Government’s’ job is to provide all citizens with safe, reliable and cost effective information and services. From that perspective, technological innovation is helping in creation of government’s value proposition from two angles:
- Efficiency. The government should enable its citizens to do all government transactions digitally, where, for example, citizens and businesses only have to provide their information once. Therefore, the administrative burdens are reduced, decreasing time and money required from both parties.
- Citizen-friendliness. Government looks at citizens as consumers/users, therefore it should strive to make all aspects of citizens’ interactions with government frictionless. Experience improvements should take place while maintaining fundamental requirements of privacy, security and integrity.
While it started with the introduction of basic transactions online, Government Digitalization has now transformed into innovative transaction services, mobile apps, social media, and interactive responsive website.
The operational model of digital government is based on three foundational elements:
- Security. Protecting the information, identities and payments transactions of users, while maintaining compliance with payment card industry standards.
- Mobility. Delivering efficient government services that work seamlessly on any device.
- Transactional Services. Completing end-to-end transactions through self-service platforms and providing a variety of secure payment options.
And just like we see in a technology company, government’s digital promise relies on the operational components that include engineering, product, design and marketing. New government operations should have the following components in place:
- Technical infrastructure
- Content Management
- User Engagement
- Customer service
- Market Research
With that in mind, let’s look at what the the U.S. Government has accomplished on its path towards digitalization and the challenges it faces ahead.
The U.S. Government has been pursuing digitalization for over a decade now, starting with Clinton-Gore administration. One of the most noticeable digital projects was the launch of first ever site with data on toxic waste locations in the US in collaboration with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This site put basic information about toxic waste areas in the US into the hands of citizens. As a result communities started pressuring companies in their neighbourhoods to clean up and stop contributing to toxic waste in order to improve health and increase property values in their districts. During the Bush administration the site was taken down for security reasons post 9/11.
During the Obama presidency, and with the acceleration of technology innovation, digitalization of the government took on new level of rigor and transparency. Obama personally made a big contribution to adopting modern digital trends. He was the first “social media” president: he claimed @POTUS on Twitter and did the first live on Facebook from the Oval Office. He also was the first to answer questions from citizens on Youtube, he even was the first to set a filter on snapchat. Additionally, from a platform perspective, Obama was quick to adopt governmental content properties to how people consumed media:
- He introduced a revamped WhiteHouse.gov featuring a blog, RSS, and an email list
- The White House join joined Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Vimeo, and iTunes
- Obama administration launched We the People, a platform for citizens to petition the White House
- In 2016, for the State of the Union the White House broadcasted the story on Snapchat
The Obama administration has put the infrastructure in place for next presidents to come. For example, Trump will take on Obama’s @POTUS twitter handle and all previous tweets will be archived.
This all sounds great and, no doubt, indicates good progress. However, many believe that the U.S. government must go beyond efficiency and user-friendliness. The U.S. Government needs to do a lot more to use technology to engage its citizens, because we, as society, have the right to keep an open channel of communication. That is currently not happening, and we are still in the old-mode of measuring user-friendliness and efficiency, not citizen’s engagement.
In addition, according to Viktor Mayer-Schoenbereger, Professor of Internet Governance at Oxford Internet Institute, the US government lags in the information technology quite a bit. This is largely because whenever you need to create a new piece of software, you need to involve a number of government stakeholders. The party system in the US is such that parties don’t like to work together, and they especially don’t’ like when their data is available to the other party. So many silos of information are created as a way to definite power. When you break down the silos you create value.
Another concern is that the U.S. Government does not have its act together with respect to cyber security. Looking into the future, we will need to make our biggest investment into cyber security and as well as institute new legislative changes.The missiles of tomorrow are not going come through the sky but through cyber networks.
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