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Embracing Digital Transformation in Government: The First Steps to Success

By Michael Scott, Partner, Deloitte

Embracing Digital Transformation in Government: The First Steps to Success

Michael Scott, Partner, Deloitte

In early July, 2.5 million citizens headed to the polls to vote in the Australian federal election. With paper votes counted manually, it was an agonising process that took more than a week to be resolved. This raised the question of whether electronic voting should be adopted.

Estonia was cited as an example of what a digitised government can achieve, but it is not just electronic voting that makes Estonia an exemplar. At the heart of digital government is electronic verification, which allows Estonians to efficiently access 160 transactions electronically and Singaporeans over 270 services across 60 agencies through the SingPass single sign-on system.

As demonstrated by these leaders, digital technology gives us the opportunity to re-think how government services are delivered – from obtaining and filling prescriptions to registering businesses and signing agreements. Deloitte estimates that digitising Australian government services could represent AUD $20.5 billion in net benefit to the Australian economy over the next 10 years. This includes productivity and efficiency benefits to government as well as timesaving and cost reductions to citizens.

The shift to digital is also driven by citizens’ growing expectations to be able to transact online. These expectations are defined by the users’ ‘last best experience’ which is invariably delivered by the private sector where competition for discretionary expenditure is fierce.

While the case for change may be clear, the idea of transformation is faced with inertia and anxiety. More than 85 percent of public sector organisations surveyed globally by Deloitte identified culture as a constraint to digital transformation, with agility, entrepreneurial spirit and technological literacy identified as the three skills most lacking. Further, the most common challenges cited by respondents were having too many competing priorities, insufficient funding and security concerns. And so, the hardest part of transformation is taking the first steps amidst these challenges.

In response to the challenge of competing priorities, governments need to consider redefining organisational boundaries and responsibilities for delivering on digital transformation. An open data policy, combined with hackathon events, which encourage participation, facilitates a model where the government agency can remain the custodian of the data while innovators can bring the agility, entrepreneurial spirit and technical skills needed to create value from these assets.

Rather than building a bigger and better business case to address insufficient funding, the answer is to start by asking for less. Applying the principles of agile software development to business transformation, governments should pursue a ‘minimum viable transformation’ that provides the opportunity to test and learn and generates measurable value to build confidence for further funding.

Finally, cyber security is a real concern for governments responsible for handling highly sensitive public information. A three-pronged approach is required including:

1. Protection of critical assets against known and emerging threats;

2. Vigilance through threat intelligence and situation awareness to anticipate and identify harmful behaviour; and

 3. Resilience through ability to minimise impact and recover when incidents do occur.

While the challenges might seem daunting, the path towards exceptional digital experiences in government is clear. The private sector has set the standard and leading governments have already proven it can be done. The immense value to economies and to service delivery means that digital government transformation must be considered a priority, even if only to avoid a week’s worth of unnecessary press on government elections.

Deloitte is the brand under which tens of thousands of dedicated professionals in independent firms throughout the world collaborate to provide audit, consulting, financial advisory, risk management, tax and related services to select clients.

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