Technology In The Public Sector: Possibilities And Challenges

Regina Kunkle

The governments of nations around the world have responsibilities to their citizens. For example, they need to encourage economic growth, keep their citizens safe, and provide public services. Yet governments at different levels often encounter challenges in achieving citizens’ expectations. Advances in technology can help, but challenges must first be overcome.

Technology within government

In a S.M.A.C. Talk podcast, Dante Ricci of SAP’s Global Public Services team discussed how governments are using technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT), analytics, and blockchain. Dante noted that machine learning is one area the public sector is adopting within enterprise apps. Another example is adding sensors to help traffic flow better.

Governments that adopt a digital core are able to bring together different sources of data. This helps them better understand information between different agencies and levels to make more informed decisions.

Governments can also adopt blockchain to provide transparency while keeping transactions secure. Blockchain holds broad potential for governments to perform functions such as transferring funds and keeping records within a secure ledger, Liz Farmer explained in Governing. Dante added that artificial intelligence (AI) could “automate everything from the constituent service experience to accurately detecting fraud, waste, and abuse better.”

For the World Economic Forum, Gregory Curtin noted that “augmented reality, or AR, has been called the next big paradigm shift in computing.” It’s expected to have future potential for changing governments as well. This advanced technology could provide AR windshield displays, for example, with real-time data for public transportation and emergency service vehicles. Augmented reality could help police practice their responses to emergency or disaster scenarios and help citizens prepare.

The needs and timeline for implementing different technologies vary, depending on the level of government and agency. For example, Dante expects city governments to progress technologically more quickly than state and federal government agencies.

Challenges of the public sector

While the public sector is taking advantage of technology that’s popular in other industries, it also faces unique challenges. “A lot of governments, regardless of technology, are not able to fulfill the mission the way the citizens expect,” said Dante in the S.M.A.C. Talk podcast. He offered examples such as citizens’ struggles to engage and workers’ struggles to make their voices heard.

Regulatory restrictions can complicate progress. Governments must secure citizens’ and classified information. The breadth of agencies and organizational silos between departments adds still more complexity.

The U.S. government must modernize legacy systems to take full advantage of innovative technologies like the Internet of Things and machine learning. In FCW magazine, Mike Conger and Michael Preis pointed out that within the next 10 years, the government could save more than $110 billion by eliminating operations and maintenance of outdated systems. The shift would also create a more efficient government that offers its citizens better digital services.

Dante explained that the public sector also needs to adopt policies that enable the use of technology. Even if an agency adopts advanced technology, it may be unable to use it if policies do not support its use. Critical to success is policy change that happens in accordance with the adoption of new technology. This requires agreement on questions such as whether to enable citizen services on mobile devices and utilize anticipatory alerts. Further, agencies do not always have the resources to help them adopt new technologies. Overall, Dante believes that to be successful, policies must be made with citizens’ needs in mind.

While many unresolved details remain, emerging technologies could help governments become more efficient and better connected to their citizens.

To hear Dante’s full overview of technology’s potential in the public sector, listen to the S.M.A.C. Talk podcast.

Regina Kunkle

About Regina Kunkle

Regina Kunkle is responsible for the State and Local/Higher Education (SLED), as sub-industry of the U.S. public sector industry, at SAP. Regina is dedicated to helping governments transform to respond to changing regulations and citizen needs, streamline and simplify processes, and share vital information across agencies for enhanced decision making and performance.