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Digital Transformation In Government Harvard

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What Being Digital Looks Like For Government

Ensuring Healthy and Resilient Societies:Digital Transformation in the Government Sector

Before the pandemic, agencies were primarily doing digitalthat is, leveraging digital technologies to enhance their capabilities but still largely relying on legacy operating models. COVID-19 propelled many governments into the next stage of digital transformation. Seventy-seven percent of government agencies say that digital transformation initiatives pushed during the pandemic are already having a positive impact on their organization.

Theyre becoming digital, doing the work to embed digital technologies and processes deeper into their organizations. Even with all the progress, more work is required to truly be digital. When government organizations reach this stage, theyll use technologies such as AI, cyber, and cloud to elevate the human experience and radically transform service delivery and back-office operations. At the heart of digital transformation is moving from ad hoc application of digital to designing and implementing digital technologies so that they are embedded across the organization and in its DNA.

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Governments that have reached the being digital stage consistently use digital to achieve better mission outcomes. To help understand what constitutes being digital further, we have broken down the characteristics into two parts: service delivery and government operations.

Service delivery

Service delivery characteristics directly impact the services offered by a government to its constituents. Some key components are:

How To Get There: Seven Digital Pivots

Becoming a truly digital government requires the development of a broad array of assets and capabilities, which we term digital pivots, enumerated in figure 4. As mentioned earlier, applying these pivots would result in government services that have core characteristics of being digital . The majority of government officials who participated in our survey reported that these digital pivots are having a positive impact on their organization. Mature organizations consistently derive value out of all the seven pivots whereas less mature organizations derive value from a few of the pivots.

Data mastery

Data mastery is more than building master data management systems or data lakes to empower senior executives to make decisions. Its about a seamless flow of structured and unstructured data and making data and systems interoperable within and between agencies to enable front-line workers to understand customers and customize service delivery. Sixty-seven percent of high-maturity agencies in our survey reported that they were seeing a significant positive impact from their use of data, compared to just 10% of lower-maturity agencies. Data mastery also focuses on getting a suitable regulatory and legal framework in place to access and share data between agencies. Governments can also consider allowing citizens to opt-in for data sharing in exchange for a more unified experience.

Pivot in practice: North Lanarkshires MDM

Flexible, secure infrastructure

Ecosystem engagement

Introduction: The 2021 Digital Services Convening

This years convening marked the fourth Digital Services Convening jointly organized by the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and Public Digital, a disruptive digital transformation consultancy. The event has been described by a Cambridge University study as one of six seminal digital government conferences across the globe. The importance of having a space where digital government practitioners can learn, share, and discuss their experiences is only growing, as more and more governments are grappling with transformation efforts and the subsequent issues that such efforts give rise to.

Many digital service teams had made significant gains during the pandemic and were awarded more authority, remit, and funding. COVID-19 had also affected governments risk appetites across the world, leading to more experimentation and iteration. This has not always led to successful outcomes in some cases, it might not be appropriate to bypass processes or use a magic wand as a lever. However, this general shift has meant that the entrenched ways of working and the prevailing speed of bureaucracy were challenged. It remains an open question as to whether all the gains made during the pandemic can or should be retained.

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Where Governments Digitization Priorities Currently Lie

Being digital is the end goal, but different agencies are driven by different rationales. Some are driven by modernization while others are driven by the need to be innovative.

Being digital also represents a wholesale reinvention of how governments can meet citizens demands and expectations, delivering customer experiences on par with b-to-c companies. This ranks among our survey respondents top three priorities , which isnt surprising. In 2019, 80% of US federal agencies scored poor or very poor on Forresters US Federal Customer Experience Index, compared with only 14% of brands in the private sector.7

As evidenced by the pressure faced by legacy IT systems during the early part of the pandemic, modernization also figures at the top of the digitization agenda for most government respondents. The Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles modernized its 30-year-old vehicle titling and registration system. In the legacy system, the data was distributed into 95 databases. The distributed databases were not user-friendly and were difficult to manage.8 In 2019, the agency migrated to an integrated system that can register 2.5 million vehicles annually and collect nearly $720 million in revenue. The modernized systems enabled the agency to simplify forms, automate manual processes, and offer more online services. For instance, organizations using fleet services can complete their registration process online and users can check the status of specialty plates online.9

State Of Digital Transformation

Digital Transformation in Government

In June 2020, the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and the digital transformation consultancy Public Digital hosted digital service groups from around the world for their annual Digital Services Convening. The goal of the convening is to accelerate effective and equitable digital transformation in government by creating a space for digital service groups to share best practices and lessons. Now in its third year, the convening has become a place for honest reflection about the challenges facing digital service groups regarding what is and is not working in the field.

Normally, teams gather in person on Harvards campus. This year, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we gathered virtually. This online forum allowed us to convene over 100 attendees from more than 40 different digital service groups for three days of discussion. Each day had a theme. Day one focused on the now, examining digital teams responses to the pandemic. Day two focused on later, and highlighted long-term opportunities for digital teams. The final day was about whats next, focusing on priorities and opportunities for the next six to 12 months.

Teams that participated in the summit use different approaches and methodologies in vastly different contexts. Some of thosesuch as Estonia and Bangladeshare building on a decade or more of experience and are refining established, advanced practices otherssuch as the state of Coloradoformally launched just recently.

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Digital Transformation In Government Insights And Thoughts

So yesterday Ive finished my Digital Transformation in Government course at Harvard Kennedy School.

Here is a couple of my insights and thoughts. I divided them into 2 groups: ideological and purely professional.


I have quite contradictory feelings:

  • On the one hand, there is nothing unique in the digital challenges Ukraine is facing. We are exactly in world trends in this respect. In every case and example – from Estonia, the USA, UK, India – I saw something very native and familiar.
  • On the other hand, I am sure that this is just the tip of the iceberg, and we are not talking about the biggest ones yet. Yes, information security and privacy issues are already widely discussed, but we, like humanity, already face other challenges.
  • The influence of social media on democracy, opportunities and threats of artificial intelligence, cyber warfare, and finally the threat of digital authoritarianism.

    I am convinced that these challenges are not about technology as such, but about the profound changes in the society that have already begun. Just as Gutenberg’s printing press provoked the Reformation to some extent, and so did the collapse of feudal Europe, so new technologies can lead to similar consequences.

    And I will continue to look for opportunities to explore these challenges.


    • What to automate. Human-centered products, instead of service automation.

    For the government, this may be a radical paradigm shift.

    What happens next?

    What does this mean?

    Digital Transformation Is Not About Technology

    Companies are pouring millions into digital transformation initiatives but a high percentage of those fail to pay off. Thats because companies put the cart before the horse, focusing on a specific technology rather than doing the hard work of fitting the change into the overall business strategy first. Not only should they align tech investments with business goals they should also lean more on insider knowledge than outside consultants, acknowledge fears about job loss that those insiders may have, develop deep knowledge of how changes will affect customer experience, and use process techniques borrowed from the tech world to facilitate change.

    A recent survey of directors, CEOs, and senior executives found that digital transformation risk is their #1 concern in 2019. Yet 70% of all DT initiatives do not reach their goals. Of the $1.3 trillion that was spent on DT last year, it was estimated that $900 billion went to waste. Why do some DT efforts succeed and others fail?

    Fundamentally, its because most digital technologies provide possibilities for efficiency gains and customer intimacy. But if people lack the right mindset to change and the current organizational practices are flawed, DT will simply magnify those flaws. Five key lessons have helped us lead our organizations through digital transformations that succeeded.

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    What Is The Harvard Business Review Digital Transformation

    The Harvard Business Review Digital Transformation is a journal that highlights how organizations can succeed in their digital transformation.

    The Harvard Business Review Digital Transformation is online and in print. This journals articles alert readers to the current issues of businesses.

    Harvard Review Digital publishes articles on how companies can succeed in todays business environment.

    The Harvard Business Review Digital change is a term used to describe the digital environment in which organizations operate.

    Harvard Digital is a term used to describe the process in which organizations transition into the digital world.

    The Harvard Digital is published by Harvard Business Review. The Harvard Business Review Digital New York office is in the Time-Life Building in New York City.

    David Eaves Georges Clement May 2020

    Digital Transformation In The Public Service

    In June of 2019, the Harvard Kennedy School hosted digital service teams from around the world for our annual State of Digital Transformation convening. Over two days, practitioners and academics shared stories of success, discussed challenges, and debated strategy around the opportunities and risks digital technologies present to governments.

    Teams that joined us for the summit used different approaches and methodologies in vastly different contexts. Some governmentssuch as those of Estonia and Bangladeshwere building on decade or more of experience refining already-advanced practices otherssuch as the state of Coloradoswere still getting ready to formally launch. Some had deep connections across their entire executive branch others were tightly focused within a single agency.

    Despite these differences, many key themes emerged throughout the convening. This paper contains reflections from the Summit.

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    Proactive Digital Delivery In Estonia

    Estonias revamp of its family benefits systems includes almost all of the key characteristics of being digital. For example, before fall 2019 in Estonia, 97% of parents had to apply for one or more of 10 types of family benefits that are linked to the life event of a child being born. To get the allowance, parents would provide the required details along with supporting documents to officials. Officials would go through the forms, calculate the benefits manually, and then grant the benefits. It took about two hours for officials to process each application.4

    In October 2019, Estonias Social Insurance Board launched a proactive family benefit service where parents dont even have to apply to receive any of the family benefits, making it a frictionless experience. The agency developed an automated IT system that sends a query to the Estonian National Population Register every night to get data on new births and the names of newborn children and their parents. The system fetches data for eligible parents from other data systems to understand who is eligible for benefits and the total amount of benefits theyre eligible for. The system exchanges data using digital ID and follows the principle of once-only by not reaching out to parents again for information it already has.

    Orange Countys Digital Media Transformation Recognized As 2017 Harvard Ash Center Bright Idea In Government

    Orange County, FL The Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, recognized Orange County Governments Digital Media Transformation as part of the 2017 Bright Ideas in Government initiative. This years cohort includes programs from all levels of government school districts, county, city, state, federal agencies, and tribal nations, as well as public-private partnerships that represent the next horizon in government work to improve services, solve problems, and work on behalf of citizens.

    Orange County Governments digital communications plan, new online Newsroom Media Center, and companion OCFL News app improved news and information distribution to its 1.25 million citizens. The team shares weekly editorial calendars to coordinate traditional media and digital efforts, including news articles, media alerts, photos, videos and graphics for a unique, interesting and engaging Newsroom Media Center.

    This foundation helped Orange County Government share information with the community following the Pulse nightclub tragedy on June 12, 2016, and again in early October 2016 when Category 3 Hurricane Matthew impacted Central Florida. The transformation improvements, which facilitated visits to the Pulse and Hurricane Matthew Newsroom update webpages, catapulted the Newsroom Media Center to receiving more than 1 million page views and the Countys overall website had 60 million page views in 2016.

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    Rajawali Foundation Mengangkat Tema ‘digital Transformation In Government: Innovating Public Policy And Services’ Pada Harvard Kennedy School Indonesia Program 2018

    Rajawali Foundation

    Dalam rangka meningkatkan kapasitas pegawai di bidang transformasi digital bagi pemerintahan, pada tanggal 5 September 2018, Kementerian Keuangan melakukan kerja sama dengan Rajawali Foundation. Kerjasama ini dituangkan dalam bentuk nota kesepahaman yang ditandatangani di Hotel Borobudur, Jakarta.

    Penandatanganan Nota Kesepahaman ini diawali dengan Networking Dinner bersama Kementerian Keuangan yang dihadiri oleh Bapak Dr. Hadiyanto beserta jajarannya, Bapak Lim Hock Chuan , Bapak YW Junardy , Bapak Dorian Lo , dan Ibu Shirley Tan . Perwakilan dari Kementerian Keuangan Singapura, Kedutaan Besar Singapura, dan McKinsey & Company Indonesia pun turut hadir meramaikan suasana.

    Pada pelaksanaannya, 18 pegawai Kemenkeu yang telah diseleksi secara ketat akan diikutsertakan dalam program Pendidikan eksekutif non-gelar Digital Transformation in Government: Innovating Public Policy and Services di Harvard Kennedy School, Amerika Serikat. Pelatihan tersebut terbagi dalam dua tahap yang masing-masing diikuti oleh sembilan peserta. Tahap pertama akan dilaksanakan pada bulan November 2018, sedangkan tahap kedua pada bulan Februari 2019.

    Singapura dipilih mengingat di Asia Tenggara, negara ini telah terlebih dulu menerapkan transformasi digital dibidang pemerintahan dengan cukup baik, sehingga diharapkan dapat berbagi keberhasilan dan risiko yang dihadapi dalam melakukan transformasi digital.

    The Essential Components Of Digital Transformation

    Digital Transformation in Government: Innovating Public ...

    Its problematic when companies decide to embark on a digital transformation agenda without having a clear definition, let alone vision, for what it means. The fundamental meaning of transformation is not about replacing old technologies with new ones, or capturing high volumes of data, or hiring an army of data scientists, or trying to copy some of the things Google or Amazon do. In fact, the essence of digital transformation is to become a data-driven organization, ensuring that key decisions, actions, and processes are strongly influenced by data-driven insights, rather than by human intuition. In other words, you will only transform when you have managed to change how people behave, and how things are done in your organization.

    The digital revolution forced every organization to reinvent itself, or at least rethink how it goes about doing business. Most large companies have invested substantial cash in what is generally labelled digital transformation. While those investments are projected to top $6.8 trillion by 2023, theyre often made without seeing clear benefits or ROI. Although these failures have multiple causes, they are generally the result of underestimating the various steps or stages required to successfully execute a transformation agenda.

    As the figure below shows, five components are needed to execute an organizations digital transformation:

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    In Defense Of Digital Government At The Harvard Kennedy School

    Derrick Flakoll, Tiffany Ho, and Sasha MathewDerrick Flakoll is on leave from the Kennedy School as a Policy Associate for the Hyphen Group.Tiffany Ho is a first-year MPP student on leave from the Kennedy School.Sasha Mathew is a second-year MPA student and Editor-in-Chief of The Citizen.

    We came to study digital government at the Kennedy School from three different worlds. Sasha chose the Harvard Kennedy School specifically to pursue a career in it, building on her work in digitizing elections and elections policy at WhatsApp. Tiffany came to pivot from a previous digital transformation role, but was pulled back in by the quality of the digital government electives. Derrick stumbled into the field when he realized it offered a through line between the work in startups and the government capacity-building hed come to HKS to study. Though we all found this field from different paths, we are equally committed to the value of HKS digital government courses, which offer a distinct perspective from technology policys focus on regulating rather than using digital tools. We are therefore deeply concerned to see HKS dropping its core classes in the subject at a pivotal moment when they are more important than ever.

    Governments Cant Afford To Lose The Digital Momentum

    Many government organizations intensified their digital transformation efforts in response to the needs and external drivers that surfaced or intensified during COVID-19. Indeed, theyve found that they have been able to drive more change, faster, than they had thought possible. Governments should build on this experience to commit to a faster pace of digital transformation.

    Ninety percent of highly mature agencies we surveyed agree that they are already seeing the benefits of digital initiatives launched during the pandemic, compared to 55% of low-maturity organizations. And 79% of government executives say that in five years, all successful agencies will have extensive digital capabilities.

    As organizations invest in their digital future, lessons learned over the past 18 months can ensure that they do so strategicallypushing well beyond doing digital initiatives to being digital through and through.

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