GovInnovate Brief

How do we judge digital government readiness?

Posted by GovInnovate Team on 7 Jul 2017, 10:35:55

How do we judge digital government readiness

There are many ideas percolating through this digital world that have become marked as the 'future of everything'. These are the ideas that we often hear about all the time, but the meaning and implementation often remains elusive to us.

Digital transformation and disruption are the perfect embodiments of something government departments are now mandated to do, but because of the broad nature of the terms, it can be difficult to know where to start.

In this post, we’re bringing our digital government readers back to the basics of what it means to be digital government ready.



The digital government readiness indicator: are you a big fish, or a little fish? 

You may have heard about the big-fish-little-pond effect; the concept that states that it’s better to be a high achiever in a little pond that a low achiever in a big pond. This may be a strange way to look at egovernment readiness, but if you find one state that is performing particularly well in a nation that doesn’t really hold digital government in very high regard, it can be easy to see how that one state would be seen more positivity.

However, if you take the reverse side of that, if you have a nation that is incredibly focused on implementing new digital services, it might be fair to say that one innovative state that has created a totally new way of providing a service may get lost in the big pond. 

So how then are we to establish what it is to be digital government ready? Well according to Intermedium, NSW is quantifiably leading the charge with its focus on ICT strategy, citizen-centric service delivery, procurement reform and evidence-driven policymaking.


(Image source)

But what does that really tell us? That NSW is the most future-ready state and that VIC, QLD, SA and somewhat close behind? There really is no way to tell if they are ready other than the fact that they are performing a little better or worse than other states. If you need something more solid to describe what it is to be digital government ready, then we’ve got 6 characteristics from Accenture on what it is to be a ‘future-ready digital government’, and they are:

  • Seamless citizen experience
  • Increasing engagement
  • Empowered & informed decision making
  • Flexibility for the future
  • Improved operational efficiency
  • Delivering on mission

All these attributes combined tell us if a government is ready to respond to the promise of digital delivery; not just whether or not a state is performing better than others. Citizens expect to be able to interact with government departments in the same way they interact with the rest of the digitally connected world, which you can read more about here in our previous post on rethinking your approach to service delivery. The question government departments need to ask themselves today is not if constituents want to have digital interactions with government, it’s whether governments are ready to respond in a digital context.


Balancing the reality of legacy systems and expectations

In an ideal world it would be great to say that all government departments need to do is fulfil the 6 criteria effortlessly listed by Accenture and then call it a day. Simply working on providing a seamless customer experience, increasing engagement, being more flexible for the future (etc) and bam, your digital government is now future-proof. But unfortunately this isn’t the reality for many government departments out there.

As is the case with the private sector, legacy systems are holding modernisation ransom as they stifle the ability of many organisations to deliver a truly digital experience. So it may be a fairer point to make that digital service ‘readiness’ isn’t a reflection on state-by-state progress, but rather a reflection of the systems in place and the needs of the citizens at a given time. 

What do you think about digital government readiness? Should we be basing it solely in a competition between states? Or should we look at more quantifiable means of judging if a state is ready to provide the services citizens expect? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

View the GovInnovate 2017 Program

Topics: Digital Transformation

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