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Over the last year, we’ve all witnessed years of digital transformation in a matter of months. A recent survey from the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), sponsored by Microsoft, shows that government respondents were the second-most likely group (after financial services) to report increased investment in digital transformation since the start of the pandemic. As governments around the world continue to look to technology and innovation to respond to the challenges of today, here are five (free) things governments are doing to step-change the way they can achieve their economic, social, and sustainability objectives in the future.

One: Build on existing foundations

I was fortunate to work with the senior leadership of NHS England at the start of the pandemic and the Chief Operating Officer was rightly keen to use infrastructure that had already been paid for. Whilst the adoption of any innovation needs executive energy and full staff engagement; understanding what you have, optimizing existing technology, and assessing your current gaps are the first steps on the path to delivering next-generation government.

Two: Review your industry partners

Times like these test us all. Satya Nadella best captured this for me in his note to shareholders when he said: ‘As we pursue our mission, we also recognize our enormous responsibility to ensure the technology we build benefits everyone on the planet, including the planet itself. Our customers see this urgent need and are looking to us—in partnership with them—to take action. We’re committed to working across the public and private sectors to foster partnerships and solutions that will have a lasting impact and redefine what “achieve more” means for the world.’ Moving forward, governments should continue to demand commitment from all of us in the technology sector to put people first and work together to drive an inclusive, connected, and empowered society.

Three: Focus on the intended citizen outcomes

One of the UK Government CEOs I worked with described the pandemic very early on as both a challenge and a chance. A chance to really consider whether the outcomes and deliverables governments provide people represented the best way to deliver that service and support. Or indeed whether it was just the way it was because there had been no prior catalyst for change? Technology will always be important, but only as an enabler of a citizen’s experience. For example, the old system of bringing sick people into a doctors’ waiting room to share their undiagnosed malady with a room full of strangers. In hindsight, this might make less sense than previously thought.

Four: Stay agile

The future will involve a hybrid work environment which may be a constantly evolutionary motion. Designing innovation and agility into plans and pilots now will matter in the future. The same survey from the EIU showed that government respondents had above-average levels of interest in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and automation, as well as big data and analytics. Governments can play a leadership role in shaping how these evolving technologies will be used and securely managed in the future, but they must start thinking now about the outcomes like resilience, sustainability, accessibility, and security that they want these technologies to deliver.

Five: Work your private sector network

The future will bring opportunities, changes, and challenges, unlike anything we’ve seen before. There is no limit to what technology can enable and empower people to do. McKinsey and others have aired the concept of a Paris Agreement for Technology which would be very interesting. The democratization of technology and how the private and public sector can work together to tackle society’s biggest issues is high on our agenda at Microsoft and we will do what we can to encourage partnership across all our networks.

Get more information about Microsoft for Government, and read the full Economist research.