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The Top Challenges Facing Government in a Digital World

The world today is digital: We shop online, stream our movies and music, and can find the answer to nearly any question with a quick search. Because of that, the modern citizen expects a similar, easy-to-use experience from the public sector.

That means one thing: If your agency isn’t modernizing and planning for the future, it has already fallen behind.

But nobody would say change comes easily. Earlier this year, we surveyed hundreds of public servants to get a pulse on the current and upcoming landscape of digital in government. We published the findings in the 2018 State of Digital report.

A portion of the report is dedicated to identifying the most-common challenges government faces as it moves to digital. Here are the top four that we found:

Keeping citizens engaged and active

The pressure to modernize is coming primarily from outside of government. Nearly half (48 percent) of survey respondents said a lack of digital strategy and tools for reaching and engaging citizens was their top technology challenge. As was mentioned in the intro to this blog, citizens can already perform nearly any task imaginable with a few taps on their phone – they expect the same from government.

Being overrun by paper-based processes

Paper was once the only way for government to get the job done while being able to keep a record of that work for later reference. That’s no longer the case, as paper is now an expensive, time-consuming and environmentally destructive obstacle to getting work done compared to alternatives like digital agenda or records management tools. One-third of respondents said they were swamped with the amount of paper they had to deal with.

Pinellas County, Florida was one such city. It managed all of its county board meetings with paper, which necessitated hundreds, if not thousands, of pages of paper each time. Agenda creation was a nightmare, because the paperwork needed to be shuffled from department to department and between offices, where it would sometimes get lost on somebody’s desk, requiring the person in charge of the item to run around looking for it. Once they modernized, they were able to cut agenda item approval time to just three weeks—a 75 percent reduction compared to when they used paper.

Constrained by legacy systems

The unique procurement procedures, especially in federal government, means that upgrading to new technology can take a long time. In fact, about one out of every five respondents identified it as their top technology challenge.

It should come as no surprise, then, that government is increasingly embracing cloud-based solutions. Cloud (or Software as a Service, also shortened to SaaS) provide a more bite-sized approach that less upfront capital intensive, while still offering significant security, cost and innovation benefits.

Accomplishing more with less

It seems that every year, government is given a longer task list without a budget to match. Nearly two-thirds of respondents (73 percent) said they’d need an increase in their budget to overcome the technology challenges in their organization.

Government faces many challenges as it modernizes, but there’s one thing that’s clear: Public servants aren’t sitting still. Instead, they’re rising to the challenge of delivering citizen services in new and innovative ways. The future of government is bright.

Want to learn more about digital trends in government? Check out our 2018 State of Digital report.