Governments that have reached the “being digital” stage consistently use digital to achieve better mission outcomes. To help understand what constitutes “being digital” further, we have broken down the characteristics into two parts: service delivery and government operations.
Service delivery characteristics directly impact the services offered by a government to its constituents. Some key components are:
Personalization: The service is tailored to the individual’s needs, interests, and circumstance. The service provider tries to understand its customers and create a customized experience as opposed to taking a “one size fits all” approach.
Frictionless experience: Accessing the service often requires little to no effort on the part of the consumer—there are no hoops to jump through, no demands for information, no frustrating barriers. Think of “one-click” shopping or other apps that make it easy to get what you want fast.
Pro-active (based on life events): By this, we mean the move away from traditional department-based service delivery and toward a life-event approach. A life-event trigger does two critical things: First, it starts service delivery without the constituent necessarily needing to be involved. Second, it starts multiple types of services arising from a single life event (see sidebar, “Pro-active digital delivery in Estonia”).
Omnichannel strategies: These strategies help deliver a consistent experience across multiple channels. A true omnichannel strategy meets constituents where they are and within the context of their life (for example, by phone, in-person, web, mobile, etc.) while also accounting for realities such as environments with low or no internet bandwidth as well as digital literacy and accessibility gaps.
Universal digital identity: Unique digital identifiers open the door to integrated data and a seamless citizen experience, enabling dramatic leaps in service quality, massive efficiency gains, and the move to a digital delivery model.
Anticipatory: Government anticipates needs and potential problems based on data analysis. Just as Netflix anticipates its viewers’ wants, queueing a new video as the credits roll, governments will need to deliver more seamless, personalized digital platforms that proactively serve citizen and business needs.1
Government operations characteristics are more back end in nature. They enable agencies to create robust technological platforms coupled with talent resources to achieve their mission. In many cases, of course, robust back-end government operations go hand in hand with improving front-end service delivery. Components that can help governments achieve digital maturity with operations include:
Once only: Enabled by a digital ID, citizens and businesses need only provide their information to government once, thus improving the user experience and reducing administrative burdens. Implementing once only requires interoperable data systems.
Resilience: Digital technologies enable capabilities that can provide strength and agility in recovering and responding effectively to disruptions. This entails the ability to quickly pivot during disruptions in response to new threats and opportunities (nimbleness); the ability to meet sudden increases (or decreases) in demand amid disruptions (scalability); and the ability to maintain operational excellence while rapidly pivoting and scaling (stability).
Digital DNA: Research indicates that organizations with Digital DNA embedded into their organizations (a set of 23 traits ranging from agility and fluidity to constant disruption and morphing team structures) can achieve their goal of becoming digitally mature better than others.2
Real-time data intelligence: Data is an elemental value driver. Harnessed as a digital catalyst, it can help agencies make key decisions by analyzing divergent data sources to achieve mission outcomes, whether reducing improper payments or detecting cyberthreats.
Platforms: Procure or develop modern digital technology platforms that are agile and flexible, and allow organizations to iterate and evolve based on user feedback. Such cloud-based flexible platforms are being used in countless ways from building security clearance systems to developing integrated AI solutions.3
Digital-first government organizations go well beyond implementing discrete technologies in silos. “Being digital” is about technology convergence that can create transformative synergistic power.
Achieving a digital government with these characteristics will require working through hard problems involving privacy, governance, and data-sharing, to name a few considerations. “Being digital” is not only about deploying sophisticated technology. Ultimately, the goal is to uncover opportunities to better address constituents’ needs by applying innovation, design, and digital technologies to existing services and creating new ways of delivering services.
In addition to building sophisticated technological capabilities, “being digital” requires a mindset shift—and the talent and cultural capabilities that go along with it. We’ve captured these points in the seven key digital pivots we outline later in the study.
The end goal is not a static point. Being a truly digital government requires continued change.