martes, 10 de septiembre de 2013

Microsoft & Governments

No. This post is not going to be about the dependency of governments of Microsoft products. Neither I am going to provide migration strategies to open source or successful examples of this kind of migration in Public Administrations. This post is about which lessons we should learn in governments of the Microsoft case.

If we think it twice, Microsoft and Governments have some things in common. In the past, both of them were almost the monopoly in their field, the former in consumer software, the latter in public services. Nowadays, both of them face to challengers and competitors in their respective field.

Due to their similar position, it might be logical, therefore, to look for both a similar exit strategy to its current unconfortable situation. This idea come to my mind after reading a post with a 7 points plan to save Microsoft. It is amazing how easy is to make a similar plan for governments based on it.

This is the seven point plan to save the role of governments in the provision of public services. 
  • Be ready to annoy some people. Although governments have had always in their mind providing services on equal conditions to all citizens, this has not always being true. Neither government services has had as a basis the needs of all the citizens. In order to have services for all the citizens and based in their real needs, open government arise as the needed tool. But this have a downside, those who have been the beneficiaries of the inequality on the access to the creation and specification of government services and of the access to those service once deployed are going to be annoyed. But there is not other solution, only if governments apply open government ideas to the process of the creation of public services, governments could maintain its role as providers.
  • Unlock the internal talent. Governments have a gold mine not enough exploited: Its employees. The usual relationship between governments and their civil servants have been based in command-and-control. Although it is obvious that a government should implement its political project because the citizens have voted them for that, the implementation of it has some times not taken into account all the knowledge accumulated in the organisation. Changing the internal procedures of the government in order to give (and promote) the civil servants the chance to take a more active part in the policy-making would complement the contribution of the citizens (received according to point one). This new deal between governments and their civil servant should be based in trust and empowerment.
  • Make the most of the trove of public sector information. It is a well-known topic the value of public sector information. Although it should be done more to understand the data economy and the role that public sector information will play in the long term in it, it is clear that it has the potential to enable the creation of new products and services. Unleashing the power of public sector information need the closer collaboration between the government, the industry and the civic society. The model of collaboration is already set, you can call it Datapaloozas or Open Data Challenge, but there are few variants: Governments have to create a sectorial communities of open data practicioners, composed of data producers, data reusers, geeks and the industry of the sector. It seems the citizens demands data oriented public services. How to create the best data oriented services needs the wisdom of all the actors mentioned above.
  • Figure out what the "next tax income service" will be. Almost in every country, the first eGovernment service widely adopted by the citizens is the "tax income service". It is convenience for the citizens and the best way to fulfill with an obligation that no one can escape of its usage, even if the tax agency has to give you back some money is the quickest way to obtain it. Nevertheless, there are few more examples of widely adopted eGovernment services. Governments need to develop more digital services like the "tax income service" before reaching the digital-by-default promised land.
  • Becoming the Apple of welfare state services. The so called welfare state services, Health and Education, have been for long time the main services provided by governments (leaving aside justice, defense and security). Also they have been the main drain of the public budget and, as a consequence, they are currently suffering the main budget cuts during the present economic crisis. The cuts has impact in the quality of these services that, at the same time time, are the services more valued by the citizens. The image as the governments as provider of solutions suffers with the deterioration of these services. If the governments want to maintain its role as providers of public services they should become the Apple of welfare state services, they should provide the better health and education services in the market in terms of the balance between quality and cost. For this purpose, government should be a platform for welfare state services, not only a provider. Nevertheless, this shall not be a synonim of a total privatisation of these services. It is needed a case by case analysis, and, as Apple do,  provide by itself the services it can provide in a most cost-effective and quality-effective manner. 
  • Whole-of-government approach. Contrary to Microsoft, Governments have too many "independent" companies. Each Ministry, each Agency, each government layer works in an autonomous manner. Therefore, we do not need to split them but makes them work in a more coordinated way on the citizens´ eyes. The government services should be adapted to the citizens needs and no the other way around. But these needs usually depends on different service providers that do not provide the whole pack of services from a single point of service. It is the citizen who has to coordinate the providers to have its needs satisfied, going from one office to the other or surfing one hundred web sites. Government services should follow a life-event approach, providing one or various doors to have its whole needs related with the life-event satisfied with a single transaction.
  • And one thing government mustn´t  do ... being not customizable. The times when all the citizens were satisfied with the same services, are far away. We are living in the era of customization and citizens demand from the public sector the same treatment as they have from the private sector. And in times of budget constraints the objective cannot being reached without a massive usage of ICT in all the stages of the relationship citizen-government: Predict citizens´ needs, serve them and measurement of their satisfaction. Therefore, government investments should be reinforced, specially in the analysis of the demand which is critical for the personalisation of services. And this means reinforce the government capabilities around the Big Data world, both in terms of skills and technology.

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