Posted: 28 Apr. 2021 5min min. read

Accelerating government services when change is the only constant

I was delighted to present a keynote at today’s inaugural AFR Government Services Summit. I shared some perspectives on why change is the only constant. And when you add evolving citizen expectations into the mix, it’s more important than ever that the way Government services are provided must change, too. Let’s seize the opportunity to work together and reimagine the way Government services are delivered, so all citizens benefit from a truly seamless, customised experience.

Credit: Dominic Lorrimer, Australian Financial Review.

Here’s a quick summary of the 12 insights I shared:

1. The world as we know it has been turned upside down. The global pandemic and subsequent economic upheaval and eye watering deficits have affected our lives and livelihood. Millions of people have been affected by COVID-19, debt ceilings have been smashed, and isolationism and nationalism are on the rise. Sharing knowledge – which came with population mobility – has come to a grinding halt.

2. Despite these challenges, there is light at the end of the tunnel. We have seen a bounce back in economies and forecasts for economic growth – here in Australia and around the world. But there are a number of risks we can’t ignore, including global supply chain recovery, vaccine nationalism and equality, and the interplay between health and the economy to name a few.

3. The signposts of structural change have appeared. Think deliberate de-globalisation, the commonness of business destruction, record low interest rates which could be resetting our understanding of yield curves and value, and how technology and digitisation are resetting the way we work and live. Population growth and immigration have also come to a screeching halt.

4. Structural change behoves a discussion on economic dynamism and productivity for the years ahead. Economies need to discover new sources of productivity for dynamism, growth and long term prosperity. We need to get used to the idea that it’s unlikely things will just ‘return to normal’. 

5. 2020 has taught us to sit up and take notice of the speed of unexpected change, of non-linear change, of structural change. The pandemic exposed our errors of underestimating the virus and its geometric progression – and being under-prepared despite the warning. Now we run the risk of being too conservative and reducing our economic dynamism when we must unleash the incentive and confidence to build for growth – and tend to the fires of entrepreneurship and development.

6. COVID-19 taught us change is more than possible. We’ve made the switch to a cashless society rapidly, we’ve shifted our mode of purchasing to on-line seamlessly, we’ve developed security protocols to handle sensitive material like document signing from the physical to the electronic swiftly, we’ve come to realise that working from home is real and productive as we recalibrate our expectations of what is possible, and in just one year –through the combined investments and efforts around the world – we brokered, developed, and started administering a vaccine.

7. We’re living with an undercurrent of disruption – emanating from technology and digitisation – which is sweeping our economies and societies. We have no choice but to change, be restless, and stay one step ahead. We need to embrace innovation and digital transformation to make life better for everyone.

8. When considering the future of government services, we need to appreciate that complexity demands customisation. Think of our citizens and their emerging needs – and the way they consume information, and use multiple digital interfaces to instantly get exactly what they want. Like our kids who toggle between platforms and expect the internet to anticipate their needs based on search history… we need to become more citizen-centric. When we talk customer-centric; our kids’ way of living today reveal the future in all its glory.

9. Think of the language we all use now – co-create; co-produce; co-design. This is merely recognition of a structural equation now being disrupted. In the private world and the public world, the era of mass produced goods and services no longer holds as it used to. In its place is new era of customisation.

10. Complexity lies in the nature of connections and how different parts interact. Critical to this are information flows and resulting citizen behaviour. Digitisation is the name of the game. But much more than purchasing; and much more than making existing processes electronic. Digitisation is a mindset shift. It’s about technology, but also the reason for that technology: the outcomes for the citizen.

11. Government now faces the shift in that fundamental equation of producer vs consumer. Unlocking data and sharing it securely is the key. How government manages data; how it utilises the power of mapping; how it begins to understand the connections in the life journey of citizens is key to delivering the right services, in the right place, by the right people, to achieve optimal outcomes.

12. There are two important building blocks of how we might consider the future of government services. Customised services, and networked services though digitisation and platforms. It’s no easy feat and represents a fundamental rethink of the operating model of our existing structure of the machinery of government, the (legislative and technological instruments) we utilise, and the relationship we have with citizens with dynamic, not static, where feedback loops are critical.

In conclusion, I believe we need to stop solving for problems piecemeal; and instead adopt a systems perspective to government services. We know we have major challenges on our hands. Better yet, the technology and the knowhow exists. What’s  required is a clear strategy and the will to change the world.

After all, the great calling of the public service is in service of our citizens.

For with all the revolutions taking place around us, the future is still human.

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Dr Pradeep Philip

Dr Pradeep Philip

Lead Partner, Deloitte Access Economics

Pradeep is the Lead Partner for Deloitte Access Economics. He has had a long and successful career in public policy, with deep expertise in economics and proven leadership experience. Pradeep has been a senior bureaucrat, working at the highest levels of public policy, across three jurisdictions in Australia. Pradeep’s experience includes: Director of Policy in the Prime Minister’s office, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services in Victoria, CEO of LaunchVic – a company established by the Victorian Government to promote start-ups and entrepreneurship – and Associate Director General of the Department of Premier and Cabinet in Queensland. He holds a PhD in Economics and Bachelor of Economics (Hons) from the University of Queensland.