This type of thinking is not exclusive to the private sector. Historically, some of best applications of innovation and bold thinking have come from the public sector. But reaching innovative outcomes requires organizational commitment to a culture that has, at its core, the foundation for this type of bold thinking. Innovation occurs via trial and error. There will always be things that don’t work, but challenges, observed in a different light, pose opportunities to solve problems.
In recent years, we’ve witnessed great change within the public sector. There is an industry-wide desire for a government that is more connected to its citizens’ needs through technologies that also benefit the organizations’ own productivity. For insight on these efforts, we asked a panel of public sector industry experts their thoughts on what’s working, what’s not, and what’s coming next.
The use of open data is a great example of bold thinking in the public sector. It empowers creative approaches to federal regulation via software that streamlines, simplifies and instantly shares information. This, in turn, creates a new dimension for communication, connection and awareness. Some examples:
18F’s “U.S. Web Based Design Standards”, a set of tools created to standardize web development and design across government agencies, is not only critically needed, it’s a great example of the government employing the best kind of services it can offer…to itself. If the ultimate goal is a better public sector, this is a major step toward achieving that. Navigating disparate sites that have no visual or operational synergy, as is currently the case, is frustrating. Even disconcerting. A standardized approach will make a huge positive impact on the citizen experience by creating confidence and credibility through unified design and UX elements.
The integration of big data with risk-based analytics. Combining these two elements shapes decisions by driving work priorities and direction, and increases efficiency and effectiveness. The Food and Drug Administration’s PREDICT program (Predictive Risk-based Evaluation for Dynamic Import Compliance Targeting) monitors every FDA-regulated product that comes through ACS (Automated Commercial System used by US Customs). This IT system runs the metadata about the product (origin, manufacturer, quantity, etc.) against over a thousand rules, providing an output that includes a risk-score and raises flags where needed. When a score hits a predetermined threshold or a flag registers, it shows up in a “grab bag” where FDA Inspectors know that they need to physically inspect the product. The increased efficiency provided by the data analytics allows inspectors to focus on higher-risk goods, rather than waste time and effort randomly inspecting shipments that may not be a threat.
The integration of GPS technology is a game changer, and the development of FirstNet is a case in point. This organization was formed by Congressional order to “…take all actions necessary to ensure the building, deployment and operation of the nationwide public safety broadband network.” The need for first responders to be able to communicate with other response teams, not just with those in need of help, also grows increasingly important. The use of GPS, and geo-location tracking, enabling interconnected devices and increasing the bandwidth needed for emergency response teams is one of the greatest services ever provided to the general public.
The Amazon Dash Button. What an invention! Buttons are tailored to fit a range of products from household supplies to baby food, and are mounted conveniently in your home pantry, on the fridge or in the laundry room, for example. Need more Tide? Press the Dash button on your washing machine and they’ll ship it to your door. Need more Gatorade or dog food? Hit the button. The government could be inspired by an idea like this and create a central citizen portal that consolidates a person’s government interactions in a cross agency platform, making life simpler for everyone. If a system is built that shows someone what the government needs from them, and what they need from it, the world is a better place. Vehicle registration expired? Passport needs renewing? A personal tracker of all the important dates and details through one simplified site, with a corresponding app, would make all this information portable, and increase efficiency exponentially.
Connection to a human being who’s accountable for serving the citizen would go a long way in increasing confidence that your issue will be resolved. There is a David and Goliath perception as a citizen looking at the government. “Will I really be seen in the shadow of this giant structure and will my needs be met?” Training and deploying skilled office and call center employees who are invested in -- and incentivized by -- the outcome of your problem would make a huge difference.
It’s known that transparency is sorely lacking in the federal government. Acknowledgement of status and progress builds trust, and helps customers stay engaged. There are lots of systems we endure as citizens where our only choice is to place information into a proverbial black box, then wait until the lid is opened at some point and the solution is inside. It’s nerve wracking. There’s no way to track progress, and no accountability. Visibility into milestones and better estimates for completion would make for a much happier public as they endure a process over which they have no control.
“Transparency is sorely lacking in the federal government…There are lots of systems that we endure as citizens where our only choice is to place information into a proverbial black box, then wait until the lid is opened … and the solution is inside...”
A huge shift to IT-heavy applications is already in process. By 2030, the federal government will be extremely agile if current areas of focus remain top priority. The days of long engagements with stacks of documentation will be replaced by sprints of rapid interaction and quick deployments.
The federal government will be 100% on the app bandwagon. Most important life tasks -- email, paying bills, online status checks for a variety of services, browsing for information, financial management, healthcare needs, travel arrangements – are accomplished via cell phones. The public’s expectations have been set at a demanding level. Anything less than 24/7 access to information is no longer acceptable.
“Looking down the road to 2030, I think the federal government will be 100% on the app bandwagon…The public’s expectations have been set at a demanding level and anything less than 24/7 access to information is no longer acceptable.”
Tackling challenges with a holistic mindset and learning from what works, what doesn’t and what’s coming down the road means crafting solutions that are built upon the needs of the citizen. Those who work in and with the public sector are in a position to do ground breaking work by taking advantage of technology and innovation in a way that brings creative, progressive change to the people they serve.
About Sapient Government Services
Sapient Government Services (SGS), part of Publicis.Sapient, is a global consulting company dedicated to leading public sector organizations through digital and business transformation. We partner with government, health, nonprofit, and educational organizations to create positive social change through strategy, creativity, and technology. As part of Sapient, a global leader in digital marketing, we apply a wealth of consumer insight and experience – gained from working with the world’s best-known brands – to solve the public sector’s toughest problems. We are a trusted partner to organizations such as the US Department of Health and Human Services, the World Bank, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, several nonprofit financial institutions, and a host of federal government agencies.
To learn more, visit sapientgov.com or follow us on Twitter at @SapientGov.