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Key trends of successful public sector digitalization amid pandemic

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/ESB Professional)

Covid-19 has sparked considerable shifts in the way we work and communicate, but for the public sector, the pandemic has opened up a new era of digitalization. An era of revised technology, streamlined collaboration and agenda-setting data science which, arguably, was long overdue. Globally, organizations and individuals have shown a greater degree of digital lifestyle adoption as a result of Covid-19; in turn, striking change in the status quo. Things need to be done differently now, simply because lifestyles—and expectations—have changed so drastically. But, sharpening our lens to the public sector specifically, what are the benefits of a digitalized workflow? And, how will digitalization play out for the rest of 2020 and beyond?

Covid-19 has brought a new sense of urgency across industries to adopt policies and strategies to digitalize. While many public sector organizations had a slow uptake of digital and automation technologies, we are now seeing the public sector move to increase their digitalization quickly. From working from home to needing the in-built resilience that only digital working can offer – everyone from healthcare systems to family courts are undergoing digital transformation at record speed.

This change is imperative as its helped businesses and organizations to survive and adapt. Organizations which have gone digital are now prepared for another crisis if it were to happen. It’s important that as we return to post-pandemic life, we don’t forget the lessons learned and continue to use all digital’s advantages.

Leading this trend is the public sector in the UK, US and Europe. Yet some workplaces and people are finding it difficult to adapt to digital working. To overcome barriers and benefit from everything digital has to offer, there are three key considerations when thinking about digitalizing in the public sector.

1. Data is the message

Data provides the answer to what the public sector should be doing. Through delivering public services, the public sector has the data – this is where people are revealing what they need and how to deliver it efficiently and effectively. Data should be the basis for all decisions in public sector activity.

We are seeing more and more recognition of the need to better use data. For example, the UK recently released a National Data Strategy. One of the missions is to transform the government’s use of data to drive efficiency and improve public services. The strategy notes that the pandemic “showed that there is massive untapped potential in the way government and public services use and share data to help and protect people” and went on to say “to sustain the high watermark set by the pandemic, the government will undertake an ambitious and radical transformation of its own approach, driving major improvements in the way information is efficiently managed, used and shared across government”.

This movement to strategically explore how to better use data to provide effective services with have long-lasting positive outcomes. The value of data in the future cannot be under-estimated. The UK’s new data strategy also recognizes the power of data beyond public sector benefits to how it can benefit the entire economy.

When considering utilization of data key things to consider include access, secure storage, and ethics. These will underpin all strategies when it comes to data.

2. Cloud is the method

Cloud technology is key to a digital economy. . Cloud enables working from home and further digitalization. Allowing public servants secure access from anywhere is a more resilient system of work. It allows public services to keep functioning remotely, something that has become vitally important since the pandemic and with the threat of a second spike.

This change is imperative as it has helped businesses and organizations to survive and adapt. Organizations which have gone digital are now better prepared for a crisis. It is important that as we return to post-pandemic life, we do not forget the lessons learned and continue to use the advantages of digital technology.

3. Culture is the motivation

Why is public sector digitalization so important?

Embracing technological solutions can allow better services. This includes being more efficient, more resilient and allowing more targeted interventions. In addition, more and more people are doing things online and expect to have access to public services digitally. The public sector needs to keep pace with the society they serve.

Change can be difficult but through focusing on the ultimate reason for the change – which is to have a healthier, happier, and better served public – it is easier to understand why the push for digitalization is critical.

Culture can be what holds public sector digitalization back. Technology often is not the biggest barrier, instead, mindset holds back some public sector bodies. The UK is among those nations who are front-runners in breaking this mindset barrier and assimilating digital transformation seamlessly. This is a huge opportunity to become more efficient, resilient and embrace the full benefits of technology. From Virtual Courts to Online education at Schools, from Councils meetings on Video to Automation Centers of Excellence being setup by public sector organizations are a clear example of life beyond the pandemic.

Moreover, as people increasingly embrace digital, the public sector will need to transition in line with public demand and their lifestyle changes. The public sector exists to provide effective and efficient services and we will witness a dramatic shift in the digital and automation initiatives because of this. Public sector organizations are leveraging specialist partners to quickly transition with a large focus on transformation capabilities. Technology companies are seeing many new sourcing initiatives in this area.

These are some of the success stories in the public sector by those who have embraced a new culture open to continuously adapting.

The pandemic will undoubtedly have a lasting impact on the public sector. Covid-19 has sped up digitalization, albeit through necessity. Those public sector organizations who had previously started their digital transformation journeys were faster to adapt to the new reality, and had an easier time responding to the pandemic. Things will not return overnight to the way things were before. Digitalization is here to stay.

One model that has helped this rapid uptake is partnerships. Many public sector bodies have utilized specialist partners to quickly transition with a large focus on transformation capabilities.

Chief among this is the use of data.  Data will enable smarter more sustainable cities and better public services. While secure cloud storage underpins our ability to facilitate working from home and keep services running during a pandemic as well as any future emergency. The ability to embrace technology is down to culture. Without people who are willing to adapt and look for new solutions, needed public services will quickly fall behind. Moving into the future, the sector must continue their drive to smart digital transformation and harness all myriad benefits digital brings.

Nitesh Jain – VP & Global Head – Travel, Hospitality, and Public Sector Industries, Wipro