Why there's an urgent need for flexible citizen services

To tackle service delivery challenges and better meet the diverse needs of today’s citizens, government agencies are turning to technology that supports collaboration and boosts productivity. Microsoft’s Tim Turitto explains what steps are being taken to serve populations in a more effective and efficient way

Sean Dudley
Sean Dudley
By Sean Dudley on 02 May 2018
Why there's an urgent need for flexible citizen services
This article first appeared in the Spring 2018 issue of The Record.

Across all geographies, local and national government agencies are having to deal with changing populations. Communities are growing and becoming more diverse in nature, and the need for public sector organisations to provide the best education, healthcare, work and social care services is only increasing.

“Government agencies are facing dwindling budgets and an ageing and retiring workforce,” says Tim Turitto, worldwide general manager for Government at Microsoft. “At the same time, there continues to be increased expectations from the public for an expanded set of more citizen-centric services.”

Within government services, there is an inherent need to move with citizens as their expectations and way of life changes and develops. For example, with millennials now entering the workforce, it’s vitally important that agencies operate on the levels that this new type of citizen is most familiar with.

“Collaboration and productivity tools are at a premium, but technology solutions that enable mobility are allowing governments to enable a modern workplace and attract the millennial workforce,” Turitto says.

Furthermore, government organisations often have complex networks of people in different roles and locations. By identifying and adopting effective technologies that boost levels of connection and help enhance work processes, government agencies can stay one step ahead of the game, while remaining inclusive.

“Governments are dealing with the challenges of an ageing population and providing the necessary and specialised services to meet their needs along with a growing millennial population that demands real-time and personalised services,” he says. “Data analytics and the cloud provides government with the ability to design these specialised services in such a way to meet the needs of a particular demographic.”

Though government agencies are always looking to improve their internal processes, it’s vital they continue to connect with citizens. Doing this in a personalised and empathetic way can enhance the user experience and ensure citizen services are used effectively and frequently, with technology playing a key role.

Turitto explains: “Given the ever-changing demographics of citizens for governments all over the world, technologies such as multi­lingual chatbots are increasing the ability of government agencies to communicate more effectively with a diverse citizenry.”

One key area government agencies are consistently looking to improve is transportation. Finland-based Microsoft partner PayiQ delivers a mobile payment solution running on the Microsoft Azure cloud platform that allows citizens to move around their cities in a more streamlined and efficient way. This presents government organisations with the opportunity to revolutionise transportation in urban areas.

“Our solution offers multi-modal ticketing for transport and helps increase the usage of public transportation, thereby reducing pollution and minimising traffic jams,” says Tuomo Parjanen, CEO of PayiQ. “We’ve seen an increase in digital tickets on mobile platforms combined with common digital payments methods. There’s also been an increased focus on offering ticket validation to minimise fraud. Another trend is ride shares via things like city bikes and on demand taxi services. Our ticketing-as-a-service platform supports all the above requirements and can be built into third party applications.”

An example of Microsoft technology being harnessed by a government organisation to bring about a series of positive changes comes from the Netherlands, where the municipality of Hollands Kroon has embraced the concept of digital transformation.

The city chose to build its infrastructure in the Microsoft cloud, and now uses a variety of Microsoft cloud and productivity services including the Microsoft Azure cloud platform. This has actively helped increase the mobility of government workers in Hollands Kroon.

“Our employees take advantage of mobile apps to work from anywhere, and we use Microsoft collaboration tools to streamline workflows and manage documents here in the office,” said Arthur Cremers, director for the municipality of Hollands Kroon, in a Microsoft blog post. “The tools make it easy for teams to work together and to collaborate with colleagues on other teams, and the fact that so much is done digitally makes the office virtually paperless. We are more efficient – with fewer meetings but more collaboration – and our rates of sickness and absence are extremely low. Our IT team is freed up from day-to-day systems management so they can spend more time focusing on projects that serve our citizens.”

This is the kind of shift in operations Microsoft is aiming to introduce to more and more municipalities moving forward, and ultimately support the efforts of government agencies when it comes to serving citizens.

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