Technology Enabled Collaborative Government
Government is under a lot of pressure:
- Pressure to deliver services to an aging population,
- Pressure to control spending, and
- Pressure to be more relevant and accountable to their citizens.
Collaborative Government is a strong thread in the discussion around how government can transform to achieve these things (see for instance, the Mowat Centre’s report on the Canadian context.) What is Collaborative Government, and what can Information Technology (IT) contribute to making government more collaborative?
One view of collaborative government is that the silos and barriers between administrative departments, agencies, and bureaucracies need to be modified to permit cross-jurisdictional cooperation. Traditional silo-based models of governance would shift to newer collaborative models that enable government to rapidly and efficiently develop, implement, and manage services. These models place government in an ecosystem that facilitates the interaction between internal agencies and the external private sector, including:
- Non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and
- Foreign governments at the national level.
In this view, society is changing, with and because of technological advances, and governance models need to change with it. In response, some leaders in government are recognizing an imperative to transform their governance models to take advantage of the forces of change. Jennifer Granholm, the Governor of Michigan from 2003-2011, called on her peers to recognize and embrace this opportunity. “The 21st century economy is all about speed, access, intelligence, and efficiency. A 21st century government needs to be about the same things”.
At the core of this is sharing intelligence and analysis across the ecosystem, with speed based on real-time data access and analysis, and capabilities that are optimized to specific domains or functions of government, all running at a high level of efficiency. Government itself becomes a smoothly functioning system that promotes economic growth by streamlining and simplifying processes and reporting requirements. It also delivers citizen-centered services in offices that address multiple types of services, and by providing high-demand transactions over the Internet. These imperatives play out at all levels of government, but will be most acute at the urban level, where the interplay between stakeholders is particularly close and takes place on a daily basis.
Legislative changes are needed to modify some of the barriers to encourage collaboration, but IT can be a critical enabler of collaborative government. The central premise is that data, and analysis of it, produce intelligence that can be shared to control assets and services, issue alerts in emergencies, and be used to develop action plans and strategies. In a technology-enabled collaborative model, a shared intelligence hub takes data from various government domains (e.g., transportation, first responders and public safety, healthcare, education, social services, executive governance) on a continual basis. That data is processed to create a single, master “view”, of a program, geographic area, or of each citizen, for instance. Other relevant data, such as education programming or traffic information, is used with these records in monitoring and planning, to generate predictive models or simulations, or to forecast expenditures for budgeting.
This rich source of information is shared, as permitted, among government departments that need it, in integrated and open governance models. Such collaboration can create several levels of benefit. For citizens, dealing with any one department (e.g., renewing a driver’s license) can be linked to other processes that would use similar information (e.g., benefits assistance). Services can be delivered faster, on a more personalized basis. Businesses could receive permits or pay taxes faster with less paperwork and duplicated efforts. Government workers would spend less time in redundant tasks, and more time serving citizen clients. Efficiencies can free up budgets, and leaks in expenditures can be identified and eliminated.
Governments that are transforming to collaborative models need an IT infrastructure that supports them. They need a smarter way to use the rich data that are available today, and ensure the security and privacy of citizen and business records. IT can help deliver on these promises, and help government be more relevant and accountable in a changing world.
For more information and examples of Technology Enabled Collaborative Government, please download a free copy of my recent paper Smarter Computing to Support 21st Century Governance.