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Home Features Tale of two countries: the digital disruption of government
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TAGS Digital, digital engagement, digital transition, e-government, information technology
Britain got serious about genuine technology integration in government. The Australian public sector is a long way behind. What’s needed is real, wholesale digital disruption.
Our recent paper — A Tale of Two Countries: the Digital Disruption of Government — considers two parliamentary-system governments, the United Kingdom and Australia, and their efforts to use technology as a lever of reform and modernisation of public services since the 1990s.
There are essential lessons to be learned from their work and that of other governments: despite the billions of pounds/dollars that have been spent over recent decades, government services have witnessed little of the scale and depth of improvement experienced by the best private digital organisations. The question is — why?
Researchers at the Manchester Centre for Development Informatics reported that an estimated US$3 trillion was spent around the world during the first decade of the 21st century on government information systems. Yet 60-80% of these projects failed in some way, leading to “a massive wastage of financial, human and political resources, and an inability to deliver the potential benefits of e-government to its beneficiaries”.
While household brands have seen technology completely redefine business — with the likes of Kodak and Blockbuster overtaken by entirely new market entrants — the digital age seems largely to have bypassed government. Technology has all too often been used merely to automate existing services and transactions, effectively fossilising them and all their pre-internet inefficiencies at a moment in time. Almost 20 years of online and e-government strategies have failed to deliver the anticipated service transformation centred on citizens’ needs.
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Dr Jerry Fishenden is an independent technology advisor, including to the UK government, and a senior research fellow at Bath Spa University. Marie Johnson is the Managing Director and chief digital officer at the Centre for Digital Business.
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