This article was previously published on Forbes.com and written by Khurram Mahmood, Accela Technology Advisory Council member.
For many individuals and small business owners, the word “government” carries a decidedly sluggish connotation. Many of us think of outdated operations, slow-moving lines and long wait times for public services. We struggle to renew driver’s licenses, stress about documentation at the planning department and fret about building permits as we endure red tape and delays.
Though stubborn issues persist, a shift in government service is underway. In my experience as an advisor to Accela, I have had the opportunity to learn about the transformation that state and local governments across the country are going through. A new wave of versatile and scalable technologies is driving the government sector to reimagine services that empower businesses and citizens. The cloud, big data, predictive analytics, intelligent sensors, automation and other technologies have redefined what’s possible and what we can expect from government services.
Here are three fast-moving trends reshaping the business of government.
1. Public- And Private-Sector Opportunity: Government Is Becoming Big Business
Emerging technologies can have a big impact on government. For businesses and entrepreneurs, the modernization of the public sector creates a new potential customer base to deploy digital services, explore uncharted business models and test innovative technologies in the real world.
The 2019 GovTech 100 report revealed that the maturing government technology market is starting to resemble a corporate market, with mergers and acquisitions, significant investments, startups and fresh innovation. Enterprise technology providers can now help governments take a leap forward in meeting citizens’ demands. Startups have opportunities to partner with governments to access thousands of new users and potential revenue streams.
Other private-public innovation programs include the City Innovate, San Francisco’s Civic Bridge, Philly FastFWD, Bloomberg Philanthropies’ What Works Cities, and Atlanta’s SmartATL.
2. A New Business Model: Local Governments Are Acting As Service Brokers
At the heart of the change washing over government is the mission to deliver superior service levels to citizens and businesses. In turn, intensifying demands for consumer-like experiences are driving a fundamental change in the government service delivery model: Many public sector agencies no longer see themselves as service sources, but as service brokers. Governments are outsourcing services to private companies with an eye to greater impact and better responsiveness to evolving regulatory and social demands.
The National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) published a report (download required) revealing new trends in government service delivery that embrace cloud solutions and platforms that support the integration of outsourced services. The multisourced approach is a new discipline for managing governments’ diverse and evolving set of services. Advantages to these multisourced and outsourced approaches include streamlined services for residents, deferred risk for government agencies and expanded access to public sector markets for businesses.
3. True Measures Of Success: Digitized Services Are Driving Tangible Community Outcomes
This digital business boom in government positively impacts citizens and local businesses. By leveraging mobile technology and applications, an agency’s front desk now fits in your front pocket. In fact, Silicon Valley innovations including mobile apps, digital dashboards, data portals and APIs are creating a new standard for government sector service levels. Citizens enjoy increased accessibility as in-person transactions are replaced by online services. In real time, citizens can report graffiti, check crime stats, apply for business permits, renew licenses, flag building code violations, check application statuses, request site inspections and more. Today’s innovative government agencies leverage tech to meet tighter budgets and rising user expectations, and more efficient use of tax dollars.
For example, in El Paso, Texas, the city’s waste operations realized significant production gains with the help of digital tools. The city’s 680,000 residents had a backlog of waste bin service requests for El Paso’s field crew, with requests taking up to eight months. Paper forms and manual data entry were replaced with a mobile app and service request routing system that saved dollars and time. The eight-month response times shrunk to 40 minutes and enabled field crews to increase servicing from 12-15 bins per day to 100. (Full disclosure: El Paso is a customer of Accela.)
Similar government digital transformation efforts are underway in Philadelphia and Los Angeles, as well as smaller cities like Westminster, Colorado, and McAllen, Texas.
These trends all support a growing focus on creating and improving citizen experiences. Government agencies are reaching an inflection point where digital strategy and technology investments increasingly are focused on building experiences that make citizen interactions intuitive and efficient. There is a greater emphasis on the importance of human-centered design in creating citizen experiences that deliver measurable, ongoing improvements. At the same time, more agencies are leveraging analytics to learn audience preferences, improve services and boost citizen satisfaction scores.
The government sector’s transformation is rapidly changing how we leverage people and technologies, how we respond to challenges and how we interact with our representatives and plan for the future. This digital shift is an evolving kaleidoscope of technology, partnerships and service models. Now it’s time to explore the patterns and determine how we’ll move forward.