Posted: 19 Aug. 2021 4 min.

Witnessing the future of government

Topic: Public

This past year has seen governments around the world act at pace and scale to protect their citizens from the COVID-19 pandemic while mitigating its impact on jobs and economies. Inevitably, those responses have taken up much of the public sector’s bandwidth and we are only now beginning to see governments reigniting major programmes they were forced to put on hold. We are also seeing them start to tackle backlogs that have built up over the past year and a half. In the UK, data suggests the number of outpatient appointments between April 2020 and February 2021 was down by 20 million, and the number of surgeries down three million, compared to the previous year. Health systems around the world are starting to address these legacy backlogs, and it could be a long process (see this article from my colleague Sara Siegel in Prospect magazine for her thoughts on what the pandemic means for the future of health policy).

There’s no doubt that the pandemic will be an inflection point for governments. Their responses to the crisis accelerated digital transformation, reset risk appetites and put spotlights on pervasive issues like health inequalities. But it’s worth noting that other factors have come into play at the same time. The shift to remote working has made companies and public bodies alike think long and hard about mental health in the workplace. And social movements have made employers in the public sector and others think hard about what equality and inclusion really means. All of these factors – some triggered by the pandemic and some not – will change the public sector permanently.

Against this backdrop, my colleagues in the US Deloitte Center for Government Insights have identified nine trends that we are seeing in governments around the world. They are:

  1. Digital government has accelerated, upgrading digital to a ‘must-have’ for governments.
  2. Governments are increasingly providing personalised, frictionless services to citizens with the goal of matching the ease of our best online experiences. 
  3. Adaptive workplaces are allowing agencies to think less about the location of their workplaces and more about their effectiveness.
  4. Data is taking on an elevated level of importance in government departments as they get to grips with how to use and share it.
  5. Ambitious governments are acting more and more like cognitive systems that use data to learn from the past, understand the present in real-time and make decisions based on data-driven projections of the future.
  6. The pandemic forced governments to be agile, flexible and adaptable – and many of its leaders want to lock that change in for the long term.
  7. Governments know that cyber security means operating beyond its walls and are increasingly tapping into a wider ecosystem in order to build resilience.
  8. As in other sectors, governments and their agencies are recognising systemic imbalances and embedding inclusion, diversity and equity into their operations and policymaking.
  9. COVID-19 has shown that public trust plays a key role in government’s ability to manage economic and public health issues – so many are working hard to build citizen trust and confidence.

As leader of Deloitte’s work for Government & Public Services clients in North & South Europe, I see different configurations of these trends across public sectors in the region. I would add one further trend to my colleagues’ list as we are seeing substantial levels of infrastructure investment. 

Governments are investing heavily to update and renew their physical and digital infrastructure in a bid to stimulate economic activity in the short term and drive an uplift in productivity and regional equality in the longer term.

As the years roll on, I expect that we will come to look back at the last year not just as one when governments stepped up to the plate, but one that saw governments change irreversibly. In that sense, we are now witnessing the future of government.

Read more of Deloitte’s thinking on government trends here.

More about the author

Carsten Jørgensen

Carsten Jørgensen

Equity Partner

Specializes in the public sector, regulation and deregulation, reforms in the public sector and strategy. Carsten is managing partner for Government & Public Services in NSE (North South Europe). He has more than 20 years of experience as a consultant and advisor for the public sector, where he has led several highly complex analyses and larger transformation programs