Make the State a Platform to speed up the development of effective public services

Thu 03 May 2018

The « e-Government » is up and running! Digitalization of public services is one of the top priorities of political agendas. Nevertheless, if e-services and mobile applications emerge in all areas of the public sphere – civil register, tax service, education -, it is still obvious that this transformation remains quite slow or not effective enough. New models are coming up to break with the traditional approaches and accelerate the industrialization of the public e-services development.

Since 2013, the United Nations have been measuring the maturity level of e-Services via the OSI index (Online Services Index). The last report confirmed the considerable lag of the African continent in terms of bringing public services online. It is partially because, for years, African governments have oriented their main investments towards the implementation of telecom infrastructures without necessarily thinking about the usages and services. There is a strong desire though, and citizens and African companies alike wish to be able to use digital tools to exchange with their administration and ease their daily life.

Even in the most advanced countries, where the UN’s OSI index is higher, indicating thus a much more abundant supply of public « e-services », we notice that this multiplication of digital services does not result in a massive adoption and that the usage remains very limited.

In France for example, according to the barometer of digital services of 2016, only 28% of individuals declared they had performed an administrative formality online, whereas 47% had checked one of their accounts (health insurance, employment agency …) and 42% had looked for information about administrative procedures. As a reminder, France is one the leading countries in the area of e-Services, ranked 8th worldwide with a OSI of 0,9420.

These figures reveal the existence of an important gap between the offering of public digital services that is very abundant in France and the actual usages, of individuals especially.

E-services which must be thought as reform proposals to rethink the citizen path and bring real progress in terms of simplification of the administration/citizen relationship

One of the explanations advanced for this weak adoption is that the bringing of services online has been considered as a simple project of digitalization of existing processes, whereas these projects should be thought as reform and simplification proposals aiming at reinventing citizen paths fitting the real needs of the users.

The same way as companies rethink their customer experience according to « moments of life » or their customers’ needs, the Governments must rethink their digital services according to a citizen-centred approach.

Quality becomes priority before quantity: setting targets in terms of number of digitalized services is no longer relevant, qualitative criteria (ease of use for example) become just as important.

A new approach towards the development of digital public services

By analyzing how the Governments of Europe, Africa and Asia proceeded to the digitalization of public services, we stated that three main approaches have been coexisting to this day:

  1. The silo approach: local initiatives taken individually by various public entities (Ministries, local communities, public institutions …). These e-services are usually developed without any common vision on technologies and data.
  2. The normative approach: structuring of « e-services » development programs via the definition of a technological and organizational framework (General Interoperability Repository, IT Security Repository …).
  3. The industrialization and the « platformization »: this new path, this new «paradigm» even, named « Platform State » is emerging. This new approach calls for substituting the one-stop-shop classic model of distributing public services with a new model in which the State would play the role of regulator and leader of a digital ecosystem by making technological and organizational resources (infrastructures, platforms, API, data …) available to all actors (citizens, companies, public officials, NGO …) to boost added-value and wealth creating services.

Two examples illustrate this new trends :

  • The first is the new approach to develop digital services of the British government: « Government as a Platform » (GaaP). This strategy is based on the provision of a range of components, platforms, data and storage capacities to all public entities. By making a base of already existing bricks available, this approach aims at facilitating, accelerating and making more affordable the creation, by the government agencies, of services perfectly suiting their users’ needs.
  • The second example that is increasingly taking shape is the French experience which aims at readapting the supply of digital services to the users’ needs by setting up an ecosystem of internal start-ups by creating attention and collaboration supports with the citizens and companies. Open data initiatives such as «Etalab », the « » API platform are taking the same direction.

Both examples question the State in its role in developing digital public services. These « open innovation » approaches acknowledge the limitations of the Government in supporting this digitalization in an effective and satisfactory manner for the users. Calling upon private companies may be a way for multiplying the capacities of « e-services » developments and speeding thus their adoption and the economic and social returns for the country.








Hicham Saoud

Head of BSS and digital governement