The power of digital platforms to transform the public sector

By Catherine Garner

January 22, 2016

With rapid advances in technology, citizens have come to expect a more sophisticated experience when they interact with the government online. As such, traditional ways of delivering public sector services are being challenged. In order to keep up with these growing expectations and enhancements in technology, the Australian public sector needs to look to ways to embrace new technology including enhanced digital platforms.

The days of organisations exclusively delivering end-to-end products or services to consumers are coming to an end. Increasingly, consumers are looking for simple, efficient solutions, placing less importance on the value of one-to-one relationships or transactions. Digital platforms are at the heart of ongoing digital revolution. They provide a channel for businesses to connect, share and aggregate data, perform analytics and deliver new and improved services for customers. Additionally, they help to eliminate traditional data-sharing barriers between organisations by connecting providers and people together, allowing them to collaborate to deliver a more holistic service and for consumers to make more informed decisions, particularly around privacy.

“… 76% of Australian respondents believe that companies will move to real-time platforms as they adopt digital technologies.”

Digital platforms that facilitate the exchange, aggregation and analysis of data are becoming the foundation to build the next generation of products and services. In Accenture’s 2015 Technology Vision Survey, 76% of Australian respondents believe that companies will move to real-time platforms as they adopt digital technologies. Similarly, 84% of respondents agreed that industry boundaries will start to blur dramatically as platforms re-shape industries into interconnected ecosystems.

Through embracing digital platforms, the Australian public sector will be able to provide package processes and solutions, reducing operating complexities for people and technology and optimising the way technology and resources are used.

Around the world, health, public safety and human service organisations are deploying digital platforms that span multiple jurisdictions to help co-ordinate public service delivery. The City of New York is an excellent example.

It launched DataBridge, a platform with a data repository that provides a suite of tools for city workers to compile and analyse the data from multiple agencies, co-ordinated by the Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics. Through DataBridge, the City of New York is now equipped to explore analytics in a more robust way. The platform empowers employees to prioritise and better allocate resources to make decisions based on true need (rather than just the sheer number of citizen complaints) as well as save lives by helping to avoid human catastrophe.

Interestingly, since the inception of the platform, the Office of Data Analytics has already produced significant results — including boosting the inspection “hit” rate (from 13% to 75%) of buildings so dangerous they must be vacated; as well as dramatically increasing detection of business licenses obtained through fraudulent means.

Organisations in the private sector have also been taking up digital platforms and are achieving great results. The Commonwealth Bank of Australia has released a payments device called Albert to provide small and medium-sized businesses with a standardised payments platform. Albert, along with CBA’s application development platform, Pi, can provide businesses with access to new business applications and services that will help them grow and compete more effectively in their markets.

Pi’s software development kit and standard application program interfaces provide a functional yet flexible platform that businesses and developers can build upon. Pi and Albert give smaller and medium sized businesses the ability to link with their customers, suppliers, partners and developers in order to create specific business solutions.

The National Farmers’ Federation recently launched an online platform to bring farmers, agribusiness professionals and consumers together via an engaging platform designed to create value through the delivery of information and tools. Expected to go live in May 2016, the platform aims to deliver the most up-to-date food and agribusiness news, weather and market information; promote best management practice; and provide member benefits, blogs, commentary and a podium for the industry’s voice through the promotion of campaigns and live policy development.

The digital government of tomorrow will include online ecosystems in each of the mission areas of government, such as education, health and social security. These ecosystems will not only connect the government agencies but also parties such as NGOs, and the general public. Standardising and simplifying business processes and utilising technology platforms intelligently should be a top priority for the Australian public sector if it wants to continue to keep up with the continuously evolving digital landscape. Ownership of the various platforms will need to be addressed up front and some organisations are incorporating a chief integration officer as a new role to help ease the transformation process.

Despite the perceived challenges that lie ahead, creating and building a strong digital ecosystem will open up a world of possibilities for the Australian public sector to expand or redirect their operations to achieve higher levels of efficiency and performance.

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