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Intermedium Research: 7 Drivers of Urgent Government Digitisation

Citizens expect frictionless experiences, crises have revealed what’s possible, and data-led policy and services are becoming non-negotiable. Here, Gisele Kapterian discusses the findings of a new Intermedium report on the drivers of government agency digitisation. 

Over the past year, millions of Australians have turned to the government for health and economic lifelines. PwC recently noted a significant increase in the proportion of Australians placing high trust in Australian government institutions, from 18% in 2018 to 46% in October 2020, suggesting governments and the public service have risen to the challenge and delivered for many people in remarkable ways. 

The agenda ahead will need to include ensuring this delivery is consistent across demographics. But where government response has met and exceeded expectations, driving higher rates of trust, it’s been enabled by digital capabilities.

Intermedium has identified seven drivers that will impel agencies to prioritise digitisation of their business systems beyond this crisis. At the heart of those drivers are three in particular that cement public and internal expectations of a new operating paradigm where scale, speed and agility underpin the delivery of the most effective, efficient policies and services.

The expectation of ‘seamless’ experiences

Intermedium’s report points to the increasing expectation by the public of the delivery of seamless government services. The Trust Imperative report we published earlier this year with BCG noted that almost half of the 1000 Australian customers surveyed expected the experiences provided by government services to be as good as those offered by leading private companies, and almost one in five expected government services to match the highest standards set by global digital leaders like Apple.

“The performance of digitally advanced jurisdictions – including the Federal and NSW Governments – has shown what’s possible.”

Intermedium points to an increasing discrepancy between Australian jurisdictions as a major inhibitor to meeting customer expectations. The performance of digitally advanced jurisdictions – including the Federal and NSW Governments – has shown what’s possible and “will only further ratchet up citizen expectations and throw the spotlight on laggard agencies”, Intermedium argues.

While those external expectations will continue to drive change, internal staff are also empowered by having seen what is possible. The experience of many public servants over the past few months has shown not only what that might look like but just how tangible and achievable ‘future state’ processes can actually be.

Lessons from COVID-19

Unexpected capabilities were demonstrated throughout the pandemic as departments and their staff took responsibility for services and outcomes well beyond business-as-usual. From facilitating the speedy distribution of stimulus packages to repatriating citizens at scale, or supporting and sourcing PPE, staff and processes were shifted and repurposed to new and pressing demands.

“The challenge that lies ahead for all agencies is to forensically identify the enablers and inhibitors of continued success beyond the pandemic.”

The speed and scale of the response many agencies could deliver is the result of years of investment in digitisation and automation. 

“Rapid deployment of cloud-based platforms solutions, particularly Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS) was also an underlying common element of their COVID 19 response success,” Intermedium notes. 

In some instances, however, community expectations and requirements for action were not met. Intermedium suggests that the agencies that relied on antiquated systems were unable to deliver at the speed and scale the crisis demanded. 

The crises served as testing environments for changes to business processes, technology and mindsets. The challenge that lies ahead for all agencies is to forensically identify the enablers and inhibitors of continued success beyond the pandemic. 

This is particularly important as governments will be asked to deliver more with less, to a greater number of customers and in the personalised, targeted manner they now expect. Millions of Australians who previously have had little engagement with government services now find themselves in need of some form of assistance.

A data-driven future

Information, and in near real-time, will be fundamental to governments’ ability to deliver in months and years to come. A true, data-led understanding of the needs of stakeholders has long been seen as a nice-to-have as opposed to a necessity. Evidence-based decision making naturally supports better service delivery, more efficient resource allocation and more effective public policy.

“The next step is institutionalising the use and publication of real-time data”

Crucially, however, information also underpins both the speed and effectiveness of government response, critical in curtailing the spread of a virus. Speedy, effective response builds trust, which is at the heart of people’s willingness to follow instructions on safety-related behavioural changes like physical distancing and border closures, and eventually, their vaccination decisions. 

The NSW Government’s use of data during the pandemic demonstrates the potential benefits of the responsible sharing of data. Releasing postcode-level data about case infection and causes in near real-time meant that it was able to see trends and patterns, allowing authorities to make decisions to reopen certain sectors of industry and society to minimise negative impacts of shutdowns.

The next step is institutionalising the use and publication of real-time data to do two things: help government track and understand trends and their causes, and allow greater transparency around the activity and impact of government policy and services. Government will be empowered to make better decisions around policy formulation and resourcing – increasingly necessary in the current fiscal environment. Significantly, it will also make a compelling case to its customers on the benefits of sharing information with government  

The crises of 2020 have overturned many long-held assumptions and practices. Two things have become clear: government is playing a critical role in our nation’s recovery, and it will only be able to continue to provide the services its customers need and expect by embracing the fast, flexible, scalable enablement of digital transformation.   

Find out more: download the Intermedium report ‘The Evidence in Plain Sight: Drivers Impelling Agencies to Digitise’.

Gisele Kapterian is Director, Public Sector Strategy APAC, at Salesforce.

Gisele Kapterian

Gisele Kapterian is Director, Public Sector Strategy, APAC at Salesforce. Prior to joining Salesforce, Gisele served five years as political adviser to three Australian Federal Cabinet Ministers, including as Chief of Staff in the super-portfolio of Industry, Innovation and Employment.  Her responsibilities and achievements while in government include helping drive and shape the Australian Government’s tech future strategy, trade components of the Foreign Policy White Paper, and elevating and prioritising digital trade issues, including helping drive the digital trade agenda initiative at the 11th WTO Ministerial. As an international trade lawyer, Gislele advised sovereign governments and the private sector on trade matters, appearing as counsel before dispute resolution panels and the World Trade Organization Appellate Body. She also lectured in International Trade Law and Finance at Macquarie University.

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