Technology Adoption Slower, But Certain In Government — And For Good Reason

Written by: Joel Cherkis

As Laura Ipsen noted in last week’s column, public sector organizations across the globe are under significant economic pressure these days. In response to this challenge, governments are emphasizing austerity, eliminating inefficiencies and embracing a mantra of “doing more with less”. Of course, many companies in the private sector are feeling this economic strain as well and are taking similar measures.

However, what has set the private sector apart from government, in terms of strategy, is its aggressive investment in technology. In many areas, government is still catching up. Looking at public sector investment in cloud technology, for example, a global survey released last year by KPMG International found that government organizations still lagged behind the private sector.

But, does government deserve a bad rap for not being innovative or as adaptable to new technology trends? Hardly. In fact, on our MicrosoftOnGovernment blog, we’re constantly updating our readers on technology innovation and success stories from across the global government community. The simple answer is that, as stewards of taxpayer money, governments have many unique hurdles that they must overcome before investing in new technologies. From performing comprehensive risk assessments to demonstrating compliance with constantly evolving legislative mandates and regulatory requirements, the path to technology adoption is much more rigorous and complex for government.

Adding to the challenge is the need for constant transparency and accountability to the public. And, in terms of scale alone, a department-wide IT initiative in government can dwarf those in the private sector. Consider the U.S. Department of Defense, which employs roughly 3 million people, dispersed across more than 5,000 locations or sites worldwide. By comparison, Exxon Mobil, one of the world’s largest corporations, employs roughly 91,000 people. One can quickly appreciate the challenge of rolling out IT projects across such large and dispersed government organizations. All to say that, in government, change requires a methodical process with many checks and balances along the way.

Despite these hurdles, however, there is undeniable technology momentum occurring across the worldwide public sector stage. More than ever, governments are looking to new technologies and approaches to help them operate more cost effectively and to deliver exceptional services to constituents with fewer resources.

  •  Take, for example, Biscay County in Spain. While accessing government services once involved a myriad of paper applications and potentially several visits to the local town hall, today residents of the county now have online access to the 100 most-requested services in the county. Through dedicated online portals developed by the Biscay County Authority, citizens can submit applications, access support and check on the status of their applications along the way.
  • Similarly, the City of Charlotte, North Carolina recently undertook a digital service initiative to help prepare for the 2012 Democratic National Convention. With tens of thousands of anticipated visitors, and an influx of permit requests associated with the event, the city quickly realized that it needed to transition from its paper-based permitting system. By migrating to an online-based system, the city not only successfully hosted the convention, but now has a permitting system in place that continues to pay dividends in supporting other major events held in the city annually, helping attract tourism and economic investment.

At Microsoft Dynamics, we’re proud to partner with governments worldwide that are embracing new technologies in an effort to become more responsive to citizen demands, find more sustainable ways of operating, and improve the return delivered on taxpayer money—in essence, to become more dynamic. Together, we are defining a new vision for how software can empower governments to realize their full potential. You can learn more about our vision for dynamic government on our website. And, to join the conversation around what’s trending in government technology and innovation, I invite you to follow us on Twitter @Microsoft_Gov.

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