Over the last 5-10 years, governments around the world have implemented ‘e-Government’ in some form or the other, with mixed results. Generally, such efforts have helped them provide enhanced access to information for government agencies, government employees and citizens.
However, significant issues remain. Most government agencies today, still operate in silos, based on previously built ‘legacy systems’. Essentially, separate computing entities and environments were created to meet diverse needs, with different applications for different organisations. So, while access to services are good, the issues of legacy and IP creation based on business rules have tended to hamper growth and offerings of more innovative and effective services for the citizens. These systems are also generally inflexible and expensive to maintain.
But since they incorporate years of government policy and thousands of man-hours of effort, it is understandably difficult to do away with them or move to a new, lower-cost and more agile computing environment.
This infrastructure situation is juxtaposed with an increasingly sophisticated and demanding citizenry. Citizens, both individuals and businesses, are looking for a high level of flexibility and agility by the public agencies to help them do things better and more efficiently. They are very much used to particular levels of quality and convenience, drawing the expectations from the private sector. They are consequently growing more demanding in similar levels of convenience and service from their Government agencies.
These are the two essential challenges that require a next level of evolution for the electronically-enabled government of the future. The call is for the government agencies to be creative, do things differently, and quickly, across multiple agencies. Oracle defines this next step as ‘iGovernment’– the next level of evolution for governments to address contemporary and future challenges.
iGovernment is not just about addressing ineffi ciencies in cost and fl exibility. It is also about liberating a whole lot of energy that can be utilised to create more effi cient and innovative citizen services. iGovernment will enable government services to essentially:
1. be Innovative – with the fl exibility and agility to do things differently and to do things better in being able to defi ne, develop and launch innovative citizen services;
2. be Integrated – to break down infrastructure and process silos to enable effective collaboration across agencies; and
3. be Intelligent – to embed rich analytics capability and business intelligence into ones’ operations so that an organisation is able to monitor the performance of agencies and public programmes/ policies in a way not possible before.
The net result of iGovernment is that the government operations become more capable of delivering more targeted public policies, with the ability to craft more creative public programmes, to monitor their performance, to evaluate their impact faster, to correct as required, and to deliver new services quickly. In a nutshell the government operations become more innovative, integrated and intelligent
Executing this iGovernment strategy will differ market to market. However, broadly, the transition will involve threekey components: modernise the IT infrastructure, increase effi ciency and transparency, and from there, transform government service delivery. All the proposed strategies, technologies and solutions that drive the transition to iGovernment are available today.
1. Modernise the IT Infrastructure. This is essentially about transforming legacy applications into a lower cost infrastructure that is based on open standards. Crucially, this approach must allow an organisation to take an ‘evolutionary approach’ to this modernisation effort. It must allow organisations to easily plug pieces of infrastructure together – as though they were puzzle pieces – as well as add and upgrade pieces as and when needed. This is the thinking behind a ‘Service Oriented Architecture’ that is fundamental to the entire iGovernment concept. This must enable an organisation to take advantage of new technologies while preserving the business content of existing applications, and in the process leveraging existing investments in technology while increasing the life span of one’s legacy applications.
At the technology level, this is about a transition to grid computing and virtualisation. Grid computing and virtualisation provides high performance and reliability at a low cost by clustering servers together to act as a single large computer, dynamically shifting server resources between applications on demand. Capacity can be added as needed – one inexpensive server at a time – providing superior scalability and a faster return on investment. Security policies can also be implemented consistently and effi ciently on an enterprise basis for effective controlled access. An organisation can now implement processes that connect securely between government agencies, and with users inside and outside government.
Therefore, modernisation of IT infrastructure is about combining open standards with Service Oriented Architecture to create a next-generation IT infrastructure that ensures security and controlled access.
2. Increase effi ciency and transparency. A modernised IT infrastructure provides the foundation for this second component, which basically concerns the breaking down of information silos, in order to enable three areas of benefi t – delivering shared services, streamlining business processes, and delivering effective governance, risk and compliance (GRC) controls.
Shared services have traditionally been focused on back offi ce functions like payroll or HR, but now even front offi ce functions like call centers and CRM systems must also be capable of being implemented as shared services, to enable technology investments to be leveraged to serve more users and also facilitate collaboration across agencies to offer more innovative services. A modernised, open standards based infrastructure must also enable effective streamlining of business processes – such as Planning and Budgeting, Tax and Revenue, Financial Management, HR Management, Procurement, or Project and Grant Management.
Finally, it is about assuring the integrity of operations. Delivering shared services and streamlining business processes also creates the platform for implementing enterprise-wide Governance Risk and Compliance (GRC) Controls. Legacy systems cannot achieve these benefi ts because these require system agility and information granularity to deliver.
As an example, Oracle delivers a comprehensive application suite for GRC that provides real time visibility into risks, along with controls to ensure operational integrity. By automating the segregation of duties, rules and managing access rights in a central location to prevent confl icts and deter fraudulent conduct, security of information is greatly enhanced. Running on a service oriented architecture based on open standards, the GRC solution platform works across applications and systems environments – be they Oracle applications, or other applications, including custom built ones. This allows an organisation’s fi nance, IT, audit, or HR professionals to more effectively collaborate in developing a coordinated response to compliance risks.
3. Transform Government Service Delivery. This is the most important component because the whole purpose of the government is to serve its citizens, businesses and other agencies!
With a modern IT infrastructure and effi cient, transparent back-offi ce operations in place, the ultimate goal of transforming service delivery essentially means providing a Common Service Delivery Platform that must allow the organisation to seamlessly link its Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and case management applications with back-offi ce functions, or other services like workfl ow, content management and geospatial data.
This is about delivering an enterprise wide citizen service delivery platform to deliver these benefi ts:
- Facilitate the use of master data to deliver a cross agency view where this is relevant or useful, instead of just within departments or organizations. For example, your health history/ records across various hospitals/ health ministry.
- Facilitate superior and relevant self service capabilities for relevant public users (and the organisation’s staff, of course).
- Facilitate embedded business intelligence and analytics to measure performance and increase accountability for the services that the organisation provides. To be able to monitor the performance of the citizen service, understand the impact and accordingly tweak, modify and re-launch the service.
It provides for what public sector organisations are not able to do today or are able to do, in a very limited fashion.
iGOVERNMENT – VISION AND PLATFORM
iGovernment is a long-term vision and a strategy for tomorrow. It is the platform for the next level of evolution for governments. It addresses both basic issues relating to interoperability and collaboration across agencies, and provides for the ability to deliver more targeted public programmes that are innovative and fundamentally business intelligence driven.
With a strong iGovernment-informed strategy, public sector organisations can be capable of delivering more targeted public policies, have the ability to create more innovative public programmes, be able to monitor their performance, evaluate their impact faster, correct as required and deliver new services quickly. Ultimately, iGovernment can mean more value, choice and fl exibility, with a lot less complexity, risk and cost.