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5 Reasons to Take Public Service Digital

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The need for government to digitize its operations at all levels isn’t just a popular mantra among futurists and technology geeks. It’s now vital to the government’s long-term sustainability and relevance. A government without a digital strategy (i.e., a closed system that relies on paper forms, call centers and aging data systems), is like a person running alongside a busy highway, hopelessly trying to keep up with speeding cars and trucks.

To help agencies find the right digital strategy vehicle, GovLoop, Accenture and PegaSystems hosted an online training on the future of digital public service.

You can view the on-demand session below and check out the training recap:


The Federal Government’s Digital Strategy

The federal government may not be the first place people look to find innovation, but in reality there are a lot of smart people working tirelessly to make the federal government open, responsive and user-focused.

“Under the current Federal Chief Information Officer, Steven VanRoekel, we’ve really stepped into a lot of digital initiatives within the government,” explained Lisa Schlosser, Deputy Associate Administrator at the Office of Management and Budget’s Office of E-Government and Information Technology. “One of Steve’s key objectives when he came in was to build a new culture within government – a digital culture.”

So what does digital culture look like in government?

One of the federal government’s most significant achievements in digital government is its embrace of open data. In May 2013, OMB carried out an executive order to make open and machine-readable data the new default for government information. “We don’t just think about systems anymore – we think about data,” said. Schlosser. “We think about information, and the way we exchange that information from the beginning of the design of a new system.”

The results have been impressive:

  • In April 2014, 88,000 federal agency data sets are now open to the public. (In May 2013, that number was a substantial but much smaller 31,000.)
  • 409 web application programing interfaces (APIs) have been released.
  • 140 mobile apps, covering a variety of federal government information and services, are now available for download.

These are remarkable statistics. They also provide hope that the federal government is not only going to survive, but thrive in the digital space.

For Schlosser, though, this is just the beginning. She ended her presentation with five challenges to public servants for taking digital government to the next level.

Pondering the Future: Five Challenges for Public Servants

1. Digital Babies

Children who were born within the last five to seven years will never experience a world without smartphones or broadband, and these people will be in our workforce before know it. “How can we change our culture in the government so that we are prepared for that workforce?” asked Schlosser.

2. Run, Run, Run

“Oftentimes, you hear in the government, ‘let’s crawl, walk, run,’” said Schlosser. But these days, she pointed out, we may not have the luxury to take things slow. “We’re almost in a run, run, run situation,” said Schlosser. “And I’m not sure that’s a bad thing. It’s an exciting thing. We have an opportunity to build and deploy quicker, taking advantage of the shortened lifecycle for new technologies and capabilities.”

3. Waterfall versus Agile

The traditional model of technology implementation is the ‘waterfall’ approach. You gather requirements over an extended period of time, and then build the entire solution in one big bang. “No, no – let’s move to this Agile approach,” offered Schlosser. She challenged viewers to start working in smaller chunks, using an iterative approach that allows for lower-risk experimentation and a greater refinement of the finished product. Schlosser provided a few compelling statistics on Agile:

4. Leverage the Developer Community Through APIs

“Maybe I’m geeky because my boss Steve is geeky,” warned Schlosser. “But we want to think APIs as we’re developing. We want to be able to open our data, share that data, and let others use government data…so that we can be innovative together.”

5. Proactive versus Reactive

“Let’s not sit back and wait,” said Schlosser. She urged listeners – from public sector workers to private industry to individuals – to take an active role in helping the government move forward. “Propose new ideas, take some risks,” said Schlosser.

Schlosser ended by reminding the audience that we may not have an instruction manual for all of these technologies and initiatives, but we have each other. Schlosser noted her amazement at all of the innovation taking place in government, with most of the ideas coming from individual employees who have stepped up to proposed ideas that are now being scaled on a national level.

If you have a burning idea, or would just like to learn more about the future of government, join the conversation by offering up your questions and comments below.

You can also listen to Schlosser’s presentation, as well as other great tips on case management and new technologies, by listening to the archived virtual training here.

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