For industries that have been notoriously slow to implement digital transformations — such as healthcare or government services — the pandemic required an abrupt change. With physical distancing orders in place, suddenly almost every industry had to accelerate their digital adoption to keep customers safe. For government services, this meant transitioning to remote work, offering virtual appointments, and upgrading their digital services. Although many aspects will be happily left in the past, many of these government digital transformations have created a better customer experience and will continue to be the norm after the pandemic. Modernizing public services has proved to be effective for customers and employees, and this will likely force further advancements in the future.
Improved Government Digital Services
People are becoming more accustomed to having online, self-serve experiences. From purchases to questions, most customers can do it all without ever interacting with a person — and they can do it from any device. For government services, citizens need more options for completing requests online. Typically, government services are manual processes that require an in-person visit to an office, but after the pandemic, customers won’t want to wait for appointments or stand in line. This means that government offices will need to perform a digital transformation to convert much of their paperwork processes online. From renewing licenses to paying tickets, people will expect to be able to do it themselves from their personal devices. They’ll also expect a seamless experience, which means they will want connected services and end-to-end digital experiences — processes that are started online should only require interaction with a customer service representative for questions or problems, not to complete the process.
For services that need to be provided in-person, such as driving tests, citizens will have less patience for waiting in line. They’ll start to expect fewer delays and more accurate appointment times. Throughout the pandemic, many services implemented government digital transformations like line and appointment management software to control crowds and waiting, and customers will continue to expect this after the pandemic.
Digital experiences extend to public transit systems, which have dramatically suffered throughout the pandemic due to lower ridership numbers. Citizens using public transit will expect digital integration for their commutes as well, which can help improve ridership numbers. For example, creating integrated, digital transit hubs where riders can pay for bike share, rideshare, and public transit through a single app can make the experience easier. For transit passes, public transit systems should consider creating digital wallet versions where riders tap to get onto buses and trains. This reduces waste and is a greener approach, but it’s also more convenient for travelers.
Data and Cybersecurity
Data collection was an extremely important component of government digital transformations throughout the pandemic; it helped governments keep track of cases and track COVID-infected individuals. As the vaccine is rolled out, data will also be used to track those who have been vaccinated and those who have not. Businesses and countries are considering limiting access for those who have chosen not to get the vaccine to reduce the risk of future outbreaks. This will be done using vaccine passports, which some countries have already implemented. To benefit citizens, relevant data should also be shared between government departments. For example, retirement information can also be passed along to DMVs to inform them when a driver will need to be retested based on their age.
The pandemic has highlighted the importance of data collection for governments, and after the pandemic, there will be more reasons to collect citizen data for urban and transit planning to prevent future pandemics and more. Government agencies can also use citizen data to optimize their services, including tracking busy periods and the flow of customers.
Yet, with more data collection comes higher risks of data breaches. Throughout the pandemic, data breaches rose significantly because of the quick shift to remote work. Governments will need to consider implementing significant cybersecurity measures to assure citizens that their data is safe. With more organizations working with vendors to provide government digital services, they will also need to ensure that vendors are taking proper precautions and that all software abides by government regulations about data protection.
If more government services go digital, citizens will expect better communication. Governments should consider using chatbots and machine learning to answer questions or direct citizens to the proper department. Instead of waiting on hold, chatbots can quickly answer questions for hundreds of individuals, freeing up the time of customer service representatives. Throughout the pandemic, digital communications were used to update citizens on vaccine schedules and lockdown orders. Moving forward, governments should continue to use these digital transformation methods to communicate with the public and help individuals become more informed about what is going on at local, state, and federal levels.
Some governments also use automated, personalized reminders to ensure that citizens are updated on benefits applications, upcoming renewals, or missing documents. Using text or email to connect with individuals through their preferred method can help government services proactively support citizens.
Citizen-centric Government Digital Transformations
When considering what technologies to implement, government agencies should always start with solutions that are proactive and citizen-centric. Government digital services can help people access information and services at any hour of the day, making it easier for them to complete important tasks. With 61 percent of officials believing that COVID-19 accelerated their government digital transformation efforts, post-pandemic, it will be important to ensure that these new strategies are effective and efficient.