e-Governance - Don't Let Your Government Become Obsolete!
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e-Governance - Don't Let Your Government Become Obsolete!

By Ed Winfield, CIO, Office of Enterprise Technology, Maricopa County

Ed Winfield, CIO, Office of Enterprise Technology, Maricopa County

Iot a week goes by where we don’t read of another retail operation closing down or another newspaper or magazine going out of business. The maturation of online services has fundamentally altered these industries forever. Governments do not operate in a competitive environment. We don’t see IPOs or venture funding for government competitors and governments rarely go out of business. However, that does not mean we shouldn’t consider how a government operation can become obsolete in the eyes of its constituents.

There is some real value in developing a mindset for government operations that is akin to operating in a competitive environment. An interesting way to consider this is to ask the question, “What if we were to operate our government like a startup?” It leads to all kinds of interesting questions around operations, availability, scope, marketing, etc. It is also assured that a new startup government would be built on a foundation of technology and e-governance.

"One of the most important elements of an e-governance scenario is how well the service you are providing meets the needs of your constituents"

This is something we constantly think about in the work to move our County towards becoming a digital-based government. We understand that an operating government has a considerable amount of entrenched process and policy, some dictated by statute at the Federal or State level. However, having a startup mindset can help us make fundamental rather than incremental change. Here are a few guidelines we use when considering technology for government operations:

What is the simplest solution? - Many times, we find ourselves trying to use technology to duplicate an existing process or practice because that is “the way it has always been done.” But there is likely a simpler way to accomplish the objective. Once the simplest solution is understood, the appropriate technologies can be applied.

How do we offer real online services vs. online paper services? - We have come across a number of examples in the County where we suggest we have online services for a particular function, but in reality, we only have online paper. A person can download a form that can be filled out and taken to the appropriate government office. While the online accessibility of the form has some benefit, this is not a real online service. Consider how your constituents get full service via your online capabilities.

How can interaction be an exceptional experience? - Have you ever gone somewhere expecting a poor experience but then were pleasantly surprised at how great an experience it was? We often hear the stories about the trip to the government office that required multiple forms, waiting in line, poor customer service, etc. How can we see our operations from the eyes of our constituents? And then turn that situation around? What would create an exceptional experience for them?

How can new technology allow us to go even further? - We see many startup companies that leverage new technologies and couldn’t even exist before the technology was viable. How can we leverage those same technologies in improving government operations? The use of AI, blockchain, RPA, and other technologies can help address problems that previously were deemed too difficult to solve.

Are we getting feedback from our constituents? – One of the most important elements of an e-governance scenario is how well the service you are providing meets the needs of your constituents. Sometimes, we fall into the trap of an elegant technology solution that ends up being too difficult to use or too confusing to our constituents. The ubiquitous nature of social media allows any government to get a real understanding of constituent sentiment either directly or indirectly.

An operating government offers unique challenges in e-governance. Change in a large organization is always difficult, and in government operations, it can be an even greater challenge. But by changing your mindset to that of a startup, you can avoid becoming another addition to the heap of obsolete entities.

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