Delivering new levels of citizen engagement

Over the last 15 months, governments around the world have had to rapidly adapt their services to communities. Julia Glidden gives an insight into some of the ways that Microsoft and its partner ecosystem are enabling change

Delivering new levels of citizen engagement

Public sector services are many and varied, and the interfaces between service providers and citizens are all different. But during the Covid-19 pandemic, crucial engagements have been possible thanks to effective technology. 

“Throughout the pandemic, we have seen strong civic engagement at the local city government level, particularly when it comes to information-sharing and communications related to Covid-19 cases, vaccine distribution, school closures, and hybrid or fully remote work and education policies,” says Dr Julia Glidden, corporate vice president of worldwide public sector at Microsoft.  

“City governments have also focused on helping people who are out of work with unemployment benefits and social services, in addition to workforce skilling and job placement programmes. Agencies have further supported local economies through small business licensing and registration, as well as loans and grants.” 

A recent Harvard Business Review white paper highlighted the digital transformation imperative for public sector organisations to enhance their delivery of digital services. Glidden believes that the success of this digital transformation journey relies on Microsoft’s continued work with trusted partners.  

“Partners play an integral role in enabling public sector organisations to move quickly toward cloud, developing products and solutions that solve mission-specific needs and connecting these solutions into the broader businesses we serve,” she says. 

One strong example of partnership in action is the development of a best-in-class MyGovID platform that provides safe and secure online public services for Irish citizens. The system was built on the Azure Active Directory B2C platform in close collaboration between the Irish Government’s Department of Social Protection, Deloitte, and Microsoft Engineering teams to give Irish citizens a simple way to verify their identity and access social services. 

The pandemic has likewise highlighted long-standing inequities in education whilst sparking significant shifts in engagement. “Education leaders are now more engaged in procuring devices and ensuring access for their students, whilst using data insights and technology to support student success,” says Glidden. “Meanwhile, partnerships are emerging between universities and commercial enterprise to support workforce development and employability pathways.” 

Microsoft and its partners have been helping colleges, universities and schools more effectively serve their students throughout the pandemic with accessible and inclusive solutions that support hybrid and blended learning; and technologies such as Dynamics and PowerApps, which provide data insights and dashboards. 

“The shift we are witnessing in teaching and learning has catalysed discussions about digital transformation in education like never before,” says Glidden. “We in the technology industry must remain focused on supporting education leaders in continuing to drive these changes and helping educators adapt to hybrid, blended and flexible learning models.”  

School-age students are not the only ones affected by this education technology reform. 

“We have also launched programmes such as Career Coach for professional development and digital skilling to help the workforce of the future thrive in a digital economy,” Glidden explains. “I am particularly proud that Microsoft has helped more than 30 million people – unemployed due to Covid-19 – to develop digital skills through an initiative that uses data to identify in-demand jobs and provides free access to learning paths.  

“We believe that supporting teachers, learners and tomorrow’s workers and entrepreneurs will be vital for an inclusive economic recovery and higher levels of citizen engagement worldwide.” 

While some governments and businesses have shifted their focus to life beyond the pandemic, others continue to struggle with the healthcare crisis. Microsoft is continuing to drive healthcare best practices. 

“We have provided technology platforms to enable health and human services organisations and their clients to remain connected throughout the pandemic,” Glidden says. For example, the Government of India engaged Microsoft and partner Accenture to build an innovative platform that provided over one billion citizens with essential and timely public health information through an artificial intelligence-enabled chatbot. 

Microsoft’s public health efforts include the Microsoft Vaccination Management, which is being scaled worldwide through a large network of partners, including Accenture, EY and Mazik Global. “Microsoft has built first-party solutions to fight Covid-19 and help distribute vaccines, and we work with our partners to support the unique needs of clients worldwide based on their geography, readiness and limitations,” says Glidden. 

The pandemic has driven organisations across all industries worldwide to rethink their philosophy for technology adoption and increase investments in digital for more efficient delivery of public services, according to new research by the Economist Intelligence Unit. 

“Countries around the world are increasingly embracing innovation and change across the public sector to better overcome shared global challenges,” says Glidden. “Our public sector clients all share the same mission. Our role in the tech industry is to help them harness the power of digital to put people at the centre of everything. 

“The public sector is breaking down traditional siloes and adapting to new ways of working, living and learning, partnering together with the private sector to drive a fundamental shift in the way the whole of government works. The digitally transformed government of tomorrow will harness the power of cloud, data and artificial intelligence to seamlessly integrate digital technologies into everyday life. Ultimately, if we get the model right, engaging with government will be as easy as talking with a friend.” 

Partner perspectives 
We asked a selection of Microsoft partners how they are using Microsoft products and services to help public sector organisations maintain public services whilst effectively engaging with citizens. Below are extracts from their responses, which you can read in full from page 134 of the digital edition of the Summer 2021 issue of The Record

Steve Witt, public sector director at Nintex, said: “Government agencies leveraged the Nintex Process Cloud along with the Microsoft 365 and Azure cloud platforms to modernise or create new solutions to quickly and easily get citizens the services and benefits they needed while being unable to go to a government office.” 

Venkata Koppada, executive director at Sagitec, said: “Since Sagitec’s inception in 2004, our solutions, powered by our low-code/no-code platform, Xelence, have helped our clients build complex enterprise systems in the pension, labour and employment, and healthcare industries.” 

Paul Scholey, senior vice president, international, BlueJeans by Verizon, said: “To reduce costs while maintaining safety and operations, tools like the BlueJeans Gateway, our software-as-a-service cloud video interop solution certified for Microsoft Teams, can get conference rooms up and running into Teams meetings within a matter of minutes, keeping the lines of communication open for those in the office and on the go.” 

Jared Pelo, chief medical information officer of Dragon Ambient eXperience at Nuance Communications, said: “Nuance DAX is primed to lead healthcare’s return to the ideal model of the physician-patient relationship, practicing medicine the way it used to be, with human conversation once again at its core.” 

Peter Molyneux, general manager at Crossware, said: “Crossware Mail Signature helps put government organisations at the forefront of modern communication methods, keeping them relevant in a multimedia age.” 

Melissa Topp, senior director of global marketing at ICONICS, said: “We develop software that can help government agencies connect to a wide range of data from multiple varied sources that can be visualised for monitoring and control, collected and contextualised quickly by a historian, delivered to connected field service workers for on-the-go insights, and then analysed for rapid decision-making – all while leveraging the power of Microsoft’s Azure cloud services.” 

Mick McNeil, vice president of business development, Leading Microsoft Business Unit at Logicalis, said: “Our partnership with Microsoft allows us to combine industryleading technology platforms with our extensive knowledge and expertise to accelerate global digital transformations.” 

This article was originally published in the Summer 2021 issue of The Record. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription.

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