Government Experience Design: Gradually then Suddenly

Three important buckets define the relationship between technology and government services: collection of data, storage of data, and use of data. This article touches on their specific relationships

Originally published on the Government Experience portal on February 10, 2019 under the headline 'How Technology is Changing Government Services: Gradually, then Suddenly'

By Xische Editorial, February 10, 2019

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In the last five years, advances in technology have left an indelible mark on how governments operate and think about the future. This is especially true in the government services sector. With so many new ideas and innovations flooding the marketplace, it is useful to take a step back and consider what changes will have a lasting impact and how technology is leading to a shift in our understanding of government services. 

The major changes to consider fall into three buckets: collection of data, storage of data, and use of data. There are several other changes especially in the realm of payments and the embrace of digital currency over fiat currency but they are happening on a much smaller scale with less impact on the shift in mindset taking place with regard to data. 

Data is the critical ingredient underpinning all the technology changes happening in the services sector. Think of it as oil for a car. As technology platforms became more advanced in predicting our needs, understanding our habits, and streamlining our lives, they require ever more data about us to do their jobs. Social media companies have solved this challenge of acquiring data by ingratiating themselves in our daily lives from tracking our internet search searches to following our location via smartphones. All of this information is then fed into powerful algorithms using machine learning to detect patterns in our behavior that could be used to predict our needs. Naturally, this information is lucrative in the hands of advertising companies.

For governments, this information can be just as powerful in enabling them to create better customer services experiences. Using data, government staff can better tailor offers to customers and more accurately predict which services will be in more demand over time. The advent and rollout of 5G connectivity technology, which will enable fast internet speeds and help power data heavily applications like driverless cars, is a one recent development that will help government service sectors.

With all this data being collected and used, it needs to be stored in a secure place. This is where blockchain technology is having a major impact across technology sectors and specifically in government services. Blockchains are secure digital ledgers that can store large amounts of data in a decentralized manner that is accessible to any party regardless of location. In simple terms, it is a revolutionary technology that promises secure, fast, and easy storage of any type of data. For governments, blockchains can have an impact on how they share information. 

As governments streamline their service offering, fluid communication across government sectors is critical. Using a blockchain to store resident or citizen data can help. It means that one arm of government can easily access information from another and thus deliver their service in a more efficient manner.  Given how difficult it is for hackers to tamper with blockchains because the data is stored on a decentralized digital ledger, such technology has the added benefit of extra security.

With data collected and stored, the final step is to use it. Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are making the customer experience better by using data to tailor the customer experience. In the finance sector, for example, AI is already being used to make decisions on loans and other financial products. That frees up employees to focus on the customer experience and the small details that customers require. The same developments are slowly being applied to the government services sector whereby AI is taking care of the busy work of service delivery so that employees can focus on the details of the customer experience.

These are the large strokes of how technology is being used in the services sector. To date, few countries have been able to incorporate all of these challenges in one holistic approach (aside from possibly Estonia, the so-called digital republic). Rather, we see a piecemeal embrace of these developments on the national, state, and city level. As the technology becomes more refined and cheaper to implement, there will be a rush of governments incorporating these approaches. With most technology advances, the changes happen gradually and then suddenly.