There’s a revolution brewing in our government. We’re now two years after the Digital Government Strategy was released, and a metamorphosis has begun to take root. One of the framework’s biggest cheerleaders, U.S. Chief Information Officer Steven VanRoekel acknowledged to me in a recent fireside chat that “transformation … is really starting to happen.”
Launched in 2012 by VanRoekel and backed by an executive order, the digital government framework has seen its fair share of challenges — as is expected with any sweeping government wide effort. A survey conducted in conjunction with FedScoop and Xerox unveiled some of these roadblocks. Government respondents cited the lack of resources and tools to enable a successful adoption. Many government respondents expressed that they didn’t feel empowered to promote new digital resources for their organization. The overall sense was that agencies feel stuck, and cannot successfully implement the strategy and get all of the pieces to fit.
But more important, digital government has provided major benefits to the government’s main customers — the American taxpayers. In fact, respondents say the number one benefit of their digital government strategy is increased communication with constituents, followed closely by being able to provide more resources and information to constituents. Many government employees ask themselves, “Are we serving our customers better than before? Do they notice and appreciate it?” As long as agencies keep committed to their service aspects and keep their citizens at the forefront when developing their strategies, they will have the answers to their questions – and it will result in improved customer satisfaction.
Open data has also gained enormous momentum following the unveiling of the Digital Government Strategy. By making open data the default, citizens and entrepreneurs can take advantage of the vast amount of information the government produces and stores. It’s not just about “unlocking” data; having it in a machine-readable format makes it easier for everyone to access. For the most part, data in its unaltered format is useless to the average citizen.
The power of open data has been touted as a way to fuel innovation and improve quality of services for the public. Liberating and sharing of government weather and GPS data are just two examples of what can happen when the government and the private industry work together. Who hasn’t heard of or used Weather.com or Foursquare, two products that embody the endless possibilities when opening up weather and GPS data? And almost on a daily basis, we hear of some new start-up using open government data to create a product for the benefit of citizens. iTriage, for example, is an app powered by open health data that allows the users to evaluate their symptoms, find the best local provider, and make an appointment with that provider.
VanRoekel called it a transformation beginning to happen. But with the backdrop of all the innovation happening in government and nationwide, I’d say it’s more of a digital government revolution on the cusp of erupting. It makes for an exciting time to be in this space and witness the endless possibilities of a truly digital government.
About the AuthorMore Content by Goldi Kamali