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When the pandemic began earlier this year, public servants working in governments around the world faced challenges they never had before. The public sector had to adapt quickly to work almost 100 percent remotely and to collaborate across teams to deliver new benefits and services to communities. The importance of accurate data was irrefutable in allowing targeted, evidence-based decisions and in getting support from those who needed it most. These circumstances made the move to using digital approaches more urgent, and more necessary than ever before.

Governments have responded to this crisis in new ways, using digital technologies and supporting these with decision making which is biased towards action. Digital and technology leaders are playing a leading role in decision-making. Operations, delivery, and outcomes have taken their place alongside policy. Processes that had previously slowed digital adoption have been balanced by the urgency of meeting government goals. The cost of doing nothing has become greater than the risk of doing something.

Microsoft at Government After Shock

Government leaders and other public sector representatives gathered virtually at Government After Shock to discuss how government can move forward for the better, both locally and internationally. As the world continues to grapple with the pandemic, the event will bring leaders and people working on the front line together to reflect on what’s happened to date, what went well, and what governments need to change for the future.

Organized by the Observatory for Public Sector Innovation (OPSI) within the OECD, Government After Shock recognizes that the world we live in rapidly is changing, and government needs to adapt to keep pace. Informed by the work that OPSI has led over recent months in collating and sharing over 400 practical responses by governments to the pandemic, the conversations, and discussion promise to be fruitful and inspiring.

To respond to challenges on the scale of this global pandemic, the ecosystem of those involved in supporting government operations must work together. We’re proud to be working with OPSI to sponsor this event, and to support the opportunity for these conversations to take place.

As well as supporting the overall event, we’re excited to collaborate with public sector leaders at Global After Shock in two specific events:

  • Julia Glidden, Microsoft Corporate Vice President, Worldwide Public Sector, joined a high-level panel discussion, Data Governance for a Digitally-Enabled State. The group will discuss what needs to be done to realize the potential of a fully data-driven public sector, and what is necessary to be able to build public trust while doing this.
  • Microsoft joined government and NGO leaders at the Using Data to Inform Policy Making in Times of Crisis. The discussion explored how data can be used to drive informed decision making, particularly in times of crisis. Bringing together perspectives from government, the private sector, and NGOs, participants will discuss how government can operate at a pace required to meet the needs of the community.

How governments are embracing digital transformation

Microsoft has been working with governments around the world for decades. This foundation meant that we’ve been proud to be working as a trusted partner to hundreds of teams globally over the past six months as they’ve been responding at pace to meet the needs of the people and communities in their countries. These responses have built the resiliency of governments to not only meet immediate needs, but also to embed approaches which allow future growth.

The Care Quality Commission is responsible for ensuring that 50,000 care providers in England provide appropriate standards of care. The traditional model was based on scheduled inspections and paper-based reports which had to be manually re-entered and combined with additional information from email, phone, and sometimes fax. The Care Quality Commission started to modernize its processes and to build a new regulatory platform, based on Microsoft Dynamics 365 and Microsoft Power Apps. When the pandemic began, the pressure to move quickly meant that the team worked with Microsoft to quickly prototype and launch an emergency support framework. These new approaches allow inspectors to receive data which lets them understand which providers and sites need their help the most. The new methods of mobile working, with the capability to immediately upload key information, now means that reports which previously took 10 days to be processed internally can be acted on and shared with the public much more quickly, resulting in better care for those who depend upon it.

In the Philippines, the Supreme Court responded quickly to quarantine restrictions, adopting digital approaches to allow justice to continue. In April 2020, Judges and court personnel in 925 courts were instructed to immediately begin virtual hearings. This approach, enabled by Microsoft 365, allowed justice to continue being served and meant that people awaiting or undergoing trial could have their hearing continue. In the first week of piloting virtual hearings, over 4,500 people awaiting or undergoing trial were released. In addition to virtual hearings, the high court also allowed the e-filing of complaints, petitions for bail as well as the submission of requirements for bail to minimize physical contact.

In Canada, Montreal’s Jewish General Hospital was nominated by the Quebec Provincial Government at the start of the pandemic to be the province’s lead hospital for COVID-19 care. The hospital quickly found that the increasing number of COVID-19 patients meant that they had to expand the number of wards providing care. Staff to deliver specialized care were in high demand. Working with a Quebec engineering firm, Auger Groupe Conseil, the hospital started piloting Microsoft Hololens, and Remote Assist technology in just two weeks. These capabilities meant that specialists in one location could immediately, and virtually, be at the bedside of a patient in need. The clinician can connect with a range of patients, whether it was a patient in the Intensive Care Unit in distress while hooked up to a ventilator, or a wound care need for someone developing pressure ulcers from protracted time in an acute care bed. By allowing specialists to be present virtually, this approach also reduced the number of people needing to be physically present, thereby reducing the exposure of medical staff to the virus.

Setting governments up for success

As Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella noted earlier this year, the COVID-19 pandemic has driven years’ worth of digital transformation in just months. Nowhere does this seem more evident than in the public sector.

Throughout this pandemic, we’ve seen how having the right foundations in place have allowed governments to be resilient and adapt quickly. We’re working with governments around the world to help them adapt and continue to securely serve their members of their community in this new world of remote everything—from remote teamwork and learning, to delivering remote citizen services.

You can learn more from our e-book Digital Transformation in Government and on our Microsoft Government website. We’re here to help you every step of the way.