As I meet with government leaders from New Zealand to the United Kingdom and Finland, there is an enduring theme—the desire to deliver better, more personalized services to constituents, while prioritizing innovation that ensures privacy and security. Governments must accomplish these goals in a fiscally sound manner requiring efficiency and stewardship.
According to Gartner®, “By 2026, over 75 percent of governments will gauge digital transformation success by measuring the enduring mission impact.”1 The ability to drive enduring mission outcomes relies on IT and agency leadership clearly defining what they want to achieve, and collaborating to identify how to use technology to get there. By starting with the outcome, government officials are helping shape the future by removing traditional bureaucratic hurdles that hinder the broad adoption of digital services. Focusing on outcomes facilitates cross-agency collaboration as well, contributing to a comprehensive view of the services recipient.
People around the world expect governments to provide tailored, convenient, and secure digital services that match their consumer experiences. Examples include scheduling appointments, accessing transportation options, communicating with caseworkers and emergency services, digital payments, and more. Governments can best deliver these personalized experiences by leveraging the power of the hyper-scale cloud, data, and AI. Doing this will enable people and employees alike to access the right services based on secure and accurate data—when and where they need it.
At Microsoft for Government, we’re committed to empowering Governments with technology to digitize public services and deliver innovation in government programs and experiences. But how can governments digitize services?
As we see it, there are four key areas agencies across all government sectors should prioritize.
1. Invest in technology infrastructure
To start digitizing services, it is imperative that government organizations lay the groundwork for future digital efforts, and the cloud is the foundation. By now, most organizations know that legacy mainframes and servers are increasingly costly and difficult to support, are easily overwhelmed by the public’s demands, and present operational and security risks. The cloud allows you to scale quickly in times of need, and easily produce and deploy new applications and services for people to use anytime, from anywhere.
The State of Qatar is a notable example of building a foundation for the long term. As part of the Smart Qatar Program (TASMU), Qatar has developed an open, integrated, and extendable platform of national services built on Microsoft Azure.
To realize the TASMU platform vision, the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) brought together a consortium of technology experts, including Microsoft Partners Ooredoo and Microsoft, to work for over 10 years to bring the platform fully to life.
“We chose Microsoft because of the flexibility it provided us to build unique smart city and smart country capabilities on Azure and integrate them with our government-shared services, building a national integration environment in a highly secure and scalable way.”—Her Excellency Reem Al Mansoori, Assistant Undersecretary of Digital Society Development, MCIT.
With the TASMU platform as a solid foundation, Qatar plans to add more than 100 additional digital services over time.
2. Integrate data to deliver improved user experiences
The public expects services to be available online anytime, anywhere, from any device. While many governments are innovating to deliver on these demands, many still rely on analog, in-person experiences. This may be due in part to a lack of infrastructure, a lack of capacity or skillset in their workforce, or a lack of processes in place to support new experiences.
But digitizing services requires more than just rolling out an app or clicking into a website. The public expects governments to use their data to deliver benefits in a responsive manner. Partnering with Microsoft, government agencies can create innovative public-facing experiences, while also streamlining the backend to deliver automation at scale, and empowering teams with tools and processes to deliver faster, more efficient services.
For example, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) works to keep children safe by strengthening and supporting families. When children enter the system, they must reestablish safety, permanence, and well-being. The DCFS recognized a need to maintain the connection between children, families, and caseworkers, and partnered with Microsoft to develop the Microsoft Teams Youth App.
The app provides remote, streamlined communication across stakeholders involved in a child’s case—case workers, counselors, foster parents, biological parents, attorneys, and service providers. What used to take multiple individual calls can now be achieved via two messages in the Teams Youth App. This efficiency gain frees up caseworkers to spend more time with the children and other families. Foster parents appreciate that all communication now happens in one place, providing a more convenient and responsive experience. Even the children use the app to communicate with their caseworkers, giving them more privacy and helping to establish better, trust-based relationships.
3. Focus on equity and trust
Digitizing services can create a more equitable and inclusive society, and it is critical that agencies put people—not technology—at the heart of their digital efforts.
Leaders need to listen to diverse opinions to understand needs and engage constituents in the process. This, coupled with technology deliberately designed to ensure accessibility, promotes digital inclusion across the community. Agencies must also ensure they use data to measure the impact on different demographics and continuously iterate to better serve their community.
Nunavut is one of four Inuit homelands in Canada, and its community speaks the Inuktut family of languages. Concerned by the dwindling use of Inuktut in the territory, the Government of Nunavut collaborated with Microsoft. Using Microsoft Translator, part of Microsoft Azure Cognitive Services, they have strengthened connections between Inuktut speakers and those speaking English and French.
“This project with Microsoft Translator opens translation access to a much wider group of people. The exchange works both ways, making the outside world more accessible to unilingual Inuit and bringing Inuktut languages to others. It is a bridge between two quite diverse cultures.”—Michèle Guignard, Consultant with the Government of Nunavet’s Department of Culture and Heritage.
4. Ensure resilience
Governments need to ensure they have the technology to deliver on future needs and demands. This includes making strategic, proactive investments—not only in traditional software and hardware but also in the technology that is woven into the physical fabric of communities. For example, the internet of things (IoT) technology gathers data on habits, patterns, and problems to understand impacted areas and enable effective city-wide planning.
Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) is an example of a forward-looking digital transformation. In addition to ensuring transport services work efficiently and in a safe, reliable manner, TfGM is also responsible for tracking and improving traffic flow, making infrastructure upgrades, and promoting sustainable ways to travel.
As part of its modernization, TfGM decommissioned its on-premises operations management service and moved to Microsoft Azure Monitor, benefiting from real-time alerts about its servers, services, disk space, and other elements. Azure Monitor sends the alerts instantly to all designated TfGM employees via Microsoft Teams. They now can address issues quickly to avoid potential disaster events and keep transport services functioning smoothly.
“We are solving problems before they are known to end users, rather than dealing with them as they arise. That is a depth to our alerting capabilities that we did not have before.”—Jason Higgins, Lead Infrastructure Engineer with TfGM.
Empowering innovation now and into the future
Digital transformation in any organization—public or private—can seem daunting. But as a government organization, it is vital that you modernize and design with a people-first mentality, especially as it relates to how you interact and consult with the public and deliver programs and services.
The Microsoft for Government team is committed to empowering you with technology to help solve society’s biggest challenges and deliver innovation in your public experiences. To get more insight into how governments worldwide are enabling safe, accessible, and personalized programs, visit the Worldwide Public Sector Center of Expertise for resources.
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1 Gartner®: “Predicts 2023: Governments Heighten Focus on Mission Impact Amid Global Uncertainties,” Apeksha Kaushik, Neville Cannon, Irma Fabular, Daniel Snyder, Rick Howard, Bill Finnerty, Ben Kaner, John Kost, Arthur Mickoleit, January 26, 2023.
GARTNER® is a registered trademark and service mark of Gartner, Inc. and/or its affiliates in the U.S. and internationally and is used herein with permission. All rights reserved.