What will future digital services in government look like?

On Wednesday I attended Intrepid MindsDigital Service Delivery in Government conference. It was a good conference, with decent attendance and an excellent range of speakers (moving far beyond the usual suspects).

At the event I gave a presentation on the future of digital service delivery – a topic which let me discuss some (and by no means all) of the new technologies and trends on our horizon.

I probably didn’t go quite futuristic enough on some areas. One area I saw as being five years out, virtual service officers in shopfronts, is already in use by Centrelink (as I was told by a DHS representative at the conference). The future can creep up on us quickly!

However my overall message was not about any specific services or trends – it was about the need for governments to closely consider the consequences of the decisions they make today.

Laws governments create, or technologies or approaches agencies choose, can turn into blind alleys or have expensive and damaging consequences.

While government doesn’t generally seek to be an early adopter, it still has enormous influence over how society is shaped through how laws are crafted and grant or assistance programs are designed.

This means that even when governments see certain areas as too immature or risky to get involved with, they can still influence their development and indirectly select for or against certain trends.

We’re at a point in history when change is happening too fast to ignore, challenging institutions designed for a slower-changing society. Government needs to continue delivering – but do so in a flexible and agile way that reduces the risk of getting locked into specific shapes or systems that can rapidly shift. To do this, the public service must strengthen its capability to scan the horizon, learn how to fail fast and become better at testing and iterating, using open approaches and platforms and identifying and engaging the right stakeholders.

In the conference there were some strong views for and against some of the ideas I presented – which is a good thing. We need to have these discussions now to ensure that the influence governments have, and the choices they makes, continue to deliver positive social and economic outcomes for society and for within government itself.

Below are my slides. While they don’t provide the same depth as my presentation, they may still be useful in stimulating thinking.

Note: All images from The Jetsons are copyright Hanna-Barbera

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