Digital Future: Digital Government

As with businesses, there are opportunities – and necessities – for governments embracing the opportunities that digital technology provides.  Digital government most likely involves digitizing the interfaces of government – at least with other governments, with citizens, with businesses, and with other organizations.  So, it would seem that it is aimed largely at efficiency. However, the digital future for government may be the dawn of a whole new era that redefines the role of government. Does digital government favor openness…or help secure control?  Are constituencies empowered and represented more…or less?

This is the fourth of a series of four articles on our digital future, where we explore the opportunities and impacts of digital technologies in a few areas.  This article, Part 4 in the series, on digital government, dives into how digital technologies are transforming the delivery of government services, and how this transformation might affect the very way we are governed.  Part 1 looks at the digital future as it relates to the subscription economy – where increasingly consumers subscribe to rather than buy goods and services. Part 2 in the series, focusing on the financial services industry, looks at the evolving ‘fintech’ sector and how it is changing industry structure in financial services – and changing the very structure of how money flows.  Part 3 in the series, focuses on how our digital future may impact our individual and collective health – and how that may have ramifications in other areas of life and community.

eGovernment is the name for digitally driven government services.  Let’s take a look at what this effects by looking at five key government interfaces.

  1. Citizens – Governments provide services to citizens.  When it executes to leverage digital technology, government promises to provide these services better, faster, and at lower cost.  Digital government will also be able to provide more customer-targeted services, rather than one-size-fits-all services.
  2. Businesses – Government and business have the opportunity to simplify regulations, level the playing field in terms of regulatory burden, and make transaction-oriented interactions more efficient.  The relationship can potentially become more seamless as regulations become less costly and easier to enforce.
  3. Government employees – To the extent that digital government produces efficiencies in the way it operates for citizens and businesses, it should also be able to do for employees.  Hopefully employees will be free enough to implement digital efficiencies that affect citizens and businesses – and if they do, work will be more satisfying and empowering for government employees.
  4. Internal Government departments – ‘Stovepiping’, the effect of having different departments operating in a vacuum, is often a problem in large organizations and is very much so in government.  Digital technology, if combined properly with forward thinking policies, can reduce stovepiping and enable more streamlined communication across department interfaces. This will create greater situational awareness and reduce conflicts across departments that should be working cooperatively.
  5. Other governments – Just as stovepiping effects departments within the same government, it also is a factor across governments.  For example, governments need to cooperate on many matters related to military, commercial, and regulatory matters, just to mention a few.  To the extent that governments can cooperatively implement sound policy, perform honest negotiation, and leverage appropriate digital technology, cooperation among governments can increase form where it is now.

The above are all critically important, but they are primarily efficiency oriented.  The biggest potential impact of digital technology for governments may lie in its increased ability to liberate or control – something that needs to play out.  

What are your biggest hopes and concerns regarding the impact of digital technology on government?

This Post is Part of the Series: Digital Future

This series of four articles explores the opportunities and impacts of digital technologies in a few areas.

  1. The Digital Future: The Subscription Economy
  2. The Digital Future: Fintech
  3. Digital Future: Digital Health
  4. Digital Future: Digital Government