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Published: February 26, 2013
 / Spring 2013 / Issue 70


The Digital Government

1. Common, sustainable ICT platforms. Central to the new infrastructure is a group of ICT hardware and data centers consolidated throughout the government. Consolidation makes it easier to design the technology to be used in a cost-effective and environmentally responsible manner. ICT infrastructure becomes a pooled resource available to both the public and private sectors; its use reduces cost and minimizes asset duplication, while increasing scalability and flexibility to support government activities. The U.K. government’s Data Centre Strategy, for example, is working to consolidate government data centers; as a result, their cooling and power consumption is expected to be reduced by as much as 75 percent per year and infrastructure costs lowered by as much as £300 million (US$480 million) per year.

2. Shared software. Computer applications should be consolidated across agencies wherever possible. Governments can now use the cloud-based systems known as software-as-a-service (SaaS), allowing both the software and supporting data to be hosted by the vendor in exchange for a fee. The U.S. government successfully implemented Gmail and Google Apps for 38,000 employees, reducing its license, service, and infrastructure costs relating to proprietary software packages while also improving business continuity in the event of a disaster.

3. Telecommunications infrastructure. Governments should make use of their shared telecommunications infrastructure, from where it exists in both the public and private sectors, across all government agencies, eliminating duplication and maximizing its value. In Australia, a national broadband network is being rolled out in a form that all government entities in the country can use, thus avoiding agency-specific investments in developing or maintaining obsolete communications capabilities. Mobile networks based on LTE technology currently being deployed are expected to mature to the point where they can substitute for legacy radio networks in emergency and transport applications, freeing up limited radio spectrum.

4. Strategic sourcing and partnerships. Governments should drive strategic private-sector partnerships, license cloud-based applications, and leverage collaborative or open source software development. A prime example is the VistA (Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture) electronic health record (EHR) system developed by the Veterans Health Administration in the United States. It is commonly recognized as one of the most successful  platforms of its kind worldwide, and has subsequently been adopted in countries such as Egypt, Finland, Germany, Mexico, and Nigeria. Recent experience in the U.S. shows that it can be deployed in public hospitals for a cost and time savings of about 30 percent over proprietary EHR products.

5. A flexible workplace. Governments must prepare for generational change, as many of their current employees begin to retire and are replaced by millennials. Members of this tech-savvy and mobile generation want greater flexibility, and governments can meet their needs by using mechanisms such as knowledge management, teleworking, and e-learning. For example, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management provides an online platform where employees can be assigned telework from a variety of government agencies and departments.

Embracing Digital Shifts

Governments can leverage these enablers to help create a more personalized and secure experience when constituents interact with various agencies—improving the availability, consistency, and quality of government services. To accomplish this, governments must continue to develop a consumer-oriented service approach, enabling citizens to communicate with them more elegantly, both in person and online. Singapore’s eCitizen portal, for example, provides citizens with the option of receiving SMS notifications from the government on matters as varied as passport renewal and overdue library books.

Elsewhere, government agencies are already providing citizens, businesses, and employees access to personalized content based on their specific circumstances, needs, and preferences. For instance, Denmark’s MyPage provides Danes with a clear view of all the information about them that is held by public authorities in one personal “online drawer” and enables them to perform transactions in a secure environment.

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