• Sonya Gulati, Author |
3 min read

The private sector isn’t alone in pursuing better ways to serve its stakeholders. In my public sector work, I often see teams at all levels of government delivering on their mandates with greater speed, efficiency and agility.

But it's a tricky endeavour. Even the most experienced government bodies can struggle to modernize their corners of the public realm in order to keep up with public needs and demands. Success, however, often comes to those who combine new and emerging technologies with innovative strategies, incremental changes and people-centred frameworks.

I can’t claim to hold the secrets to modernizing governments. I can, however, suggest which parts of the public sector are poised for evolution, and where governments are already moving the needle.

It begins with tech

It's impossible to begin a conversation about modernizing the public sector (or any sector) without addressing the game-changing technology in the room: generative artificial intelligence (generative AI). Advances in generative AI, machine learning and large language models are giving governments the means to gather, organize and analyze public data at vast new levels and scopes. This, in turn, is enabling decision-makers to reshape and refine programs and services so they are more attuned to the people they serve.

Make no mistake: generative AI is an impactful tool for modernizing how governments operate. It is instrumental in automating decision-making systems, optimizing budgets and resource allocation processes, advancing how we develop infrastructure, and providing leaders with the real-time insights they need to respond to emerging public trends, preferences and needs. At the same time, generative AI has the power to “recode" how essential services are managed and delivered, posing considerable time and resource savings for crucial services such as law enforcement, emergency response, healthcare, and a multitude of other public sector offerings across the board.

I could write at length about how AI can—and in some places already is—being wielded to spark government modernization projects around the world. Suffice it for now to say that as solutions take shape in government offices across Canada, I expect we’ll see generative AI used with greater frequency (alongside other advances like cloud computing, data analytics and centralized platforms) to:

  1. Enhance the customer/citizen experience by creating centralized and omnichannel platforms (e.g., Ontario's Digital for Health strategy, Estonia's e-prescription network), creating centralized service hubs for popular services (e.g., Canada's online passport renewal program), and using AI and data analytics to identify how public sector services are being used and in what ways they can be improved (e.g., fast-tracking maternity and parental benefits applications).
  2. Strengthen public trust by leveraging more accessible and responsive communication channels to maintain transparency with the public.
  3. Improve resource utilization by using generative AI in concert with data analytics tools and platforms to allocate funds, employees and resources more effectively.
  4. Be more responsive by combining technologies like generative AI and the Internet of Things to create “digital twins” of a given jurisdiction’s operations to gain more timely and accurate insights that can enable more informed decision-making.
  5. Safeguard against modern cyber threats by adopting the most effective cybersecurity systems, protocols and best practices for ensuring the resiliency of government services and operations.

Beyond the ones and zeroes

It begins with tech, but modernizing government is about more than that. More broadly, it's about making incremental changes that ripple into large-scale transformations. Perhaps it's as simple as incorporating daily reminders that encourage government employees to prioritize the user experience. Maybe it's a more in-depth initiative, such as governments taking steps to become ”community platforms” that provide the public with access to a hub of linked business capabilities that offer the services they need to thrive in their communities.

Companies and for-profit organizations aren't the only ones intent on modernizing their operations. Fortunately, there are ample ways the public sector can pursue modernization for the benefit of its people, and I am proud to work with many teams making the investments and incremental changes to do just that. Join me for future posts, where I'll dig deeper into the ways in which governments stand to gain most from modernization initiatives and where real-world examples are already pointing the way.

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