The role of governments is changing as is the perception of their duties. The key driver of those changes are people, citizens. They have the same expectations regarding governments, ministries and government agencies as they have regarding the performance, service and experiences in their relationships with businesses.
Furthermore, citizens, just like governments, today live in an increasingly digital and globalized environment that is characterized by huge economic challenges, ageing populations, geopolitical shifts and new ways of connectedness.
The trust of citizens in their governments and government agencies has never been high. In the edition 2014 of its respected Global Trends survey, Ipsos Mori found that across the 20 countries, where the company surveyed citizens, the level of satisfaction with the way a government is running the country in general is very low.
E-governance and putting back the public in public service
While Ipsos Mori says we shouldn’t over-state the low levels of satisfaction with governments and government officials (it was always low), at the same time Ipsos’ Jonathan Weeks stated that the mistrust of central institutions is more widespread and evidence does suggest that trust in governments is failing.
Globally, regulators and technocrats are often preferred to politicians, as well, Weeks writes. The role of a government traditionally was about governance (both words come from the same Greek verb, essentially meaning ‘to steer’) and about public service. It seems that the latter words, ‘public’ and ‘service’, are becoming increasingly important in a citizen expectation and experience content: to serve the public.
But also the governance part is evolving, driven by the same forces. Wikipedia defines governance as referring to “all processes of governing, whether undertaken by a government, market or network, whether over a family, tribe, formal or informal organization or territory and whether through laws, norms, power or language. It relates to processes and decisions that seek to define actions, grant power and verify performance”.
And this brings us back to the Global Trends Survey 2014 by Ipsos Mori. Quoting Jonathan Weeks (click for full PDF): “For governments, honesty and transparency will be important in building trust in the emerging world where no government is likely to make serious dents in the backlog of economic problems any time soon. But given the low credibility of government, it will be by actions rather than words that trust will be earned. Stopping politicians making promises that undermine the credibility of institutions they are elected to will challenge any civil servant anywhere”.
Today, such actions and interactions increasingly happen online. In a data- and information-intensive society, eGovernment, e-governance and information governancebecome increasingly important, as does the role of the eCitizen and digital in public service overall.
In the graphic below the architecture of e-Governance is illustrated (more in the white paper at the bottom of this page).
Processes and actions: transparency and verifying performance
With increasing citizen expectations, also regarding transparency, government interactions and processes and service, improving operational efficiency is a key challenge for governments and government agencies. Clear information and ways of communication, bringing the information where it truly needs to be, is crucial for governments, especially in this digital age.
Moreover, the demands regarding transparency, operational efficiency – and along with it better collaboration and information exchanges between government agencies and in some cases the private sector – should be seen in a broader context than evolving citizen expectations.
In the current (and future) economic climate, there is a huge pressure in many countries to cut budgets and reduce costs. This is certainly the case in most ‘developed countries’. Furthermore, in several international collaboration frameworks – sometimes created for specific purposes – the push to meet economic regulations is high.
Last but not least, in many countries these pressures are translated in heightened demands regarding reporting and budget controls (and transparency) from several regional and specialized instances, including government agencies.
This is not just a matter of optimizing processes and showing the impact. It’s also a matter of aligning processes and projects in order to avoid double work or unnecessary expenses. In times of economic instability in some regions and demanding expectations from citizens (in both directions, as citizens are asked to do efforts as well), governments are asked to become more accountable and ask from their partners and agencies to do the same. Just one example: people do notice if there are road works going on for a reason and two months later another government agency starts working on the same roads, leading to extra costs because both agencies have not shared their information.
A more efficient use of digital tools, data, documents and input channels enables government institutions to optimize their document management processes, improve citizen engagement, reduce costs, be more transparent and accountable, better allocate resources and – last but not least – make the citizen journey a better one in this context of digital evolutions, trust and services.
For growth economies, a better transparency, increased levels of citizen trust and optimized processes, make it easier to innovate and grow even faster.
It all begins and ends with information, people, processes and communication. And a clear focus on actions – getting things done. In the end, what using information and data in a valuable and smart/actionable way is about too.