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The journal of high-performance business
Beyond the e-government hype
By Greg Parston
In their efforts to make government more accessible and transparent, public-sector managers across the globe are rushing to adopt the latest Web-based technologies. But establishing stronger connections with citizens requires a giant step beyond the technology itself and a focus on generating real, lasting public value.
Mashups, tweets, wikis and blogs: Is this any way to run a country? The euphoric rush by government agencies worldwide to embrace the associated technologies collectively known as Web 2.0 has opened up a number of dazzling new ways citizens can participate in the public sector. Over the past five years, Web 2.0 has transformed the Internet from a relatively passive medium to a kind of global campfire, around which people share stories, music and videos. Companies were quick to get on board, using the latest Web innovations to test new concepts, get to know their customers better and even engage consumers as new-product developers. Prodded by this private-sector groundswell and by the successful use of these technologies in election campaigns, local, regional and national governments are now focusing on Web 2.0 as they develop more accessible services and an array of participatory public platforms. But once a government agency gets its wiki working in technical terms, what’s next? Unfortunately, many have yet to work through the policy and performance implications of Web-based participatory government, which should include generating positive social outcomes, serving the common good, engaging with the public as co-producers of public value and improving government accountability, cost-effectiveness and transparency. Simply buying into the hype that surrounds e-government applications and technologies is not sufficient. Instead, public managers need to focus on e-governance— which Accenture defines as a way of governing that takes a significant step beyond the technology itself to generate real, lasting public
value and stronger relationships with citizens.
A clear-eyed view
Government managers need a cleareyed view of the potential public value of the new applications. The Accenture Public Service Value Governance Framework can help. Derived from both research and hands-on experience working with governments and citizens around the world, the framework can help public managers understand the relative merits of different Web 2.0 technologies and applications. It emphasizes four important elements of any e-governance program. 1. Outcomes. Public managers should begin by working through how the latest technologies can help them improve the social and economic conditions of citizens. By adopting an outcomes-based focus, agencies can avoid making unwise investments in flashy applications not aligned with their missions. 2. Balance. Rather than blindly offering all new things to all citizens, agencies should strive to balance the increased choice and flexibility new technologies offer with the need to ensure fairness and support the common good. The inherent openness of the Web 2.0 world fosters balance by breaking down the bureaucratic tendency to arbitrarily organize information in the same way for all users. As a result, the public can have increased access to knowledge, enabling agencies to better interact with citizens and then tailor services to them. 3. Engagement. Any e-governance program should actively engage and educate citizens, ultimately enlisting them as co-producers of public value. Social networking applications, for example, naturally encourage a participative, community mindset among citizens—coaxing them
The Accenture Public Service Value Governance Framework
The framework is built around four components: outcomes, balance, engagement and accountability. Governments can use the framework to help them assess which Web 2.0 tools they should use (see story), as well as how they should use them.
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1. Outcomes—Focusing on improved social and economic outcomes 2. Balance—Balancing choice and flexibility with fairness and common good 3. Engagement—Engaging, educating and enrolling the public as co-producers of public value 4. Accountability—Clarifying accountability and facilitating public recourse
Source: Accenture analysis
to take part in the process of selfgovernance and tapping into their experience. 4. Accountability. Web 2.0 provides a tailor-made platform to help citizens assess the efficiency and effectiveness of government programs, enabling both parties to connect and partner in innovative new ways. At the same time, these technologies give citizens a digital megaphone to talk back when gov-
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Citizen Service User Taxpayer
Outcomes: Seeing beyond the razzle-dazzle
A sound e-governance initiative should trigger tangible improvements in the social and economic conditions of citizens. This absolute focus on achieving desired outcomes can help administrators see beyond the razzle-dazzle of 21st century technology to its true potential to create value. The people on the front lines play significant role in determining the outcome from an e-governance program. In May 2008, a US government employee took the initiative to launch GovLoop, a social networking site that now connects about 20,000 federal, state and local government employees, academics
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ernments fail to deliver expected public value. While not all government agencies are using these new technologies to strengthen their relationships with citizens, many are. From our ongoing research, we have culled the following case examples (among many others) that bring the four elements of the Public Service Value Governance Framework into sharper focus in the use of new technologies.
and contractors. Using Web 2.0 technologies to encourage collaboration and innovation, GovLoop helps people involved in the delivery of public services to kick around ideas, explore new ways of working and think through the issues facing government. Sometimes governments need to know more about what they already know to serve citizens better. In May 2009, the Italian Ministry for Public Administration and Innovation launched Magellano, a Web-based content management platform designed to improve the government’s ability to collect and manage intellectual capital,
such as best practices, knowledge and tools. Employees use Magellano to create and share content, quickly and easily locate information, and resolve problems together—helping agencies innovate, get around bureaucratic dead zones and overcome other organizational barriers to change. Magellano gives government employees access to the latest information on a given topic while at the same time providing a recap of all of the projects completed or under way in the area. It also allows users to interact with public-service teams that have produced effective solutions in similar circumstances.
One Web-based content management platform is designed to collect and manage intellectual capital, such as best practices, knowledge and tools.
Balance: Common wealth for the common good
While businesses chase the “long tail” of individualized customer needs, governments typically do not have this option; they must balance choice and flexibility with fairness and the mandate to serve the common good. A robust customer segmentation analysis can help administrators target services appropriately. Försäkringskassan, the Swedish government’s social insurer, provides financial protection to citizens in the forms of housing assistance, family aid, pensions, and sickness and disability benefits. Taking advantage of new online connectivity options, the agency launched a new service strategy to increase customer satisfaction and reduce costs by delivering service that better reflects the evolving needs of its customers. To achieve this, Försäkringskassan conducted extensive segmentation analyses, defining 17 discrete customer clusters based on citizens’ life events and the complexity of their needs. The agency then used information such as the service channels and preferences each segment favored to develop detailed customer insights. These insights enabled public managers to align each customer segment with the three primary contact channels—self-service, customer service centers or personal case workers. The new approach is intended to decrease paper-based interactions, minimizing the use of complex forms, and eliminate unnecessary one-on-one meetings by moving more customer service cases to online self-service channels. Today, the organization delivers better outcomes, enjoys increased citizen satisfaction levels and uses resources more effectively, providing people with flexible, personalized customer service. If e-governance programs are to be successful, it is essential that as many citizens as possible can access and use the offered digital media channels. In 2002, a partnership between key businesses in Lithuania and the country’s Ministry of the Interior resulted in the Window to the Future alliance. The alliance,
which was created to promote the use of the Internet in the country, ultimately hopes to raise living standards and increase the country’s competitiveness as more citizens climb aboard this Internet broadband-wagon. Between 2002 and 2008, the alliance established more than 800 Public Internet Access Points, most located
in Lithuania’s rural areas, where broadband penetration is relatively low. Funded in part by the European Union, with support from the Ministry of the Interior and local and foreign businesses, the Window to the Future alliance provides capable, accessible and effective e-citizen training programs that simultaneously help boost public broadband penetration.
Engagement: Teaching us to govern ourselves A robust customer segmentation analysis can help administrators target services appropriately.
Successful e-governance initiatives aim not only to engage and educate but also to enroll citizens as co-producers of public value. By systematically gathering their views, understanding their perceptions and helping them make the best use of government resources, these programs ultimately help citizens improve their own quality of life. In 2008, Vivek Kundra, then chief technology officer for Washington, DC, had a brainstorm. DC.gov, the official website of the government of the District of Columbia, had amassed a huge online data catalog chock-full of public data, including real-time crime feeds, school test scores and poverty indicators. But Kundra felt the catalog was underutilized, so he launched Apps for Democracy, a contest inviting citizens to use it to create iPhone, Facebook and Web applications and mashups. Although the Apps for Democracy contest cost the District of Columbia $50,000 to underwrite, it resulted in new applications worth an estimated $2.6 million. The district then launched the Digital Public Square, a municipal government portal bristling with Web 2.0 technologies that help citizens better understand the inner workings of district agencies, participate in the democratic process and connect with government agencies and fellow citizens. Citizens can, for example, add their voices to the We the People Wiki, create customized walking tour mashups of historic areas, join the Twitter at the Department of Consumer & Regulatory Affairs, or scrutinize purchase orders issued by the DC Office of Contracting and Procurement. Public managers can also use digital media to attract increased citizen participation. In 2004, the Dutch Ministry of the Interior launched the e-Citizen program— with a mandate to ensure that all e-governance development plans benefit from citizen input. The program solicited citizen perspectives via a sophisticated blend of surveys and forums to aid in the development of the e-Citizen Charter, which defined the digital relationship between citizens and the government. While a newer Citizenlink initiative replaced the e-Citizen program in 2008, the government continues to use the e-Citizen Charter to share best practices with other government organizations and to encourage them to develop effective e-participation platforms. Goethe’s reply to a question regarding what type of government is best—“that which teaches us to govern ourselves”—resonates deeply in the e-governance age. In fact,
effectively engaging the public often requires agencies to educate citizens through online training. The Norwegian Labor and Welfare Administration (NAV) embarked on a reform program by implementing a self-service application called Din Pensjon (“Your Pension”). To support the program, the NAV launched an e-learning tool on its website that enables citizens
to apply for pensions online, and allows users to view standard payables such as their next payment. Din Pensjon includes an e-learning course that helps users understand how the pension reform program affects them and how individual pensions are regulated. This highly effective e-learning tool makes complicated issues more easily accessible to citizens.
Accountability: Clearing away the bureaucratic cobwebs
Good-government stewards seek accountability in all its forms. Public managers should strive to create transparency regarding government actions and performance, and act quickly and decisively to remedy any problems with public services. Web-based tools can play key roles in helping agencies blow away any bureaucratic cobwebs that surround government programs and policies. In the United States, the Obama administration has assumed a leading role in fostering Web-driven transparency; in March 2009, it named Washington DC’s Kundra to be the country’s first chief information officer. The administration introduced an IT Dashboard as part of USAspending. gov—the federal government’s comprehensive budget tracking portal. IT Dashboard, currently in beta form, helps citizens understand how the federal information technology budget is allocated and spent across agencies. Upcoming features will allow users to create personalized data feeds to build mashups, applications and widgets, and will help citizens create a wide variety of customized, interactive charts. Programs like IT Dashboard give Americans the information they need to hold government agencies accountable for how they spend public funds and the returns they achieve. Likewise, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provides funds to federal, state and local government agencies and departments to stimulate the economy. The legislation included a provision that created Recovery.gov, an official government website offering easy access to data related to Recovery Act spending and allowing for the reporting of potential fraud, waste and abuse. Recovery.gov’s tagline: “Track the Money.” In New York City, the Web-based NYCStat Stimulus Tracker allows citizens to follow how stimulus funds received through the act are being spent at the project, contract and payment levels. By connecting money spent to public outcomes, the tracker shows the public how effectively the city is spending its allotted stimulus money, and what impact this spending is having in individual neighborhoods. By linking stimulus spending to real-world results like jobs created or sustained, the tracker helps residents understand how effectively the city’s investments of public money are improving people’s quality of life. It shows citizens why, where, how and how much the city is spending in stimulus funding, and how well that spending is working so far.
For further reading
“Uncommonwealth: Collaborating to create public value,” Outlook, September 2008 For this and other articles on public service, please visit accenture.com/Outlook
Citizens expect a lot from their governments today, and will demand even more tomorrow because their expectations reflect the accelerated progress of personal connectivity. In this fast-forward world, public managers can be forgiven for concentrating overwhelmingly on the technology itself for fear of being left behind. But clearly, getting results requires more than the latest online innovations, which is why public managers need to focus on the four elements of the Public Service Value Governance Framework: outcomes, balance, engagement and accountability. By strengthening their relationships with citizens, governments create public value, increase public trust, and help to build better lives for everyone.
About the author
Greg Parston is the director of the Accenture Institute for Health & Public Service Value. Dr. Parston has consulted widely with top managers, focusing on governance, strategy and change, and he has worked as a manager in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors. He is currently a member of the 2020 Public Services Commission in the United Kingdom. Dr. Parston is based in London. firstname.lastname@example.org
Outlook is published by Accenture. © 2010 Accenture. All rights reserved. The views and opinions in this article should not be viewed as professional advice with respect to your business. Accenture, its logo, and High Performance Delivered are trademarks of Accenture. The use herein of trademarks that may be owned by others is not an assertion of ownership of such trademarks by Accenture nor intended to imply an association between Accenture and the lawful owners of such trademarks.
For more information about Accenture, please visit www.accenture.com
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