of government bodies,” with an emphasis on protecting the privacy of citizens is a must. Government agencies are using technology to acquire data in an effort to best their serve citizens. “From housing and transportation issues to possible causes of high disease rates in specific areas, government agencies are now able to consolidate enormous quantities of data and use sophisticated analytics to learn more about everything.” Public programs are now much more efficient at meeting citizens’ needs and wants. Engagement on social media platforms also provides an easy and quick way to accumulate relevant data, as well as facilitate two-way communication with government entities and their citizens.
Digital government platforms
Citizens have spoken and the government has listened. No one wants to stand in a line at the DMV. No one wants to wait on hold to have their Medicaid questions answered. And now they don’t have to. According to an Accenture survey, more than 65 percent of public service leaders have cited creating a personalized citizen experience is a priority. The use of digital government platforms helps leaders achieve this goal. Citizens across the world have more information than ever at their fingertips, which allows them to accomplish more in less time. For example, we can now make doctor appointments by visiting a website and choosing a day and time that is most convenient for us. We can view our medical records online, file taxes online, and change our marital status or home address online. By simplifying these once-involved processes, governments are improving citizen engagement and satisfaction. Moving these programs and services online not only gives the people what they want, but it also frees up government manpower to focus on the larger issues.
From smart cities to committees on technology, local, state and federal governments have begun to embrace technology. It will be interesting to watch how this trend evolves and how it will impact cities and their citizens.
A version of this post was first published on Forbes.
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