ICT Telecoms and Technology

Recognising the potential of ‘digital at depth’ and how to achieve it

Kevin Duffy and Vicky Godolphin of Accenture talk about the six characteristics of governments who transform successfully through digital.


Policymakers across all levels of government would now agree that digital technology is at the heart of a modern public service. Digitalisation has already delivered significant savings, in addition to giving citizens simpler, faster and more convenient ways of interacting with government. Its potential, however, has not yet been fully leveraged ‘at depth’. Currently, digital strategies are largely focused on making services more efficient. While that is an important goal in itself, it doesn’t transform institutions, structures, processes and workforces, which are key to delivering public services in the future to digital natives and digital businesses.

In the latest Accenture Digital Government Pulse survey, at least 50 per cent of the citizens surveyed see room for their government to improve satisfaction with digital services.

Public service providers need to become instigators of this transformation. Rather than being constantly disrupted, they need to become the disrupters when it comes to digitalisation, acting as public entrepreneurs and partnering with new businesses. If they don’t, agile new players mobilising digital technologies in bold and innovative ways will find a way to work around them.

It is time for government to offer the Amazon experience to their constituents.

It’s time for government to encourage and direct innovation, rather than inhibit it. First movers will gain a clear advantage, renewing the trust and confidence of their constituents, encouraging business investment and entrepreneurialism and providing a role-model for other governments. In a recent study on the impact of digitalisation, Accenture has shown that an increase in the pervasiveness of digital technologies in the economy is strongly correlated to higher GDP growth, increase in international trade and lower unemployment. The research demonstrates that growth can come fr

om deploying digital at depth within public services and intelligent investment in promoting digitalisation of the wider economy.

Accenture’s ‘Digital at Depth’ publication examined the best practices of digital leaders in public service and used them as a guide for potential innovators and practitioners at all levels of government – national, regional and city-level. Accenture’s investigations strongly suggest that six key characteristics distinguish digital leaders in public service – an engaged citizenry

, a collaborative service ecosystem, government as a disruptor, an entrepreneurial and performance driven workforce, open and insight driven services and resilient mission critical infrastructure.

An engaged citizenry is established through leveraging mobile and social technologies to create an ongoing dialogue with constituents who are now constantly on the move. Active conversations where citizens have the ability to react instantly give governments the opportunity to receive immediate feedback on service provision and adapt accordingly.

Kevin Duffy, Accenture’s Lead in Northern Ireland says, “Policymakers should be seeking to establish an omni-channel dialogue by offering as many ways as possible for constituents to join in the electoral and executive process. The end goal should be omni-channel voting, not just pertaining to elections, but allowing citizens to vote or express an opinion on a range of public issues that concern them.”

The state of government finances worldwide, the impending silver tsunami, as well as the health of the economy, mean that it is unrealistic for administrators to be expected to solve all public sector challenges. However a government that establishes a collaborative service ecosystem will enable many different actors, including the private and third sectors, to reach a shared goal through pooling resources and efforts. At all levels, governments can build common digital platforms and play the role of match-maker, partner or facilitator deriving benefits for administrations, businesses and citizens alike.

According to Accenture’s Head of Digital, Vicky Godolphin, “Digital leaders will need to establish an effective and safe ecosystem for data sharing. Standardised exchange protocols would form part of the foundation for deep collaboration between sectors. But governments will also need to conduct a proactive analysis of security threats and set up a strong identity management system with ‘single sign-on’ capability. This should allow the user to be authenticated once and authorised to access the full range of services, based on their personalised profile.”

Accenture analysis shows that half of all countries can create value from digital optimisation and reduce their back-office costs by 25 to 45 per cent.

Government as a disruptor directly stems from the ethos of government instigating digital change and promoting specific innovations rather than sitting back and ensuring conditions are right to allow innovation. By actively piloting new initiatives and launching new technologies, governments can accelerate both innovation and growth at their respective level. For this to be effective, leaders have to be greater risk-takers, much like how those in the start-up world are.

Newly digitised businesses require digitally savvy governments to meet their needs. This will need a new mindset and an entrepreneurial and performance-driven workforce.

Duffy notes, “Digital leaders within the public service can actively seek out digital disruptors and help catalyse innovation. They should identify industries with potential for transformation and high-growth and support them with an enabling regulatory framework. Working with these constituents will in turn create an entrepreneurial mind-set within the public service, which will lead workers to be empowered to take risks and continuously innovate.”

Godolphin goes on to say, “Digital champions in government who are empowered to bring real change will ensure a re-framing of in between government culture into one built on digital foundations. In Germany, Italy, Belgium and Sweden, over 40 per cent of the government workforce are soon due for retirement. This opens up an opportunity to refresh the current workforce with new talent, especially from other sectors. This needs to be combined with an immersive programme to develop technological and managerial competencies within top-cadre officials to drive digital transformation within their agencies.”

We need public administrators who can manage complexities posed by the digital world.

Open and insight driven services will make governments more agile and adaptive. The 3rd industrial revolution, described by Jeremy Rifkin as the merger of internet technologies (such as Big Data and the Internet of Things (IoT) with renewable energy, is heralding a data revolution that governments can utilise to respond more quickly to emerging issues across their constituencies – and become more proactive in tackling them, drawing on intelligence-led processes and tools.

Duffy says, “Future-ready governments will be enabled by the data revolution and powered by data analytics to become proactive rather than reactive. Combined with customer segmentation techniques, this would enable them to better understand constituent needs and preferences, propose more targeted interventions, forecast trends and proactively address key issues, for example, tax evasion, and social fraud prevention.”

Finally, there is an urgent need to design resilient mission-critical infrastructure for key government services to remain ‘always-on’, responsive and designed to withstand a range of hostile attacks from state and non-state actors. Individual privacy and trust need to be top-of-mind with the exponential growth of open technologies and users need to be made more vigilant about the security of their personal data.


Kevin Duffy heads up Accenture’s business in Northern Ireland and Vicky Godolphin is the head of Accenture Digital, Ireland.


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