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Public Sector Digitization is Here

Where is the public sector with its digital transformation?

Digitization means different things to different people, but most would agree that business transformation is occurring because of digitization. Let’s define what digitization is, why it is happening now and how it will impact public sector business or mission.

Digitization occurs when business processes change due to the insertion of technology somewhere in the process. This can be simply replacing a notebook with an iPhone for recording an interview or replacing a clerk at a grocery store with a kiosk/point of sale machine.

Digitization is happening in every industry from shipbuilding to medical care, from traffic light management to raising cattle.  And the impact of that widespread transformation is so exciting, especially in the public sector.

Why now?

Let’s face it, digitization has really been happening for the last 30 years. We’ve seen the impact of computers on office automation, and the internet on the retail industry. Digitization is just simply more pervasive and more holistic now, impacting all industries, while happening at a much faster pace.

So why is this happening now? It is because core technologies for digitization such as wireless communications, cloud computing, low cost sensors (IoT) and data analytics systems have become readily available. And these technologies are being leveraged by the public sector workforce who bring that new technology knowledge into their workplace where they can visualize the benefits in changing their processes.

As organizations in the public sector continue their digital transformation, here are the technologies leaders need to understand and leverage:

Cloud Computing:The value of cloud computing to digitization is multifold: it provides a development platform for application creators at a very low entry cost, its’ geographic ubiquity enables multi market access, and through API’s and microservices, cloud provides a vehicle for combining multiple applications and functions rapidly. This means digitization and innovation can happen quicker and at a lower cost than ever before.

Internet of Things (IoT):IoT is a topic for deep discussion into itself. But for the purpose of this blog, let’s just say that IoT brings digital capabilities to almost any non-digital device. Sensors can be added to non-IT devices to make those objects ‘smart’. We have seen the value sensors in automobiles bring, by allowing the vehicle telemetry to integrate with predictive analytics to deliver a better user experience for the consumer while providing a new business model for the automobile dealer. We have lots of examples of IoT in public safety as well. In many states roadways are becoming smart with environmental sensors and digital signs providing early warning to drivers in poor driving conditions.

Software defined networking (SDN): SDN brings several new capabilities to an organization’s infrastructure including simplification and automation of configuration management, as well as user and/or application access to the infrastructure through APIs. And when sensors are leveraged in the infrastructure, the resulting analytics create a closed loop system that can detect variables on the network and react to those variables in a positive way to optimize or secure the system automatically. Using SDN, agencies can quickly ensure Information Assurance compliance by dynamically patching systems, increase security by creating micro-segmentation and introduce advanced inspection during an attack.

Analytics:  The explosion of data analytics use in all facets of IT is having an incredible impact on digitization. Recall, the goal of digitization is to modify processes through the use of technology. Typically, we’ve seen this done through the use of automation or manipulation of workflows to simulate a more intelligent system. As we make the system smarter, we add a sensor of some form to detect some type of change in the environment. When a change is detected analytics is used to transform that data into information the system can act or react to. Policy can be created to work with this analytics engine and create a closed loop by validating the action of the system and then learning from the action.

Simulate an intelligent system

1: Sense the environment

2: Analyze what is being sensed

3: Act based on the information and analysis

4: Validate the action and learn

5: Learn and update knowledge base

A great example of how we can use analytics in the public sector is the enhanced video surveillance cameras being deployed today. We are all familiar with how video cameras can stream the video of a school hallway, but it is the use of real-time analytics that can provide people counts, facial recognition and anomalous behavior after hours, all without human interaction.


As you can see, there is a tremendous amount of technology innovation occurring all around us. It will be exciting to see some of the ways these technologies will advance digitization and bring great outcomes through new processes.

Dan Kent is part of the GovLoop Featured Contributor program, where we feature articles by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Contributor posts, click here.

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