Why governments need to accelerate reinvention to drive transformative change

Digital transformation
Digital transformation
Editor's Note

This article is sponsored by EY Canada.


More than ever, citizens expect their public services to be as personalized and responsive as the services they get from the private sector.

From the way people work to the services they use and the places where they live, disruptive technologies are creating new patterns of citizen behaviour as demand for public services grows and budgets tighten. 

Despite recent efforts, most governments are lagging behind the private sector in harnessing the full power of technology. To enable a thriving economy in Canada that is fit for a post-COVID-19 world, governments must modernize and reinvent how they serve citizens through technology by overhauling traditional structures, processes and culture to deliver better outcomes in a relevant and sustainable way.

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That begins by reimagining how digital tools can be used to enhance a citizen’s end-to-end experience, while enabling the right conditions for an inclusive digital economy that addresses urban-rural and economic divides.

Throughout the last year we’ve seen how tools like artificial intelligence (AI) and intelligent automation (IA) can help seamlessly deliver services to Canadians regardless of their geographic location – whether it’s using IA and chatbots to complete transactions on government websites or enabling self-referral and online health screening.

Digital transformation

AI can assist and solve a range of day-to-day tasks, from improving urban planning by optimizing transport routes or maintaining cost discipline by modernizing procurement models, to providing personalized educational support for students and signposting citizens to social services based on their needs and eligibility.

What’s more, IA coupled with social media channels and mobile apps enable people to interact with government and access relevant services in a more convenient and targeted way. These platforms also encourage greater collaboration and inclusion by involving citizens in decision making, policy setting, budget prioritization and problem solving.

On the other hand, the use of advanced analytics and process mining technology allows governments to leverage data gathered from people and devices to improve service design and personalize the delivery of services.

This type of union between services and technology requires design thinking and customer experience labs to help build services around users’ needs, rather than around traditional government structures.

Inefficiencies and costs can be improved if governments take the time to identify the technologies, processes and capabilities needed to digitize the entire citizen journey and make each touchpoint more seamless, while meeting evolving citizen expectations.

But the responsibility doesn’t fall on government alone.

Digital transformation

Citizens also have a key role to play as a forcing function to build a more efficient and effective public sector. Many provinces have already created digital platforms for public consultation on government policies and budget priorities, giving citizens a voice in the day-to-day decisions that affect their lives in areas like education, health and justice.

As governments realize the value of tapping into the ecosystem around them, we are going to see more collaborative consultation platforms spring up to capture citizens’ diverse contributions from coast to coast.

Adopting a citizen-first mindset when designing policies and delivering services will ultimately create a better quality of life for citizens by improving transparency and boosting inclusion.

Local governments that effectively manage digital reinvention will regain public trust and improve Canada’s competitiveness in the global economy. They will also be better prepared for the next disruption – whatever form that may take.

Warren Tomlin is the EY Ottawa office managing partner and digital and innovation leader at EY Canada.

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