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Strategic technologies for government in 2016

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After nearly a decade of “doing more with less,” government CIOs remain under pressure to further optimise IT and business costs while leading digital innovation in the public sector, according to Gartner.

Government CIOs face organisational and cultural challenges that are barriers to harnessing the synergistic potential of social, mobile, data analytics, cloud and the Internet of Things (IoT) to drive transformational change.

Rick Howard, research vice president at Gartner, says legacy silos of systems, data and processes reinforce “business as usual” practices and behaviours that limit government participation in broader partner ecosystems capable of supporting fully digital end-to-end citizen services.

“In the digital service economy, government must make strategic investments in IT or risk perpetuating suboptimal business and service models that are financially unsustainable in the long term,” says Howard. “Government CIOs who are too slow to adopt the technology innovations that are transforming private sector service industries will increase business risk and cost, while compromising the mission of their organisations.”

Spending by national, federal and local governments worldwide on technology products and services is forecast to grow slightly by 0,3% to $430,1-billion in 2016, growing to $476,1-billion by 2020. This is a turnaround after a 5,2% decrease in 2015.

To enable government transformation initiatives, Gartner has identified the top 10 strategic technologies in 2016 and provides recommendations to CIOs and IT leaders regarding adoption and benefits. It is not a list of what government CIOs spend the most time or money on, rather it is a list of strategic technologies that Gartner recommends they should have a plan for in 2016.

* Digital workplace – The government workforce is increasingly populated with digitally literate employees, from frontline workers to top-level executives. The digital workplace is a business strategy to boost employee engagement and agility through a more consumerised work environment. The digital workplace promotes collaborative work styles; supports decentralised, mobile work environments; and embraces employees’ personal choice of technologies.

* Multichannel citizen engagement – Delivering an effective citizen experience requires a holistic approach to the citizen: using data to capture and understand the needs and desires of the citizen; leveraging effective social media and communications to actively engage citizens; allowing the citizen to engage on his or her own terms; understanding the citizen’s preferred engagement channels; affording seamless transitions among channels; and ultimately delivering a more satisfying set of citizen interactions. Adopting a citizen-centric information management strategy with multichannel citizen engagement opportunities will deliver quantifiable benefits.

* Open any data – Open any data in government results from “open by default” or “open by preference” governance policies and information management practices. These make licence-free data available in machine-readable formats to anyone who has the right to access it without any requirement for identification or registration. Open data is published as collected at the source (“raw”) at the lowest granularity, as determined by privacy, security or data quality considerations. Open data is accessible with open APIs and is not subject to any trademark or copyright.

* Citizen e-ID – As government becomes more digitalised, digital identity will need to become more reliable in order to serve as the core for all digital transactions. Citizen electronic identification refers to the orchestrated set of processes and technologies managed by governments to provide a secure domain to enable citizens to access these core resources or services. Governments should require online authentication and identity proofing, because in-person verification methods are becoming outdated for offering citizens integrated and seamless access to resources and services. This “no wrong door” business model must be able to associate each citizen with one unique and persistent identifier within the bounds of what is culturally acceptable and legally permissible.

* Analytics everywhere – Analytics is the collection and analysis of data to provide the insight that can guide actions to increase organisational efficiency or programme effectiveness. The pervasive use of analytics at all stages of business activity and service delivery — analytics everywhere — allows leading government agencies to shift from the dashboard reporting of lagging indicators to autonomous business processes and business intelligence capabilities that help humans make better context-based decisions in real time.

* Smart Machines – In practice, smart machines are a diverse combination of digital technologies that do what we once thought only people could do. While capabilities are evolving rapidly, it already includes deep neural networks, autonomous vehicles, virtual assistants and smart advisors that interact intelligently with people and other machines. Government IT leaders must explore smart machines as enhancements to existing business practices, and possibly as foundations for new public services or ways of accomplishing business goals altogether.

* Internet of Things – The IoT is the network of physical objects (fixed or mobile) that contains embedded technology to communicate, monitor, sense or interact with multiple environments. The IoT architecture operates in an ecosystem that includes things, communication, applications and data analysis, and is a critical enabler for digital business applications in all private-sector and public-sector industries. The business use cases and adoption rate by government agencies vary according to service domain or programme mission. Government business models are emerging that take advantage of the IoT; for example, pay-for-use or subscription-based taxation models, smart waste bin collection on city streets, and the remote monitoring of elderly patients in assisted-living settings.

* Digital government platforms – Governments face constant pressure to improve service delivery and save costs. Adopting digital platforms reduces effort and facilitates user-centric design. These platforms deliver services such as identity management and verification, payments, reusable application services, and notifications (for example, SMS and email) that are commonly used across multiple domains. Globally, governments are taking a platform approach to simplify processes, improve citizen interactions and reduce expenditures.

* Software-defined architecture – Software-defined architecture inserts an intermediary between the requester and the provider of a service so that the service can change more dynamically — in other words, it is the IT equivalent of changing the tires while the car is moving. Adding a layer of software to abstract and virtualise networks, infrastructure or security has proved to be a useful way of deploying and utilising infrastructure. Applying the same technique to software architecture improves the manageability and agility of the code so that the organisation can respond to the fluidity requirements of digital government and the IoT. Some government organisations have begun implementing software-designed infrastructure, but most are still operating in traditional data centres.

* Risk-based security – The cybersecurity threat environment is constantly evolving, but it represents only one dimension of a complex, multifaceted set of threats and risks. Government CIOs must adopt a threat-aware, risk-based security approach that allows governments to make knowledgeable and informed decisions about risks in a holistic fashion, allowing for a wiser allocation of resources; more sound decisions about risks and their impacts on government missions, operations, assets and people; and engagement of senior leadership in risk-based decisions.

Four new trends emerged in 2016 with the potential to significantly benefit government performance within the next three to five years. Analytics everywhere, smart machines, software-defined architecture and risk-based security will each challenge governance, human resources management, sourcing and financing practices.

“Many of these technology trends change business models in ways that need to be reflected in more modern policies, especially those related to privacy or regulation,” says Howard. “CIOs will need to be front and centre in providing advice to policymaking bodies and working with industry experts who can consult on options and impacts.”