Public Sector Leaders Must Exploit New Technologies
For public sector agencies, facilitating easy access to and exchange of data is crucial for responsiveness—whether that’s through electronic medical records for EMS or durable handheld technology for police officers. But beyond the technology itself, teams need to evolve their processes for true efficiency—read on to learn why.
With increasing demand for services, rising expectations and significantly diminished budgets, public sector leaders have faced a constant battle to deliver more with less. Many have recognised that technology can be part of the solution. Yet until recently, few have gone beyond using it for record keeping, improving their websites and making public facing transactions available online.
However, that is changing and changing fast. The latest generation of digital technologies, such as the cloud, mobile, artificial intelligence, the internet of things and blockchain, promise to deliver efficiencies, but also to support new ways of working and enhance the relationship between citizen and state. If these tools are only used to optimise existing ways of working, the improvements will only be incremental.
New Technology Makes Identifying Risks and Opportunities Simple
Consider just a few examples. For as long as governments have existed, their ability to process information has been limited by the number of administrators at their disposal. Today, any organisation can access unlimited processing power with cloud computing. Thanks to artificial intelligence, that processing power increasingly includes the ability to automate complex analysis of virtually limitless amounts of data to offer useful insights.
In place of the default mode of public services addressing failure after it happens, predictive data analytics can help identify fire and other public safety hazards, or road networks at risk of serious accidents before the fact, leading to earlier intervention and prevention.
Where frontline staff once had to go about their work with paper records, software-as-a-service has made it possible for everyone from police officers to social workers to have real-time data access in the field, to improve their decision-making.
And while technology in the form of social media has often been blamed for undermining democracy, a new generation of digital tools is being used to re-engage communities by enabling citizens to crowdsource ideas, co-draft legislation, propose how local budgets are spent and vote on the best ideas.
Public Sector Leaders Must Make the Most of New Technologies
Collectively, these new technologies have the potential to be game changers. But realising that potential will require a new approach from public sector leaders.
Instead, their challenge is to match the level of innovation seen in the technology with equal innovation in the structures and ways of working to which those technologies are applied in their organisations. They must explore whether they can use these tools to enable fundamentally better ways of addressing the social challenges they are tasked to address.
To achieve this, leaders need to shift their organisations to more agile ways of working to experiment with new tools and see what works. They must ensure their organisations have the right skills to do so effectively. They must be willing not just to adopt new technologies, but also to open up their inner workings to public involvement in ways that may push them well out of their comfort zones.
If all of that sounds daunting, there is also an empowering message for leaders. They can get off the treadmill of trying to deliver more with less, and instead focus on delivering less with more. They must focus relentlessly on the areas where the public sector is uniquely placed to make a difference, while making full use of the powerful array of tools that are available to them.
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