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Digital transformation in the public sector: Is it working?

Assessing the progress and impact of government’s digital transformation

February 03, 2020

Digital transformation in the public sector: Is it working?
Ask any government agency if they’re focused on digital transformation, and the answer will be yes.
Whether at the federal, state or local government level, they’re all trying to leverage emerging technology—and their own vast data—to better serve citizens, save money, increase efficiency, and become more responsive and flexible.
But are these efforts working? How are citizens responding? What roadblocks still exist?
Assessing the impact of public sector digital transformation: 3 takeaways
1. Tangible gains are being made.
According to research from BCG’s Center for Digital Government, 33% of survey respondents in developed countries (and 55% in developing countries) have accessed government services online at least once a week over the past two years. Moreover, their confidence is growing. Of the more than 14,000 respondents, 78% said they believe digital government services have improved over the past two years.
Of the 26 online services studied, here are the three most frequently used:
  • 80% of users are accessing real-time public information services (such as weather or traffic).
  • 65% are making payments for taxes, fines or penalties.
  • 64% are filing tax returns, assessments or submissions.
2. Governments still struggle to get it right.
The landscape for digital government is a promising but challenging one. Although more citizens in more places are using more digital services, governments are still learning. According to the same BCG survey, one problem is high error rates: 67% of users faced a problem while using online government services. Another concern is lack of security: less than 35% of users said they feel confident that their information is secure and that they have control over their personal information. 
3. Digital transformation is a hard road, especially in the public sector.
Certain factors make public sector transformations particularly difficult. One is the complexity of the business objectives, often complicated by multiple business lines. It can also be tough to gauge the value of digital services to citizens since, unlike the commercial sector, there’s no revenue to serve as a measure of success. Finally, public sector organizations can risk becoming inward-looking and resistant to change. Therefore, transforming culture becomes paramount.   
Nobody’s more familiar with the challenges of digital transformation than federal, state and local government employees themselves. In April 2019, GBC and KPMG released a report exploring perceptions of digital transformation efforts in federal, state and local governments. 388 employees responded, representing over 28 federal agencies and many more state and local agencies across the nation. You can read the full report here, but here’s a snapshot of the findings:
  • 48% of those surveyed believe their organization trails other departments when it comes to adopting new technologies for transforming business processes.
  • 56% say their organization’s digital transformation is dictated more by internal pursuits than external pursuits.
  • 53% are only slightly or not at all confident that existing processes will enable successful IT transformation.
  • 56% say their organization struggles to deploy cross-functional teams consisting of both IT and non-IT personnel, and a quarter of respondents feel their agency is not at all effective in helping leaders work collaboratively to deliver technology change.
At the end of the day, digital transformation is more about improving performance than implementing technology. To be truly effective, digital transformation requires significant cultural and operational changes, plus fundamental reforms—things that aren’t easy for most government agencies.
To learn more about how you can support government agencies with digital transformation, contact the Public Sector team at Ingram Micro.