As they undergo significant digital transformation programs, governments across the globe are faced with a series of increasingly complex challenges, writes Dr. Pallab Saha and Jim Hietala from The Open Group.
These projects range from implementing new biometric ID systems to putting new digital tax or healthcare practices into place. However, it is often quite easy for these projects to be driven by a need to adopt emerging technologies at any cost, rather than focusing on their original aim: to enhance the quality of life of entire populations.
Many publicly employed consultants will extol their use of the latest technologies such as blockchain, AI and machine learning simply for the sake of using the technology, rather than for the direct impact that these projects will have on individual users. This is perhaps unsurprising, particularly when the Enterprise Architects responsible for planning and deploying these technologies will often come from a strict ICT background. With little knowledge of public services, they can struggle to think beyond the technology in and of itself.
If a public sector digital transformation project is to deliver better outcomes for a country’s citizens, then it must take the form of a holistic construct with integrated thinking. Innovative technology needs to be combined with a clear vision of the project’s objectives, efficient operations, enabling policies, and measurable goals.
All too often, those leading large digital transformation projects for governments implement a fragmented approach, perhaps due to a lack of insight, patience or motivation to do otherwise. This method is relied upon to show progress but in fact, several factors must be changed and controlled in order for governments to enjoy any real success from these programs.
Firstly, governments should be owning the process rather than it being driven by vendors; they should be program and portfolio based rather than project based and standards should provide the ability to scale-up, rather than having to solve similar issues repeatedly.
Not only would governments benefit from better integration, but further collaboration and closer relationships between jurisdictional and organisational boundaries is also key. In real terms, today there is a substantial need for Boundaryless Information Flow™, a requirement only amplified by the increasing access that citizens now have to tech in their everyday lives.
It is a common expectation for governments to approach any technical transformation initiative they undertake with an eye on the bigger picture, disregarding party politics or election cycles, and ensuring that the public has a say in any decisions made. Despite this, however, governments will often still reward agency-centric behavior, acting on fragmented authority in an effort to discourage the concentration of power to just a few groups or entities.
The implementation of digital technology in the public sector, such as citizen IDs, digital signatures, and digital payment platforms, can highlight both a government’s efficiency and its inefficiency.
Government Enterprise Architecture (GEA) is one such construct that should be deployed and can be defined as “a whole of government approach to support government ecosystems by transcending boundaries for delivering services in a coordinated, efficient, and equitable manner.”Reflective of important characteristics required by governments everywhere, its three principal goals are insight (thinking deep), oversight (thinking wide), and foresight (thinking far).
One flagship example of GEA in practice called the India Enterprise Architecture (IndEA) project and is the realization of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in India. These SDGs, aimed to provide direction and guidance to nations with ambitions to eradicate poverty and achieve sustainable development by 2030, cannot be achieved without integrated thinking. Enterprise Architecture is the institutional framework that provides the mechanism to realize this integration.
Given the tendency of governments to work in silos, and the fact that their citizens will often bear the brunt of any resultant inefficiencies, it’s important that all stakeholders at every level, within government and beyond, work together to translate their aims into action. By taking an inclusive approach, such as that proposed by the GEA model, as a means of bridging policies and outcomes, it’s possible for governments to deliver improved services and ultimately achieve better outcomes for their citizens.
Author: Dr. Pallab Saha and Jim Hietala, The Open Group