US and UK don't lead in digital government, says Accenture

Profile picture for user slauchlan By Stuart Lauchlan February 23, 2014
Summary:
A new Accenture study finds that Singapore, Norway and the United Arab Emirates rank first, second and third, respectively, ahead of the United States, United Kingdom, Brazil, India, Saudi Arabia, Germany and South Korea when it comes to digital government.

digital-government
Late last year diginomica sat down with UK Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude to hear his bold claim that the UK would trump the US in terms of digital government.

At the time we speculated that despite the excellent work being down in the UK, it was a claim that other nations might contest.

Against that backdrop, it’s interesting to look over the findings of a major new study into the global digital government landscape by Accenture- Digital Government: Pathways to Delivering Public Services for the Future.

This finds that Singapore, Norway and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) rank first, second and third, respectively, ahead of the United States, United Kingdom, Brazil, India, Saudi Arabia, Germany and South Korea.

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So what do those numbers mean? Well, the survey’s methodology included measuring responses from 5,000 citizens in each country who use online digital platforms, analyzing digital government’s performance metrics and aggregating findings into a rankings system.

Accenture notes in the report:

New digital technologies emphasizing speed and mobility are fundamentally changing the way we live, work and interact with each other. They are providing unprecedented opportunities for governments, enabling them to radically transform their complex bureaucracies to become more agile, citizen centric and innovative.

Many countries have launched digital strategies in the last three years, but definitions of digital vary from being an umbrella term for a set of technologies and their applications (for instance, mobility, analytics, big data and cloud) to a new way of public service delivery to a holistic concept of a digital society.

The Accenture research took a 360-degree view of the digital government by combining three components:

  • The Digital Maturity assessment looks at digital strategies in our target countries and provides the overall context to a country’s digital government strategy and program, tools to deliver public services and the journey toward digital excellence.
  • The Citizen Service Experience assessment looks at current implementation levels of digital services and overall experiences in terms of usage.
  • The Citizen Satisfaction Survey assesses overall satisfaction levels of 5,000 citizens across the 10 countries surveyed.

The ten countries were ranked on a scale of 1 to 10 based on the scores from the Citizen Satisfaction Survey, Service Maturity and Citizen Service Delivery Experience.

So the UK and the US for example are found to be ahead in terms of Service Maturity, but not in terms of engagement as observed in the Citizen Satisfaction Survey. Accenture argues:

The US and UK are ahead of the pack in terms of Service Maturity, but, with some of the lowest scores in the Citizen Satisfaction Survey, which could be the result of focusing too much on driving cost efficiencies and better management of their ICT assets.

According to the report, high-performing digital governments are:

  • Focusing on their digital strategy, which is deeply embedded in the government agenda and public reforms.
  • Continuing long-term investment in key information and communication technology (ICT) assets and the digitalization of core public services, such as taxation, pensions and healthcare.
  • Leveraging the power of new technologies, such as social media, mobility, analytics, big data and cloud computing.
  • Connected across agency boundaries and have a strong culture of collaboration and data sharing.

In conducting the study, Accenture breaks the ten countries it studies into three broad categories: cutters, builders and enhancers.

Cutters are economies aiming to reduce government expenditure to balance the budget and, thus, their focus on digital programs is primarily to drive cost efficiencies. The UK and the US sit here. Accenture notes:

Countries in the Cutters category are ranked lower due to comparatively lower scores in citizen satisfaction, perhaps due to major austerity programs that may be perceived as fulfilling the government’s own imperatives. However, their clear digital strategy and well-developed infrastructure position them well for the future.

Builders are economies focusing on putting the core infrastructure in place and digitalizing key public services, as well as enabling access to large, sometimes remote, populations. Brazil, India, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates sit here. Accenture notes:

Despite some challenges, these countries show strong promise to implement digital solutions as an enabler of social progress. For instance, the UAE’s high rank owes mainly to its strong performance in citizen satisfaction and engagement, and citizens’ confidence in the future. Indeed, Saudi Arabia, the other country surveyed from the Middle East, falls behind mainly because of lower performance in Service Maturity and Citizen Service Delivery Experience.

However, developing countries India and Brazil in the Builders category have some way to go to meet citizens’ expectations and build trust in service delivery. Both the countries, despite having a long-term digital strategy and vision, fall behind in their measures on core infrastructure, service delivery experience and addressing issues of access and citizen centricity.

Enhancers are economies investing in enhancing the maturity of digital public services on the back of a strong economy and digitally engaged population. Germany, Norway, Singapore and South Korea sit here. Accenture notes:

Overall, countries in the Enhancers category perform relatively better across all dimensions in delivering world-class public services through digital. Helped along by their robust economies and well-developed ICT infrastructure, these countries have achieved a high degree of success in achieving citizen satisfaction and public service efficiencies.

Accenture’s research does confirm there is an appetite for digital delivery of public services, noting:

Citizens’ hopes and intent about public service for the future expresses a strong argument for governments to expand service provision through digital channels. When we asked the citizens for their opinion on how important is it for governments to provide more services through digital channels in the future, the results are more consistent across the reference countries—with 81 percent of the citizens considering it fairly or very important. The percentage is as high as 94 percent for the UAE, followed by 92 percent for Saudi Arabia.

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Some other key findings:

  • Overall, 64 percent of the surveyed citizens stated they already use social media or would like to use it in the future as a means of interacting with their government.
  • Overall, 69 percent of citizens are using or interested in using cloud computing.
  • Just over a third (37 percent) of surveyed citizens feel strongly or tend to agree that people who in public services have the skills and abilities needed to meet the challenges facing public services in the future.
  • Almost half (48 percent) of online citizens, say they use digital channels at least fairly often to do business with government public services.
  • Less than 40 percent of the citizens surveyed are satisfied with the quality of public services their country currently provides.

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The study also itemises the action points that respondents want to see put in place to further adoption of digital government. These include:

  • Publish information on public services so that citizens can evaluate the effectiveness.
  • Provide more services through digital channels, such as online or mobile.
  • Understand the priorities of citizens and communities better.
  • Provide services in a more cost-effective way.
  • Make sure that services are tailored to the needs of people using them.
  • Work more closely with businesses and nonprofit organizations.
  • Improve the skills of people who work in public service.
  • Improve understanding of what works well and what doesn’t.
  • Involve citizens in deciding how public services should work.
  • Respond to changes flexibly, such as adopting new technologies or an increased demand for a particular service.
  • Plan for the long term, not just the next few years.

Verdict

A very thorough look at the state of digital government on a global scale.

The national breakdowns - which we don't have time or space to cover here - bear some attention for those in public sector circles.

Overall message - the appetite is there, so go feed it!

Graphics source: Accenture