By Mike Canning, William D Eggers, Beth McGrath
Special to The Nation
New programmes were rolled out seemingly overnight, and on a massive scale. Government is usually associated with incremental change, but 2020 was a year of discontinuity. The shifts we saw in government operations reflect the dramatic changes happening in the world at large.
The Deloitte Centre for Government Insights’ “Government Trends 2021” captures nine of the most transformative trends in government today.
1. Accelerated digital government
The pandemic changed digital from “nice-to-have” to “must-have” for governments. To meet the surge in service demand while operating virtually, governments have accelerated their digital journey along three major dimensions: scaling digital infrastructure, creating a more digitally savvy workforce, and investing in citizen connectivity.
2. Seamless service delivery
Government agencies are increasingly providing personalised, frictionless, and proactive services to citizens. There are several avenues that governments are taking to achieve this vision of seamless service delivery: committing to fully digital services, designing proactive services around life events, and building infrastructure to support such seamless services. The goal: have government services approach the ease of the best online experiences.
3. Location liberation
Covid-19 caused organisations to change how they accomplished their missions. From remote work to telemedicine and online schools, the pandemic brought the future of government work into the present. This trend follows the emergence of adaptive workplaces, including approaches for managing a distributed workforce and delivering high-quality citizen services virtually.
4. Fluid data dynamics
Data is assuming an elevated level of importance within and outside government. Public agencies are developing novel approaches to maximise the value of the data they hold, including appropriately sharing that data. Across the globe, the trend toward fluid, dynamic data is changing how data is being used and shared by government and its partners in academia, nonprofits, and the private sector.
5. Government as a cognitive system
The best governments are constantly learning, evolving, and making decisions – just like people do. When government understands itself as a “cognitive system”, it can take steps to increase how quickly it learns. This entails using data in new ways to gain insights from the past and present, and to make reliable projections about the future. This augmented learning and decision-making capability can create immense public value. Governments can design programmes with an intelligence architecture in mind. The hindsight of past performance, coupled with real-time data in the present, can lead to optimal decisions for the future.
6. Agile government
The pandemic has highlighted the need for a fast, flexible, and mission-centric government, and many governments around the world have embraced the opportunity and shown they are up for the challenge. Governments had to make timely decisions – they needed to move fast. This agile imperative can be seen in many areas, including policymaking, regulation, procurement, and the workforce.
7. Government's broader role in cyber
A cyber hack that would once damage a single organisation can now spread to threaten an organisation’s partners, clients, or even an entire industry or a sector. Governments want to tap into a growing information ecosystem, but what about the risks? Reliable cybersecurity requires breaking down internal silos, recrafting external relationships, and making sure the public workforce comprises the best cyber talent.
8. Inclusive and equality-centred government
As inclusion and equality issues come to the forefront, governments are focusing more on the underlying causes of systemic imbalances and questioning the fundamentals of how policies are developed, implemented, and assessed. Some of the global approaches being embraced include inclusive and equality-centred design, equitable access to public goods, data sovereignty and equity, and cocreation and citizen engagement.
9. Strengthening public trust in government
In many parts of the world, trust in government skyrocketed in 2020. In some countries, however, trust in government was close to an all-time low. Such trust – and increasingly social trust or social capital – is crucial to managing challenging economic and public health issues. Governments are working toward making trust a core component, tackling information manipulation, weaving in greater transparency, and building trust in government’s digital systems, services, and data initiatives.
Understanding these trends is the first step in navigating the journey ahead.
William D Eggers is the executive director of Deloitte’s Centre for Government trends.
Mike Canning, principal at Deloitte Consulting, leads Deloitte’s Government & Public Services Industry.
Beth McGrath is a managing director at Deloitte Consulting and the global leader for its Government and Public Services Industry.