The Rise of Digital First Governments

Could COVID-19 lead to the rise of digital first governments?

📸 Photographer: Fan Jianhua
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Reimagining Post Pandemic Government As A Digital First, Lean Startup

Around the world, COVID-19 has forced governments to move many of their services online well ahead of schedule. By allowing citizens to access expanded information and benefits via the web during the pandemic that would normally require a visit to your local townhall or dmv. In doing so, it’s exposed a number of underlying issues, but it’s also highlighted corresponding opportunities along the way that some tech startups and technology service providers may want to pay attention to and work to provide products and services for. COVID-19 showed us that Governments can adopt a startup mentality and that there are in fact new and different ways that government work can get done and provide servies to it’s citizens that are counting on them.

Governments are in the business of providing service and the demand for excellent service is online going to increase as more and more services migrate online. Whether filing taxes, securing benefits or one of the countless other services they provide, all of us use Government services at some point in our lives. But not all services were ready for the kind of rapid digital transition brought about by COVID-19 and a lot of public servants expressed concerns about moving certain services online for fear of failure and the bad press that goes along with it, but COVID-19 has forced the issue and will make it hard to go back to the way things were once the pandemic is over.  So now what? How will the pandemic change government service delivery models for the citizens they serve? What barriers still exist and what are the opportunities for startups and independent tech contractors to help governments at ever level finish what COVID started? 

Establishing Digital Identities & Getting data into machine-readable formats

Some ways the government can improve citizens' online experience … 💡 Streamline the onboarding process for citizens registering for benefits and services online. They already know my address, income, marital status, and hundreds of other dimensions, why not work harder to authentic citizens upfront and simply ask me to confirm things like address, date of birth, as opposed to making citizens re-type that data into clunky form scripts. Of course, privacy laws are in place for a reason but maybe sharing certain pre-authorized data points within the governments secure network that could significantly improve a government’s ability to deliver mission-critical services is worth discussing. 

💡 Implement Digital Identify Platforms that replace outdated user authentication username and password models that exist today. Digital Identity infrastructure would be a great first step in helping citizen fast-track access to benefits especially in times of crisis like COVID while increasing securing far beyond the firewall and authentication measures in use today. 

Is there an openness of citizens to allow governments to build this kind of infrastructure? Are citizens willing to allowing sharing of certain data dimensions to make the processes of getting services easier? If so, what changes to policy and legislation would be required? Blockchain Tech startups that can help governments build transparent digital-first workflows (like a Digital Identity Platform) that build trust while improving security and ensuring privacy will be in great demand.  Innovation most likely won’t come from within … Governments seeking to use COVID-19 as a jump-off point for conducting more of its business online once the pandemic is over should consider looking at Startup business models for ways to iterate the introduction and adoption of new services and maybe even fund start-ups to do that work for them. Governments can ignite bold, innovative thinking by bringing startup founders into the ranks of government to help shift the mindset and foster a culture of relentless focus on customer needs and experience. The lean startup model could work for introducing high-tech government services as well as it did for Uber or AirB&B. This may require a mindset shift at all levels of government, but I believe that citizens will see iteration and a commitment to continuous improvement as a real positive and ultimately rally around forward-thinking local governments that apply startup best practices to rolling out new or improves services to citizens online.

This post was inspired in part by RBC Disruptors. The orginal files can be found at https://bit.ly/digital-first-govt-canada

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Chris Berno
Chris Berno
Tech Co-Founder, Independant Blockchain Researcher & Consultant

My research interests include establishing proof of impact of applied distributed technology, immersive & interactive media experiences and advancing UI/UX for better accessibility for users with vision, hearing & dexterity challenges.