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This article was co-authored by:

  • Lina Mongrand, Government and Smart Cities Solutions Lead, Enterprise Services
  • Valentina Ion, Sr Manager, Government Industry, Microsoft Europe, Middle East and Africa,
  • and Joneil M. Sampana, Sr Business Program Manager, Business Applications, Enterprise Services

Societies today face an immense set of challenges. Trust in government is near an all-time low. Traditional one-size-fits-all service models are being criticized for failing to meet the needs of the vulnerable and disenfranchised within our community, such as youth, people with disabilities, and the underprivileged. Urban centers are struggling to balance the strains of population influxes and aging infrastructure, while rural areas are challenged to maintain adequate services amid dwindling resources. In addition, the protection of citizens’ data has become headline news as breaches and data misuse increasingly impact daily lives.

Solving these challenges requires leading with empathy and increasing government’s capacity for personalization and creativity. By enabling government employees to be more available, empathetic, and empowered to help, technology can play a key role in supporting solutions to these issues.

As governments strive to build twenty-first century inclusive societies, there are four key imperatives to focus on: (1) personalizing citizen experience, (2) improving government productivity, (3) fostering innovation and transparency, and (4) protecting digital identities.

Personalizing citizen experience
Citizens are increasingly encountering personalized, omni-channel experiences in their daily interactions with businesses and demanding similar experiences from their governments. Today, it’s possible to use technology efficiently to personalize and improve experiences for all citizens—anytime, anywhere. For example, AI, when coupled with the experience and knowledge of the government workforce, can proactively extend information and transform traditional services by helping them bend to the natural surroundings and preferences of each citizen.

And these investments can create further benefits for members of society who may have had trouble accessing many services before. Text-to-speech, translation, computer vision, closed captioning, and natural language processing can create engaging, immersive experiences for everyone, including the elderly and people with disabilities.

Improving government productivity
Governments themselves are often a microcosm of the overall community, with workers of all skill levels and backgrounds, coming together in mission-driven organizations to improve citizens’ lives. Governments can tap into this diversity and increase operational efficiencies and creativity across their workforce by using collaboration tools; leveraging secure, cloud-based platforms and intelligent technologies; increasing mobile work options; and streamlining traditional processes. All these innovations can help improve work while keeping government’s primary asset—its people—at the center, thereby creating a happier, more engaged workforce that delivers organizational or mission outcomes.

Fostering innovation and transparency
Government has a role to play in creating open, common platforms where government, private, and nonprofit entities can easily access data and collaborate on innovative solutions. Rich opportunities exist for open data partnerships, especially in the areas of transportation, education, commerce, and the environment. The possibilities for public–private innovation in citizen services are practically limitless, and there are exciting opportunities for governments to collaborate and learn from one another as well, thus dramatically multiplying the impact of new, digitally-enabled services and experiences.

Protecting digital identities
As the world has become ever more digital, trust itself has been under attack, with data breaches and misuse raising calls from citizens for governments to protect their increasingly threatened “digital identities.” The EU is leading the way in developing a “digital bill of rights” through the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (EU-GDPR), which goes into effect May 2018. Governments can foster prosperity by supporting the creation of a secure platform for digital identities that allows third parties to easily authenticate an individual’s identity, is integrated and interoperable across public and private entities, and is well supported through legal frameworks. In addition, governments are themselves huge providers and consumers of citizen data and, therefore, can serve as role models around key data concerns such as storage, sharing, and usage.

To read more about these issues and ways to foster a more citizen-centered society, please see the full white paper here.