Innovation and changeDigital TransformationGovernments making slow progress with digital initiatives

Governments making slow progress with digital initiatives

Survey reveals gap between ambition and progress but does suggest that key factors such as digital skills and adoption of open data, open APIs and support for civic technology is heading in the right direction

Digital initiatives are high on government agendas but their ability to scale these programmes is increasing slowly and progress lags behind that of other industries, according to a new survey.

Half the government respondents to the Gartner survey are looking to digital government to support a combination of transformation and optimisation goals. The other half is focusing on a single ambition, either optimisation (33 per cent) or transformation (17 per cent).

Gartner distinguishes five stages on the road to digital transformation: desire, designing, delivering, scaling and harvesting – and has found that there’s a difference between ambition and progress amongst the public sector.

Governments making slow progress with digital initiatives

“Ninety-one percent of government respondents consider themselves at one of the first three stages, which focus on the development and introduction of new services,” said Dean Laheca, research director at Gartner. “Yet, only nine percent identify their digital initiatives as being in the later stages, where the focus is on scaling the service and exceeding the value of comparable non-digital initiatives.

“The survey results indicate a lack of effectiveness by government organisations at scaling their digital business. We envisage two possible internal barriers – misalignment between digital strategy and business priorities, and lack of urgency and readiness for change.”

The report’s authors suggest that the problem could be, in part, due to technology strategies and organisational leadership existing in their own silos, rather than as part of a larger business transformation journey.

“If strategy and ambition are aligned with organisational priorities, but progress remains elusive, the focus should be on the urgency and readiness of the organisation for digital change,” Lacheca commented. “If there is no urgency to act, or if the culture is not ready to accept change, progress will remain slow.”

External ecosystems boost digital impact

Ecosystems are also key to helping government organisations scale their digital business. Collaboration with partners, including employees, citizens, consumers, start-ups, digital giants and service providers, can play a major role in scaling the benefits of digital government.

The survey shows that government respondents already use a range of business ecosystems. Over half of respondents use third-party developers to deliver value to citizens.

“Government support of services built by third-party developers can be directly linked to open data, open APIs and support for civic technology. This a big step in the right direction,” said Lacheca. “To exploit the full potential of ecosystems, government CIOs should explore new partnerships. Other external ecosystems, like those of start-ups and citizens themselves, offer tremendous opportunities. Establishing or engaging citizen ecosystems can significantly boost civic engagement and thus have a positive impact on society as a whole.”

Digitally skilled staff

The survey also found that governments recognise the importance of the digital dexterity of their employees. Overall, 48 per cent of government respondents rated this critical to the success of their digital business. Nevertheless, 58 per cent indicated that they have no formal program to ensure their workforce has the digital skills needed for digital business success.

“A digital workplace program is the most effective way to bring together a higher standard of workplace technologies with the development of digital skills needed to increase digital dexterity,” commented Lacheca. “Government CIOs should work with HR to assess the current state of digital dexterity and develop an organisation-wide program.”

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