Time and time again, technology has proven useful in making organizations run more efficiently and making services accessible to more people. While it makes sense to apply these traits to government, this happens less often than many would think. Many governments around the world are lagging in their use of technology to deliver services. Deloitte recently released a report that showed how well governments around the world are implementing technology and the challenges to greater integration.
Deloitte released a report titled “The Journey to Government’s Digital Transformation” that examined the ways, and to what extent, governments were using technology to improve services to citizens. The study is based on surveys from more than 1,200 government officials from more than 70 countries. Plus, interviews from an additional 130 government leaders and digital experts.
It may be surprising to some to discover that the report found many countries lagging in their adoption and implementation of digital technology for government services. This includes countries like the U.S. When compared to the technological advances of similar services providers in the private sector, most government agencies are lagging in growth.
“Overall, we found that in order for digital technology to really take hold governments should be willing to re-imagine their services and continually innovate the way they engage with citizens,” said William Eggers, the director of public sector research at Deloitte Services LP. “While nearly all – 96 percent – of respondents said digital technologies are having a major impact on government, there are varying levels of maturity but much commonality on the obstacles holding many governments back.”
When speaking to government officials around the world, the researchers discovered that the vast majority feel they don’t have the technology that the private sector does. According to the report, nearly 70 percent of the respondents said their organization was behind the private sector. Even when comparing themselves to other government agencies, few thought they were doing better than other agencies. In this survey, only about 30 percent of respondents said their organization’s digital capabilities were ahead of their public sector peers.
Often, national security and law enforcement agencies get more technological development than other public sector functions like schools. This imbalance in resource allocation leaves many government officials around the world feeling ill prepared for dealing with issues in the modern environment. The researchers noted that “respondents’ overall satisfaction with their organization’s current reaction to digital trends and their confidence in its readiness to respond to digital trends are both low”.
Even with its greater resources, the U.S. faces similar problems in its public sector. When zeroing in on the responses from U.S. officials, the survey found digital efforts for public agencies in the U.S. are driven largely by cost and budget pressures. Added to that are challenges created by security concerns from the public, competing priorities from diverse groups of stakeholders, and the lack of funds associated with government projects trying to keep costs as lows as possible.
In the U.S., security issues often outweigh financial ones when trying to integrate new technology. The researchers found that “security concerns in the U.S. are a serious barrier for all government agencies surveyed.” So even when funding is available, security issues can prevent useful technology from being deployed. For one example, consider the use of surveillance cameras in public areas. While many larger cities around the world utilize this technology, whenever a city in the U.S. suggests it, the programs are scaled backed or stopped entirely due to public outcry about privacy and “Big Brother”. On the other end, police departments resist the use of body cameras on officers, even though they are shown to reduce police misconduct, increase public trust and improve accountability.
Despite the pressures of security and budget concerns, U.S. government agencies are moving in a positive direction. About 61 percent of respondents said that digital trends are improving their organization’s ability to respond to threats and opportunities. U.S. citizens are increasingly aware of the ways better technology can improve government services and reduce costs in the long run, so we can expect this trend to continue. From paying parking meters with apps to drivers licenses on smartphones, there are a lot of ways governments can use technology to make services better.
Deloitte advises that the organizations at the forefront of technological change in government share common characteristics. These characteristics include a clear digital strategy, digitally savvy leadership, a workforce with the skills to realize their digital strategy, user-focused design, and a culture conducive to digital transformation.
In spite of the challenges, improving the use of technology in government is essential for creating a public sector that’s in sync with the modern age. Just as technology can make businesses run better and more efficiently, the same is true for government. By overcoming the challenges of budgets, security and development, governments around the world can help build better and more responsive public institutions.
For more research from Deloitte, read this article on the Deloitte’s forecast for 2015 holiday sales.