From "doing" digital to "being" digital:

Transforming service delivery and operations in cities post the pandemic

The study explores how cities are using a broad array of assets and capabilities, which we term as "digital pivots" to move from "doing digital" to "being digital". These assets and capabilities can enable cities to transform both digital service delivery and operations. Recommendations are informed by ESI ThoughtLab and Deloitte’s global survey to identify challenges and track progress made by cities in improving digital service delivery and city operations.

From “doing” digital to “being” digital

Digital transformation in governments started as the “e-gov” movement in the late 1990s and focused primarily on providing online services or a digital avatar of governments’ physical services. Over time, this transformation journey evolved through different phases—back-office reengineering, IT infrastructure enhancements, cloud infrastructure, customer experience movement, interoperability, and the blending of physical infrastructure with cyber using sensors and IoT technology. But COVID-19 demonstrated just how far many city departments must still go to become truly digital-first organizations. Surges in demand for benefits often couldn’t be accommodated. Websites crashed. Call centers were overburdened. Telehealth and virtual learning were often slow to scale. Before the pandemic, cities were primarily “doing digital,” leveraging digital technologies to enhance their capabilities and largely relying on legacy operating models. But the pandemic has compelled cities to “become digital” by embedding digital technologies and processes deeper into their organizations. (See Seven pivots for government’s digital transformation to learn more about “being digital.”) However, more work is required to truly “be digital.” In this stage, cities will use AI, cyber, and cloud technologies to elevate the human experience and radically transform service delivery and back-office operations (figure 1).

Figure 1 - Cities should move from “doing” digital to “being” digital

Too many government agencies feel that deploying digital services is adequate for becoming a digital organization; however, digital transformation focuses on fundamentally shifting an organization's operations and mindset from "doing" digital to "being" digital.


From "doing" digital to "being" digital

Much of the progress cities will make toward being digital will also depend on how well they operate with a focus on the digital pivots (figure 2).

Figure 2 - The seven digital pivots to propel a city’s progress toward digital maturity

Cities should build on the digital momentum

The COVID-19 pandemic will go down in history as an event that changed the world in many ways. Government and businesses will continue to evolve around the new normal post the pandemic. It will compel many government leaders to rethink the way they do business and deliver public services. But there is no doubt that most cities will embrace the “digital-first” approach to operations and service delivery. The lessons learned during the pandemic will enable most governments to commit to a faster pace of digital transformation. Being digital will not just allow cities to do things faster, cheaper, and better but can help build resiliency in their operations.

Download the full report here.

About the Deloitte Center for Government Insights

The Deloitte Center for Government Insights shares inspiring stories of government innovation, looking at what’s behind the adoption of new technologies and management practices. We produce cutting edge research that guides public officials without burying them in jargon and minutiae, crystalizing essential insights in an easy-to-absorb format. Through research, forums, and immersive workshops, our goal is to provide public officials, policy professionals, and members of the media with fresh insights that advance an understanding of what is possible in government transformation.

Learn more about Deloitte’s Smart Cities & Urban Transformation

Through the Smart Cities & Urban Transformation practice, Deloitte has an ambition to improve citizens’ quality of life, solve key urban challenges, and positively contribute towards the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal 11: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable. The initiative offers up-to-the-minute thinking on how cities can use advanced digital technologies to address such key issues as mobility, data, and sustainability. Drawing on our global reach and cross-sector experience, Deloitte translates a holistic vision of smart cities into actionable, concrete solutions that can enable a brighter urban future.

Explore Deloitte’s Smart City & Urban Transformation activities and thought ware:

Urban Future with a Purpose: 12 Trends Shaping the Future of Cities
Urban Future with a Purpose webinar series
Smart Cities of the Future
Deloitte Insights: Smart Cities

Get in touch

Mahesh Kelkar
Research Manager | Deloitte Services India


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