What does digital transformation mean for government agencies and public services? How can the government delight today’s tech-savvy consumers, and what do they stand to gain? The Public Sector Digital Index provides new insights into e-government opportunities.

As consumers, we all expect a certain level of quality from the companies we do business with. This insight is an important driving force in the ongoing digital revolution. New technologies are providing novel opportunities to delight consumers, and businesses the world over are using them to usher in the next golden age of service.

The barriers between the digital and the physical world are fading, and it is not surprising that citizens expect the same ease of interaction from their governments as they already receive from the companies they do business with on a regular basis. But while governments are indeed making great strides in digital transformation, there are still many e-government opportunities waiting to be seized.

To identify and understand these opportunities, Accenture performed a cross-channel assessment of 17 government agencies in the Netherlands, using publicly available data to score each of them on 70 variables. The resulting Digital Index sheds new light on the state of digital public services in the Netherlands and reveals just how important digital strategy will be for the government in the years to come.

Outliers and Averages in Digital Government Services

To paint a clear picture of the digital government landscape in the Netherlands, the research for the Digital Index focused on three channels: websites, portals and mobile applications. A Digital Maturity Level was calculated for each agency in each channel, and these scores were then used to determine the average digital maturity of all agencies across all channels.

Digital Maturity Levels were calculated on a relative scale, ranging from 0 (completely absent) to 4 (excellent). On average, the 17 government agencies achieved an overall maturity score of 2.3, with low variance found between the individual agencies. In short, overall performance is average, but there are interesting outliers and lessons in each channel.

Digital Index Scores: Government Websites

With a channel-wide average Digital Maturity Level of 2.6, government websites offer the best user experience relative to other channels. The highest overall Digital Maturity Level comes in at 3.4.

Out of their myriad functions, the websites’ ability to provide information ranks highest, with an average score of 3.1. Websites are well-represented in popular search engines, accessible via most browsers and provide reliable access to information. On the other hand, interactivity and personalization rank poorly.

By communicating clearly about the costs of services, offering easily accessible upload features and allowing visitors to pause their sessions without dropping their data, agencies would be able to substantially improve their scores in this area.

Digital Index Scores: Government Portals

In terms of e-government, portals can be a tremendous asset to citizens, allowing them to manage their use of public services quickly and effectively in the digital realm. In this area, the Digital Index reveals many opportunities for improvement. The average channel-wide Digital Maturity Level is 2.3, while the highest registered score was 2.6.

All in all, 15 out of 17 agencies operate a digital portal. Surprisingly, the contact information that is shared on the corresponding websites is absent from many portals, making it more difficult for users to get in touch. Likewise, the portals are poorly integrated with other channels. Some agencies have chosen to operate multiple portals at once, and users often cannot switch between channels without losing all data from their current session.

Digital Index Scores: Government Apps

Out of the 17 government agencies included in the Digital Index, only 7 have developed an app. The average channel-wide Digital Maturity Level is 1.9, which is largely due to limited interactivity and a lack of contact accessibility. The best application earned an average score of 2.4.

Although each mobile application meets current design standards and offers user-friendly navigation, they offer little to no access to actual services. Instead, the apps mostly offer information, essentially limiting their usefulness to an extension of the existing websites.

Why Should Governments Embrace Digital Transformation?

From a citizen’s perspective, improving public services in the digital arena seems like a sensible step for the government to take. But what about the other side of the equation? Why should government agencies embrace digital transformation? Is there really a sense of urgency?

As consumers, people can easily switch brands if they are less than delighted with the service they receive. This is arguably more difficult in their role as citizens; switching governments is impractical at best. But while it’s safe to assume that nobody will break out the pitchforks over subpar digital services, there are several good reasons for governments to improve their digital services and infrastructure regardless.

1. Citizens Now Expect Decent, Digital Public Services

The government exists to serve the people, and those people are becoming increasingly tech-savvy. Smartphones and tablets in hand, today’s citizens roam the digital world freely and comfortably. They are always online and well accustomed to taking care of their own business. Their interactions with commercial entities – companies that have streamlined their services to meet and exceed consumer expectations – have taught them to expect a certain level of quality and seamlessness.

In their eyes, the government must at least match these digital expectations. If a multi-million dollar enterprise can pull it off, a multi-billion dollar government should be able to perform comparably.

2. Digital Government Reduces Operational Costs

Understandably, cost reduction and operational efficiency are important topics in government. In the past years, local and national authorities in the Netherlands have been looking for new ways to trim their cost structures. Dedication to digital transformation helps governments reduce costs dramatically.

Traditionally speaking, many government services are analog: papers are shuffled, copies are made, the back office is run on large numbers of employees, and there are numerous handovers. This is a very labor intensive approach. Transitioning to well-designed digital processes will considerably reduce the staffing requirements of those back office processes. Switching to digital government takes the paperwork out of circulation, allowing employees to focus on activities that add value to citizens’ lives.

3. The Economic Advantages of e-Government

It’s one of the immutable facts of life: dealing with the government takes time. But exactly how much time these interactions need to take is very much up for debate in the digital era. If you want to start a new company or register an export license, it’s in everybody’s best interest to ensure the process runs as smoothly as possible.

"Administrative intertia begets economic inertia."

Businesses have just as much to gain from e-government as citizens do. Making public services digital by default is an excellent way to minimize the administrative costs and unnecessary delays involved in government interactions, making trade more accessible.

Administrative intertia begets economic intertia. By turning the tables and making it easier for both citizens and businesses to get things done, the economy will thrive, unencumbered by bureaucracy. This, in turn, will benefit the government itself.

Developing a Strong Digital Strategy

In business and government alike, digital transformation tends to focus on technology. After all, you need modern infrastructure to offer modern services. There is truth in this, naturally. Technology is tangible. It’s important to have the right technology for the job, to deploy flexible IT infrastructure correctly and utilize the advantages the modern world has to offer. But ultimately, technology is still just a tool. It’s a means to an end. That’s why strategy should always come first. To walk the road to e-government successfully, you must start with the right reasons – and the right vision.

What are the strategic goals you aim to achieve? How can you use new digital services to achieve them? Where do you stand today, what do you want to accomplish tomorrow, and how will you close the gap between the two? These questions lay the foundation for your technological needs. By first clarifying the goals you want to achieve in strategic terms, by creating a framework of values, vision and governance to lead and inspire your teams, you will establish a vantage point on the future that is both compelling and realistic. And that strategy is what will allow digital public services to become true delighters.

Are you interested to learn more about the maturity of your organization’s digital services? Or would you like to know more about what constitute state of the art digital maturity? Feel free to contact Bastiaan Opdam for additional details.