The US Government Is In Need of a Digital Experience Overhaul
Sean McGowanMay 15th, 20175 minute read
Sean is a technical researcher & writer at Codal, authoring blog posts on topics ranging from UX design to the Internet of Things. Working alongside developers, designers, and marketers, Sean helps support the writing team to ensure Codal produces engaging web content of the highest quality. When not writing about the latest innovations in app design, Sean can be found cooking, watching old movies, or complaining about the shortcomings of his favorite Philadelphia sports teams.
In terms of national pride, no country can touch the United States and its fervent patriotism. American’s devout belief that they’re citizens of the greatest nation on Earth has garnered them a long-standing global reputation—and in some ways, these boasts aren’t without merit.
In the 2017 Best Countries rankings, the United States held the number one spot in terms of power and international influence, and has the ninth-largest GDP in the world. But despite all of its authority, leverage, and wealth, the United States is severely lacking in one major category.
I’m referring to e-government, a catch-all term used to describe the digitization of the public sector. The UA’s Center For Technology In Government offers an alternative definition:
“E-government is the use of information technology to support government operations, engage citizens, and provide government services.”
According to the UN’s 2016 E-government Development Index, the US doesn’t even rank in the top ten. Even worse, this is only the latest drop in what has been a steadily plummeting ranking since 2010. That year the US was second in the world—by 2014 it had dropped to seventh.
For an ostensible world leader, the US doesn’t seem to be, well, leading—at least not in the realm of adapting tech for a modern, more efficient government. If America wants to substantiate its claim as the best, our public institutions need to embrace digitization.
A well-maintained eGovernment is a panacea for the typical shortcomings of the federal sector. It can reduce costs, sever red tape, streamline processes, provide transparency, promote democratic participation, and engage citizens on a national scale (just to name a few).
Other countries are recognizing the virtually limitless possibilities of e-government, and have deftly outmaneuvered America to implement this tech first.
There’s a reason European countries occupy six of the top ten spots in the countries rankings: The European Commission’s Digital Agenda is one of the seven pillars of the EU’s 2020 Strategy for growth.
The USA’s lack of a modern tech-first policy (the last major piece of e-government legislation was passed in 2002) is precisely why other countries are dominating it in the e-government arena.
To further explore the benefits of egovernment, I’ve provided a non-exhaustive list of e-government advantages, as well as a foreign country that’s already implemented a policy to achieve them.
Our nation’s leaders would do well to recognize the boon e-government has been for these countries, and hopefully look to adopt it on our home turf as well.
By offering government services & resources through mobile-friendly sites or apps, elected officials could forge a more meaningful connection to their constituents, and directly incorporate them in the democratic process.
An exemplary case is the Sweden’s e-government, which is so advanced that it has garnered the title of a “third generation e-government”. Sweden’s efforts to digitize their democracy began as early as 2000, as they looked to increase the involvement of their citizens in policymaking.This materialized as Sweden’s “24/7 Agency”, a concept where any facet of the Swedish government could be reached anytime, anywhere through phone, Internet, and now, social media. Engaging their citizens was a top priority for the Sweden, though now their digital presence has burgeoned, making them one of the top e-government’s in the world.
Though consciously designed to serve the people it governs, the public sector has always been marred by bureaucratic blockades. Red tape can often obstruct even the most trivial operations, which is why e-government looks to make all of its processes more accessible to the public.
The United Kingdom epitomizes the accessibility of e-government with a plethora of services that can not only be accessed through a desktop of mobile phone, but have decent enough UX— indicated by the whopping number of citizens actually interacting with the platforms.
For example, 85% of the United Kingdom’s citizens filed their taxes last year using the government-provided tax platform. Their Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency reported virtually all of their driving tests were booked online.
Though the citizens and environment profit off e-government, the internal workings of the public sector also reap its benefits. Modern logistical software means different offices can collaborate on centralized platforms. Automated processes can cut through red tape and reduce backlogs.
An exemplary nation of e-government, Canada’s public sector utilizes an internal, wikipedia-like platform called GCpedia. With a user base of over 150 government departments and agencies, GCpedia has been instrumental in sharing crucial information across offices, and has helped “tear down the bureaucratic barriers”.
The e-government solutions I’ve described are just a modest sample of the myriad ways countries across the globe are adapting their public sector for the digital age. These forward-thinking nations have recognized the expectations of their citizens and delivered in full.
If American governments, whether they be federal, state, or local, want to remain effective in the modern era, they should seriously consider the construction of mobile apps or websites through a web development or UX design agency.
The citizens desire is proven, the advantages are obvious, and the cost pales in comparison to the savings generated (the UK reported 1.7 billion pounds in efficiency savings).
If the United States truly wants to regain its status as the greatest country in the world, it needs to embrace e-government.