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When governments at all levels around the world present their budgets for the next year, innovation is frequently mentioned. However, those words hardly ever become a reality – which is, unfortunately for constituents – a missed opportunity.

For example, innovating social security has the potential to bring many positive economic and social developments. Technology can make social services a lot more accessible and more user-friendly. Not only does this allow the government to improve assistance to those in need, but also enables greater purchasing power beyond the wealthy – which can help invigorate the economy as a whole.

Social services simplified

The service focus of many social bodies is not yet optimized. I am convinced that, at the very least, the constituents’ procedures could be tremendously simplified. Consider the requirements when applying for benefits. The applicant is asked to provide the amount of wages, alimony, or tax refund received or information on assets in possession. Answering these questions may not be as easy as you think. Do any of us keep a pay slip, alimony check, or government remittance from 18 months ago? Plus, do you report gross or net earnings?

Ideally, the government would already have all this information. And if this is not the case, it is because they do not have a sound information and communications technology (ICT) foundation.

For example, government website, caters to constituents looking for jobs in The Netherlands. Even though it is a one-stop shop for finding and applying for work, segments of the population – such as the visually impaired – could benefit more from a mobile or face-to-face experience to guide them through the process with confidence.

I am convinced things can be handled differently and better. Applying and receiving social service benefits should be as easy as ordering Nespresso cups or installing and paying for apps from iTunes. Investing in smart systems that pair data and present user-friendly interfaces can provide constituents with more choices and opportunities. And by integrating intelligence and analytics into systems, agency representatives can assist clients in navigating the process and finding the best solution.

Full circle

The business world has surpassed the government in every regard in the field of ICT and automation. In education, namely in vocational training, you will frequently find outdated courses that are no longer useful in the labor market. A lot of courses are still offered that prepare people for professions, such as data typist and financial administrative employee, which have been mostly automated and made obsolete. As a result, many graduates will likely not find a job in their chosen profession or resort to receiving social benefits.

Dominated by people-to-people interactions, governments are learning a tough, but necessary, lesson. We possess enormous knowledge about modern technology, from the application interfaces people demand to the use of artificial intelligence and advanced data platforms. All it takes is a simple push of a button to procure every piece of information on humanity and help guide people to become valuable, productive participants in society – and raise public opinion about the government’s overall performance.