Professor Alan W. Brown, Executive Director of the Centre for the Digital Economy (CoDE) at Surrey Business School discusses how government can be used as platform to better meet citizens’ needs.
“The UK has a renewed focus on making digital part of the culture of the public sector at both central and local government. This will entail a revolution in the design and operation of public services that can capitalise upon developments in technology and the emergence of digital organisations to create services that better meet citizens’ needs.”
Excerpt from ‘Digitising Government: Understanding and implementing new digital business models’, by Alan W. Brown, Jerry Fishenden, and Mark Thompson.
Digital transformation across local and central government has been in progress for at least the past decade. Consequently, today’s thinking about government service delivery requires a shift in perspective to consider how it can become a platform for connecting citizens and residents to a wide range of possible service providers.
Additionally, a platform perspective raises the possibility that we can enable citizens themselves to deliver new services using digital technologies, open data stores and shared access to many different government information sources.
A number of important trends have been evident as digitisation of government takes hold. Local authorities and county councils, as well as national government organisations are now releasing more data to citizens, giving businesses and individuals greater opportunity to work with the government to understand citizen needs and deliver services in a more meaningful way. This is one of the ways in which the government environment is opening up and forming the basis for ‘government-as-a-platform’.
However, a variety of ‘online’ approaches have been tried before and have largely failed to have the impact anticipated. This time, however, delivery and execution is being addressed on a much broader front than technology alone and there are proven models that the public sector is beginning to adopt, that are helping to redefine public service delivery for the digital economy era. This is demanding significant investment leading to cultural, technical and leadership improvements across all aspects of government.
What are the key success factors for government in a digital economy?
1) Government needs to see itself as an infrastructure provider to external agencies offering the opportunity for citizens, residents, businesses and 3rd sector organisations to interact with government. This might be through open data access and via Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) to shared services.
2) Government should work closely with citizens, residents and businesses to decide on the services that should be offered. Direct input will help government agencies to assess how those services should work, what priorities to place on service provision, and how services can be offered in effective and efficient ways.
3) An open dialogue needs to be created to ask ‘what is the future of government?’ engaging a broader constituency of citizens to work with governments to allow services to be delivered in new ways.
Initiatives such as the Government Digital Service (GDS) are already making significant progress in these areas. They are championing an approach where digitisation of public services is built on the application of open technical standards and sound platform-based architectural principles. However, much more work remains. Sustainable and meaningful reform and improvement will only be achieved when there is an equal relationship between internal organisational and digital services transformation – significantly improving our public services in the digital economy.
Alan W. Brown is Professor of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Surrey Business School where he leads activities in the area of corporate entrepreneurship and open innovation models. Alan teaches on the Surrey MBA on Strategic Entrepreneurship and acts as module leader for the Innovation & Design Thinking module.
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Professor Alan W. Brown
Executive Director of the Centre for the Digital Economy (CoDE)
Surrey Business School
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