The future of government has arrived — early, abruptly, and without invitation. While the global pandemic magnified cracks in the workings of government (such as IT, supply chain, and back office limitations), it has also been a springboard for advancements in remote working, agile policy-making, and rapid service design.
We are approaching a new frontier — an emerging era of modern government that is customer and business centric, agile, digitally enabled, and prepared for future change.
With massive sums of stimulus money being pumped into communities and economies during the pandemic, public debts are soaring to record levels. COVID-19 triggered an unprecedented global fiscal response of about USD12 trillion, according to the International Monetary Fund’s 2020 Annual Report: A Year Like No Other.5 In response to this financial outpouring, the IMF says it has received a record number of requests for emergency aid.
Governments may understandably be tempted to offset the pandemic’s overwhelming price tag with austerity: strict new fiscal restraints that are bound to limit necesary future investment in technology, new talent, 21st century digital services, and economic growth. As governments move quickly to manage this looming debt burden, civil services will naturally be under new pressure to do more with less.
Successfully navigating the debt journey ahead will likely require governments to abandon traditional thinking when it comes to cost-cutting. They should wisely replace the typical reliance on programme cuts and funding restraints by pursuing new opportunities for programmes, investments, and innovations that underpin sustained economic growth and advancement: generating research and development, capital investment, employment opportunities, vital tax revenues, and even more radical economic stimulation initiatives.
Forward-thinking governments are already pivoting their focus toward innovative initiatives and agile regulations, working in closer partnership with private industry to grow their economies out of debt and enhance future prosperity. The three core focuses of this fiscal strategy; speed to execution, stewardship, and impact analysis, are the fundamentals of a modern agile government.
Investment in revolutionary technologies, platforms, systems and processes — ultimately reshaping governments into a newly responsive, cost-efficient, customer-centred model — is the inevitable way forward. Here, ‘customers’ refers collectively to citizens, businesses, and other stakeholders that interacting with government as a service provider and an engine for economic growth.
We believe that the focus of global governmental attention is shifting to a new model built on digital technology, cloud platforms, collaboration with other governments, and new opportunities for partnership with industry. Digital transformation is shaping modern governments into institutions whose elements are interconnected and integrated. An agile government is one that is responsive and built to put its customers at the centre of everything it does. The pandemic has given the world, and governments themselves, an unexpected but highly revealing glimpse of what could be possible. Forward-looking governments are already leveraging this momentum they have created for themselves during the pandemic to seize an unanticipated “golden opportunity” for historic innovation.
Five trends in public administration: