‘Digital transformation’ has become synonymous with digital strategies throughout the world. It’s disruptive and drives change as a result of technological advancements that impacts customer behaviour patterns. When it comes to government, digital transformation prompts change within the whole service model, from staff structures to processes and procedures.
Northern Ireland’s move towards a digital government can be traced back to the launch of NI Direct in 2009. The goal was simple, to provide a single point of access to public sector information and services. Now citizens can pay rates or book an MOT through online portals, when previously there was a reliance on traditional methods such as via telephone or even in person. For the Government, as set out in the ‘Making Lives Better’ report, the digital transformation strategy in Northern Ireland has played a large part in driving cost efficiencies, improving citizen access to services and allowing for an easier, efficient ability to interact with local government.
With the Northern Ireland population set to hit two million by 2026, of which 25 per cent will be over 65, the Government needs to prepare for an increased volume on its services. So how can Northern Ireland continue to develop its digital infrastructure and lead the way as an example of effective digital governance within its time and cost restraints?
Core to delivering an enhanced digital government is user experience and key to delivering this is leveraging data. In depth data analysis can produce insights that allow you to identify trends and behaviour patterns of demographics. As social media and mobile communication replaces old-style methods of interaction, an opportunity presents itself to extend the reach of services. By analysing data and understanding where citizens operate and how they interact, services can be optimised to the most convenient medium for set user groups. For example, chat bots can utilise Artificial Intelligence (AI) where an opportunity presents itself for unmanned online interaction where transactions can be completed.
Automation is another area where gains can be made. With Robotic Process Automation (RPA) a ‘robotic’ workforce can handle repetitive, mundane tasks relieving the load on human workers and in turn empowering them to conduct value added duties. RPA also has a place in predictive analytics. An RPA interface could be used with legacy systems by utilising the existing user interface (UI).
With cost and efficiency savings being key goals not just in Northern Ireland but globally, it’s worth looking to Denmark where it’s estimated that e-government directives, including making some services only accessible digitally, has saved £300 million per year in the last 20 years according to Digital Leaders. Given the savings to be made this is an area worth exploring further.
By placing citizens at the core of service provisions and optimising the user experience, the Northern Ireland public sector can show a proven return on investment to the public they serve. Furthermore by embracing future technologies the Government will continue to track advancements and ensure citizens are offered the best services as it moves forward and drives towards the top in e-government.
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