Governments have always been responsible for providing protection and delivering common services to their citizens. With the increasing economic pressures, the evolving societal expectations and the growth in disruptive technologies, the positioning of modern governments must be re-assessed. Governments of the future should focus on enabling efficient societal service delivery with enhanced quality of service and lowest possible costs. Grenoble Partners believes that three main characteristics will shape future governments: Their ability to provide efficient and personalized services to their citizens, their openness to increase trust and to unlock data silos and finally, their participatory approach in policy setting to increase citizen ownership.
The much evolving socio-economic and technological drivers are shaping the citizens of today.
The role of the government in modern societies is under continuous pressure.
In anticipation of a future full of opportunities, challenges, and uncertainties, how should governments reposition themselves to cater for the needs of their citizens?
What should they do more but also in equal measure, what should they do less?
Grenoble Partners outlines below its perspective on the government of the future.
From Ensuring Protection to Enabling Efficient Service Delivery
Since the dawn of time, humans discovered the importance of forming a “society”: A social structure which unlocks a collaborative power essential for survival against nature and other competing humans. The backbone of this structure was the acceptance of its members of a form of authority (government) that possesses overarching powers whose basic goal is to ensure physical protection and order.
The Government as Protector remains a foundational responsibility for modern and future governments. The arena of this protection extends in breadth and depth to cover new horizons beyond ensuring national sovereignty, independence, and the rule of law. As the risks and their sources are evolving, the concept of “national security” is witnessing paradigm shifts: More societal focus is given to combatting threats to the human race resulting from climate change, the deteriorating environment and global pandemics.
The Government as Provider of Common Services has always been a core role to satisfy the collective societal needs that individual citizens cannot provide for themselves. Nation states of the 19th and 20th centuries assumed this important role and provided a wide and unprecedented spectrum of common services based on the introduction and expansion of all sorts of infrastructure projects. Budgetary pressures on one side, and questions related to the efficiency and specialization of the public institutions on the other, present serious challenges for the continuation of this role. Future governments will have to choose their core delivery areas either by necessity when the needed services do not present enough business attractions or by excellence which exceeds that provided by private players.
The Government as Enabler of Service Delivery is a growing role for modern and future governments. The holistic responsibility for satisfying the citizen needs to remain under the umbrella of the government, yet the financing, structuring, design and delivery of these services are societal products involving multiple stakeholders. Private Public Partnerships, community-driven solutions and contributions from non-profit organizations are core tools for efficient service delivery that governments should tap into. The role of the government is to set the enabling framework for unleashing the power of the society with limited direct cost and involvement.
Characteristics of Future Governments
To deliver on their shifting roles, governments are faced with a series of questions:
- How should they allocate their resources for the future?
- How should they perform this transition with the least cost and highest impact?
- What sectors should be prioritized and what services should be streamlined?
- How should they harvest the technological advancements within this evolving environment?
- How to cater their service delivery to accommodate the peculiarities of their own societies?
BOX 1: What technology is bringing forward
The hyper-connectivity, big data, the Internet of Things and other information technology revolutionary developments present unprecedented opportunities for a new form of service delivery. Coupled with advancements in renewable energy, and with innovations in crypto-currencies, the technological landscape allows modern citizens to go almost “off-government” on many of the generally considered basic public services. This rediscovered independence manifests itself in the ability to produce one’s own electricity relying on solar and wind technologies, connect to the internet through international satellite connections bypassing national networks, or utilizing digital currencies stepping over central bank managed national currencies. This reduction in the gap between what the citizen can deliver directly and what the government can offer has tremendous consequences on the foreseen role of the government and the weight of the responsibilities that the citizen has towards society as a whole: the size of the tax burden is one example.
While addressing these decision points is necessary and requires a tailored approach dependent on the country in question, we nevertheless believe that three main characteristics will shape the governments of the future:
I. Efficient and Personalized Service Delivery
Modern citizens are hyper-connected and hard to satisfy. The way public services are designed and delivered is under continuous scrutiny. Their quality and effectiveness are judged based on comparing them with private services provided on-the-go by giant private technology corporations. On the other hand, governments suffer under mounting budgetary pressures and must make the best use out of what they have. Falling short on achieving the necessary efficiencies will guarantee the failure of future governments in delivering on the expectations of their citizens. Efficiency, however, is not sufficient by itself. Governments want to position themselves as desirable service providers for their demanding customers – citizens and accordingly should offer them seamless services that suit their needs well.
Traditional public institutions are large, bureaucratic and rigid structures. Institutional silos are common, and citizens are left to fend for themselves by going through a series of unnecessary complications and steps. Even in developed economies, it is common to submit forms containing similar information repeatedly to different institutions while proceeding with one service request. Future governments leverage technology and advanced business process designs to minimize frictions and overheads by providing a unified one-stop-shop that integrates public services. Online portals accessible 24-7 with minimal human supervision provide efficient solutions that boost productivity and remove bottlenecks.
Once integration is established, Artificial Intelligence and Data Science will be used to move from the equality of service provision to the fairness of service provision. Suggestions for tailored services powered by the already available citizen data or improved accessibility for disadvantaged members of the society are some direct applications of this personalized experience.
BOX 2: Korean Government 24
Gov.kr is a unified official portal of the Korean Government generally labelled as One Touch One Government. This centralized portal provides 90,000 different types of government services 24 hours a day in a paperless environment. Different channels for interaction with citizens are enabled and citizens are offered alternative authentication mechanisms such as fingerprint authentication through mobile phones to ensure seamless service delivery.
The services provided are categorized according to the different stages of life or socio-economic characteristics of citizens to offer more personalized service offerings. Future plans include further personalization of services using modern technologies that rely on citizen data and past behavior in order to maximize efficiency and desirability.
Smart Governments for Smart Cities
Technological transformation is moving at a tremendous speed. The Internet of Things is no longer a futuristic concept as the enabling 5G telecommunication technology is already under deployment. On a technological level, Smart Cities are being implemented in various parts of the world with different breadth of applications: Smart power grids increase power efficiencies and better utilize available infrastructure, smart meters allow for distributed power production, smart water networks discover leakages instantly and reduce losses, smart public transport makes citizen experience predictable and fully under control. Governments are thus expected to evolve at a similar pace to fully embrace the future.
Future governments take a proactive role in implementing this Smart transition along with all the involved stakeholders. Proper planning and priority setting are key responsibilities that national and local governments should efficiently undertake to ensure the economic feasibility and social acceptance of proposed initiatives. Developing the right environment and the appropriate contractual forms which involve the private sector, the technology innovators, the developers, the citizens and the regulatory bodies is paramount for success.
Disseminating robot judge aides to study legal cases and accelerate the work of judges is one way to go to reduce bottlenecks in the judiciary system and increase consistency.
Allowing all stakeholders to contribute yet having the courage to set regulations that safeguard against newly introduced natural monopolies and that protect citizen privacy and safety is critical to increase social acceptance and minimize risks. Educating public servants to undertake their clearly defined roles and enhancing the capacity of citizens to properly use the available services are necessary for the success of the Smart transition.
BOX 3: Curitiba – Brazil
Since the introduction of the Bus Rapid Transport system in 1974, Curitiba was proving to be a pioneer city in urban planning and development. Today, the “Smartest City in Brazil” is investing in Smart People and promoting various initiatives in the city centered on the implementation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Public co-working spaces, open access to the internet and the collaborative atmosphere between all relevant public and private contributors and the citizens at large are vibrant characteristics of this ever-evolving city. Planning remains a key element in the ongoing transition. City administrators keep track of well-defined indicators that measure the impact of the various policy decisions taken in order to learn from the past and adapt to the future.
BOX 4: Internet Courts in China
Hangzhou internet court was established in 2017 as the first court in the world where all the judicial proceedings could take place online. The court, which has jurisdiction over copyright infringement and e-commerce disputes, includes non-human judges. The internet court operates 24 hours a day, removes the requirement for physically attending the court and reduces the average court time to only 28 minutes! 98% of the rulings have been accepted without additional appeals.In addition to traditional evidence sources, the internet court offers a “judicial blockchain” platform to preserve and store digital evidence.Since the establishment of the Hangzhou internet court, additional internet courts were introduced in China with ambitious aims for a rethought futuristic judicial system that can adapt to the needs of the growing digital economy.
Innovation and Resilience
Tomorrow brings unique opportunities and uncertainties. Reserving leading roles in the world of the future requires governments to rethink and re-invent their positioning. Governments, at the forefront of this race, are allocating their resources to imagine and create unique offerings for their citizens. Innovation sandboxes and labs are adopted across the globe to design experiments and develop pilot projects with long-lasting societal impacts. The spirit of innovation is introduced into the rather rigid public sector to initiate change from within. The process is managed and maintained by central authorities who put the best of what science, sociology and finance can offer to unleash innovative potential.
The shockwaves of such well-maintained initiatives are hard to underestimate. The role of public servants is shifting from being executional and of a routine-nature to a problem-solving attitude that discovers needs and develops solutions. The efficiencies that such paradigm shifts introduce in the allocation of public service personnel and their adaptability to change are the enablers of the resilient government of the future which is characterized by its size fitness, versatility and focus on delivery. Financially capable resource-rich countries characterized by large public sector institutions are not shying away from this transformation and are embracing lean government concepts in their planning: KSA and UAE are two notable examples in this regard.
BOX 5: Singaporean Innovation Lab
The Public Service Division Innovation Lab is a Singaporean public institution focused on two key tasks: delivering transformative multi-agency projects within the Singaporean public sector and enabling a change culture within public agencies. The Moments of Life is one of the early projects where the Lab teamed up resources from various agencies, interviewed citizens and employed data science techniques to develop a platform that provides 12 key services for children below 6 years. In August 2020, this project was rebranded as LifeSG and expanded the service coverage to 40.The Lab focuses on coaching public sector agencies so that public servants are ready to identify innovation opportunities and are supported to test new ideas and conceptualize them into concrete service offerings.
II. Open Government
Distrust in political elites is growing across the world. Transparency in the public sector is becoming a basic expectation to increase citizens’ awareness and to expose corruption. In parallel, data is the gold of the future. Openness offers wide room for increased efficiencies and for developing new service offerings.
Future governments standardize their data sets, centralize their access and make them both human and machine readable. Cross-institutional data management initiatives are mainstreamed to properly classify public data, ensure correctness, avoid duplication and maintain centralized and open access to them. Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) are developed to ensure that software programs can interact with the available data as efficiently as possible.
BOX 6: The Norwegian Open Government
“Public administration in Norway shall be efficient, open, coordinated and enjoy a high level of trust among the population”, Monica Mæland, Norwegian Minister of Local Government and Modernization. Norway is one of the founding members of the Open Government Partnership and has taken important steps in embracing Open Government concepts. On the legislative level, the Freedom of Information Act ensures that citizens have access to case documents, registers and journals of public institutions and the Environment Information Act allows public access to all environmental information so that all the society can contribute to the protection of the environment. Norway is continuously working on developing data management procedures and guidelines to be adopted by the public sector.In parallel, Norway is working towards fully digitizing the public procurement process to increase its efficiency and openness. Beneficial owners of service providers to the government are public information and easily accessible by citizens.
Citizens and civil society actors can then exercise their right of auditing public procurement data to uncover any illegal relationships between suppliers of government services and politicians or public servants. Citizens and private players can benefit from the available APIs to efficiently use the data: University researchers interested in monitoring emissions can seamlessly access emission data stored in the relevant public institutions and can interact with it without any barriers or bureaucracies. A group of enthusiasts can develop some tailored applications based on traffic data available online. An investor in the power sector has detailed access to daily energy supply and demand data and can make informed investment decisions.
Through this culture of openness, future governments can benefit from the power of awareness that citizens possess and adopt open innovation techniques to come up together with redesigned public services tailored for their needs.
1. The Open Government Partnership is a partnership between government leaders and civil society actors in 78 countries to promote transparency, accountability and public participation in government.
III. Participatory Policy Setting
Governments of the future do not govern their citizens however; they govern in collaboration with their citizens. Citizens have increased influence on policy-setting in their countries and governments act as enablers of the process and guarantors for its proper implementation. The details of such more direct citizen participation forms will differ from a country to the other but concepts such as liquid and direct democracies will be more and more adopted selectively or holistically: Deciding which budget lines get the funding or agreeing on an updated city plan are some examples in which citizen participation has been limitedly practiced and will witness further increase in the future. One of the main arguments against direct democracy has been the logistical difficulties in its implementation and the high involved costs. Today’s IT systems offer the ultimate framework for providing unparalleled direct and timely access to citizens at very limited costs. As hyperconnected citizens are the citizens of the future, expressing one’s opinion in a hot policy topic is as far as the fingertip.
BOX 7: The Swiss Model
Switzerland is a very diverse country with four national languages and is divided into 26 cantons. To maintain peace and diversity, the Swiss political system gives the national government very specific and limited powers while all other powers are reserved for the cantons.The Swiss direct democracy model is unique worldwide and is composed of three main elements:
- The mandatory referendum for any constitutional change that must attain the approval of the majority of the citizens and the majority of the cantons
- The optional referendum that can be requested by at least 50,000 citizens within 100 days of the enactment of a new law by the parliament and results in the mandatory execution of a referendum on the discussed law
- Citizen-proposed initiatives to amend the constitution that require 100,000 signatures to be collected within 18 months so that they are put up for popular vote
The role of the elected representatives in the parliament is to maintain the balance between the direct democracy model and the respectfor human rights and international agreements.
In addition to centralized policy setting, future governments will delegate considerable policy powers to federal then regional administrations that in their turn interact more closely with their citizen base and involve them effectively in the decision-making process. This localized policy-setting process is the future “divide and conquer” approach for dealing with complexity and diversity.
To guarantee the increased legitimacy of the political establishments, governments of tomorrow will develop clear monitoring mechanisms for political spending and will implement appropriate checks and balances to ensure that populist and extremist agendas are not implemented.
BOX 8: Participatory Budget in Rural Poland
To localize the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and to ensure that rural areas remain attractive places for life and work, Poland established the Solecki (Village) Fund. This fund allows for the allocation of part of the rural commune budget to a specific village within the commune and permits the residents in that village to decide on the way the allocated budget is spent. Villagers propose projects, discuss them then vote to select some of them. The decision made by the villagers is binding to the commune and must be included in the budget allocation of the following year.
As part of standardizing and enabling the process, the national Polish government developed formulas to determine the size of the Solecki Fund in each particular village yet, left the selection of the projects to the local communities as long as the selected projects fit within the commune development strategy. Additionally, to mainstream Solecki Fund initiatives, the national government offers to compensate parts of the commune spending on Solecki Fund projects from the National Budget.
The Way Forward
The world is evolving quickly, and governments must sooner than later reinvent their positioning to strive. Citizens have growing expectations and failing to satisfy them will have detrimental effects on trust; a necessary enabler for a healthy society where the government sets the right environment, and the different stakeholders contribute. Governments are not at par towards the on-going transition and have different socio-economic challenges, however, regardless of their current status, proactiveness is necessary in setting tangible plans for moving forward. Focusing on efficiency and delivery is a practical first step for the upcoming future. Openness then leads the way for more effective societal use of the available data and resources and finally adopting a participatory and localized approach in policy setting unlocks the full societal potential.