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Just as private companies have adapted to digital business models, public agencies must do the same. Digital government technology is moving into the future. It is offering services that focus on outcomes and customer satisfaction. As citizens become more tech savvy, they expect the same from their governments. The old paper-driven models are no longer acceptable. People now want automated, self-service government processes that meet their personal needs. Customers receive a high level of service from most businesses, whether online, in person, or on the phone. Citizens expect this same level of service from government agencies with technology that offers a seamless, personalized experience. They expect this same level of satisfaction from public agencies. What this means is that governments must now change their focus. Internal practices that operate apart from citizens is not a model that will work in the future. Governments must now embrace digital transformation. They must offer real-time, tailored services that meet the needs of their communities. Some agencies offer limited online services for certain functions, but this is not enough. Customers now want personalized “made for me” services that focus on outcomes. Many governments have already upgraded their services by reimagining government using digital technology. Local and federal governments around the world are making these changes. They are connecting with their constituents in new and innovative ways.

Australia: Upgrading the Future

In 2015, the Australian government agreed to spend $1-1.5 billion to replace their outdated Centrelink IT mainframe. Responsible for the country’s welfare program, the system distributes $100 billion in welfare checks to 7.3 million people each year. Created in 1983, the mainframe requires 30 million lines of code to process 50 million computing transactions per day. The debate raged on for months on whether replacing the 30-year-old system was worth the cost. Australia's federal government decided that it would be money well spent. The Department of Human Services (DHS) has been trying to keep up with the modern digital times on the aging system for years. Social Services Minister, Scott Morrison, says the updated system will boost efficiency, advance reform, and reduce fraud. “You can’t fix the system,” Morrison says, “if you can’t change the engine which drives the system and makes it work.” By keeping a system built to work with a paper-based process, it is holding the government back. This expensive move toward the future shows a deep dedication to improving community services. While reimagined government models can be expensive now, they will be worth the payoff in the end. Australia's new system design will keep customers in mind. It will direct users to the services they need without the usual red tape. Using modern technology, it will send real-time information to people about their claims. This will also reduce the high volume of customer calls the agency receives daily. The new platform will connect all interested stakeholders to a single platform. The complex welfare system involves many offices that are not communicating in effective ways. With the new system, these departments will receive, distribute, and share the same information. By changing to a modern digital government, decades of future citizens will receive better services.

Montréal: Connecting Communities

Société de Transport de Montréal (STM), the city’s public transportation system, launched a pilot loyalty program in 2013. The agency wanted a new way to interact with their 1.2 million daily riders. They wanted to communicate information and deliver personalized services through mobile technology. Every year, STM experiences a 2 percent increase in ridership. This includes a 15 percent increase in new riders, minus a 13 percent decrease in former riders. STM determined that the lost ridership was due to students entering the workforce. These students were no longer using public transportation to get to their new jobs. Hoping to keep more annual riders, STM decided to target young people by increasing loyal rider benefits. So, they developed the STM Merci iPhone app that rewards customers in real time. Rather than a typical points system that offers rewards over time, the app appeals to a new generation of riders who expect instant gratification. Working with local retailers, riders received exclusive offers whenever they boarded a bus or train. What made the app so unique was its seamless integration of collected information. Demographic information from STM rider cards. Personal preferences entered into the app. Access to GPS locations from the iPhone. By combining this information, promotions were specific, personal, and location based. A rider might get a coupon for a free coffee at the next stop. Or a special sales promotion for a favorite retailer. STM could also promote value fares based on rider usage statistics. During the first three months of the pilot study, 15,000 people downloaded the app. And they redeemed more than 16,000 offers at 240 local businesses. By connecting citizens, government, and businesses, the local community benefits in direct and meaningful ways.

Government for Everyone

By reimagining traditional models, government is putting customers first by focusing on the needs of its citizens. While Australia is spending more than a billion dollars to overhaul their system, it will pay dividends for decades. By giving citizens little rewards for using public transportation, Montreal is promoting community engagement. These government issues may seem to sit on opposite sides of the spectrum, but they are achieving the same goals. Rather than increasing the divide between government and citizens, digital transformation bridges the gap. Governments that are planning ahead will lead the way into the digital future. By streamlining processes and tailoring services, governments and citizens both win. Governments will by becoming more effective and efficient. Citizens win by receiving the personalized services they deserve. This makes digital governments accessible, cooperative and made for everyone.

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