Digital Government: From Citizen-Centric To Citizen-Driven

Dr. Moataz Binali

Going forward, technologies like mobility and IoT will form the crux of citizen experience improvement, and governments will shift from services to engagement mode to meet rising expectations. Governments around the world have a renewed focus on citizen happiness and engagement, and a well-planned digital government environment offers greater opportunities for building collaborative and participatory relationships among all relevant stakeholders.

According to IDC Future Scape–Worldwide Government 2015 Predictions, 68% of governments indicate that improving citizen experience is the number-one priority over the next 12 months. It adds that by 2020, more than 50% of government agencies with direct citizen engagement missions will channel at least 25% of their program budget to the use of 3rd-platform technologies and IoT to improve citizen experience.

The  major trends fueling the public sector are driven by rising citizen expectations, which in turn drives four key aspects:

  • Pressure to deliver for more consumer-like citizen services
  • Need to refocus resources in areas that boost government program delivery and make it visible to citizens
  • Drive to improve citizen outcomes and install a government culture of service excellence and accountability
  • Necessity to diversify the economy and attract and nurture new businesses utilizing new business models under the umbrella of “government as a facilitator”

Driven by these pressures, government objectives cannot be limited to just the introduction of digital technologies and process automation within departments. It goes far beyond that, requiring a focused effort on digitally engaging citizens to modernize the public sector as a whole.

Are citizens leading the way to transformation? 

Governments at all levels have a timeless mandate to provide services, protect society, and make the economy prosper. While this is an acceptable long-term goal, citizens are now expecting greater and faster delivery of services from government. The digital maturity of these public agencies, however, at many levels remains inadequate to meet these demands.

What government stakeholders and citizens want is a new type of experience: one that is frictionless; where work and collaboration are seamless and people and process are intertwined with interconnected services; and where technology is intuitive and easy to use. How can we achieve a balance between needs and expectations while still supplying services?

Why engagement is an essential tool to drive public policy 

To meet this expectation, one of the key pillars of achieving the Saudi Vision for Digital Engagement is to shift from the “procedure-focused” model of yesteryear to an outcome-focused approach. This is the way for governments to commission, facilitate, broker, and orchestrate service delivery based on specific needs identified by citizens themselves. 

A key measure of success for modern countries is the level of engagement that its people undertake with their government. As the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) states, good decision-making requires the knowledge, experiences, views, and values of the public, and unless citizens themselves understand and are engaged in the decision-making, trust is easily lost.

There are several benefits to citizens driving public policy reform and modernization as part of a digital government transformation. Here are few:

  • Citizen engagement drives the success of e-government, or digital government, by increasing the acceptance and uptake with the government through digital channels. This helps departments scale up services while reducing cost without compromising sustainability.
  • It improves governance and creates a more informed government. This marks the shift in viewing citizens as customers of the government rather than subjects, which dictates a higher degree of interaction and engagement.
  • Engaged citizens can make important contributions to policies and programs related to every aspect of city life and government services.
  • It reinforces government success by introducing a critical and honest feedback mechanism, building public trust in their leadership. 

Reimagining citizen experience with a “government for me” model 

Transforming to a digital government model undoubtedly requires a re-visualization of public sector capacities, workflows, business processes, operations, methodologies, and frameworks. To successfully achieve this means keeping citizens as a key stakeholder of the re-imagination process to create greater ownership of major policy reforms. 

Re-imagining the interaction between citizens and government calls for a “government for me” citizen experience model, which essentially leverages three key areas of a digital government:

1. Government models

Hinged on the “made for me” motto, the government proactively delivers personalized, anticipatory services tailored to the needs of citizens and businesses. Governments can be geared to take on the role of an enabler instead of providing all services on its own. 

2. Government processes

A simplified, unified, and shared network of government agencies, infrastructure, resources, and systems allows for easy government-wide digital identification of participants without replication. 

3. Working in government

Creating a digital mindset built on digital skills, innovation, and collaboration among the workforce, the model builds a social collective, allowing greater collaboration with the public. Additionally, real-time integrated wearables, predictive decision-making, and artificial intelligence help police and other workforce members make quick, well-informed decisions.

In conclusion, it’s fair to state that digitization has moved the focus from following a procedure to defining an outcome. And it’s one trend that puts customers (citizens) first. The core of a digital government therefore needs to be more about reducing friction; increasing seamless integration between citizens, governments, and corporations; and gradually putting an end to government transactions that may require citizens’ physical attendance, bureaucratic paper trails, or non-transparent, unaccountable progress.

For more insight on how technology impacts government, see Public Sector Research: 3 Ways To Solve The Leadership Crisis.


Dr. Moataz Binali

About Dr. Moataz Binali

Dr. Moataz Binali is the Middle East and North Africa Regional Industry Director of Strategic Industries for the Industry Value Engineering Group at SAP.