Private-Sector Partnerships and Citizen Collaboration Could Bridge Gap Between Government Technology Investments and Service Challenges

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The FINANCIAL — A gap exists between the challenges that government agencies hope to resolve through investments in emerging technologies and the challenges that agency leaders said they believe their citizens find most important, a new report from Accenture determined.

The report, Emerging Technologies in Public Service, examines the adoption of emerging technologies across government agencies with the most direct interaction with citizens or the greatest responsibility for citizen-facing services: health and social services, policing/justice, revenue, border services, administration and pensions / social security.

As part of the report, Accenture surveyed nearly 800 public service technology professionals across nine countries in North America, Europe and Asia-Pacific to identify emerging technologies being implemented or piloted. These technologies include advanced analytics/ predictive modeling, the Internet of Things, intelligent process automation, video analytics, biometrics/ identity analytics, machine learning, and natural language processing/generation.

When asked to identify the top challenges they face, respondents most often cited improving service delivery to meet citizen expectations, responding to changes in the organization’s mission or goals and hiring and developing people with the right skills. (Interestingly, respondents in Australia, Japan and Singapore rated increasing service delivery as their top priority when using emerging technologies.)

Yet when asked to identify the top challenges they believe their citizens want them to address, these leaders mentioned:

Family safety and security;

Unpredictability of financial support for assistance programs;

Lack of education/ training;

Concerns over the complexity of services and regulations; and

No involvement in shaping services.

“This disconnect highlights an opportunity for government agencies to look at new ways to get closer to what public service leaders believe are citizen expectations by leveraging emerging technologies to become more agile, adaptive and customer centric,” said Terry Hemken, who leads Accenture’s Health & Public Service Analytics Insights for Government business.

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Survey respondents said that one way to help address these challenges is by adopting solutions perfected in the private sector. The research found a strong willingness across all the agencies and countries surveyed to embrace public-private partnerships for help developing emerging-technology projects.

In fact, three-quarters (76 percent) of respondents said their organizations look to successful implementation in the private sector when designing public-service collaborations; two-thirds (68 percent) of those surveyed said the private sector already has helped their organizations meet citizen demands; and approximately the same number (66 percent) are willing to embrace public-private partnerships and new commercial models to improve service delivery.

These partnerships are most successful when the private sector scopes and designs the project, secures talent and delivers the most viable commercial model, according to the report.

The report also suggests that citizens and the nonprofit sector also have a role to play in designing and developing emerging-technology solutions. More than half (60 percent) of respondents who are considering, piloting or implementing emerging-technology projects said they collaborate with citizens and volunteer organizations. While collaborations with citizens and the nonprofit sector are already underway, only a few projects are being explored, the research shows.

“Improving service delivery and quality is the paramount challenge facing public service agencies today,” Hemken said. “Lessons from the private sector and from other agencies can uncover ways to side-step barriers and effect change. A willingness to experiment and accept that some initiatives might fail is essential and should help agencies effectively adopt emerging technologies and ultimately deliver improved public services and citizen satisfaction.”

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