Exploring Costa Rica: Progress And Challenges In Digital Government Transformation

Jennifer Belissent, Ph.D.

Vacations are over – or at least mine is – but I’ve brought home some of mine for homework.  Yes, I did a little work while on vacation. While in Costa Rica this summer, I had the opportunity to meet with the country’s Director of Digital Government, Alicia Avendaño Rivera. 

Governments worldwide recognize the power of “going digital.” The recently announced US Digital Service and the appointment of its dedicated Administrator illustrate a commitment on the part of the US Federal government.  Yet the US is merely joining others who have made similar commitments to transforming government with a focus on efficiency, effectiveness, transparency and empowering citizens and businesses through new digital technologies.  Alicia Avendaño has served as Costa Rica’s Director of Digital Government since 2009.

Costa Rica Digital Government initiatives address four main goals:

  • G2C: Government to Citizen – citizen oriented services
  • G2B Government to Business – rapid and transparent business services
  • G2G: Government to Government – efficient and interconnected services
  • Infrastructure – favorable ICT infrastructure and legal framework
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The Data Digest: Variation In Tax Preparation Behaviors Among US Online Adults

Anjali Lai

Do industry innovations change the consumer or do consumer demands change the industry? That's the question when looking at how US online adults prepare their annual income tax returns. When the IRS ceased its mailings of paper forms before the 2011 tax season, approximately 15 million more consumers began filing their taxes online. But would this have happened anyway? We could argue that as media consumption, financial management, shopping transactions, and other traditional behaviors moved online, it’s only natural that consumers’ tax filing practices would have too.

At a subliminal level, the decision about how to file taxes speaks to one's comfort level with new technology, sensitivity to data privacy, desire for convenience, and embrace of old habits. Our Consumer Technographics® data shows a variation in how US online adults prepare their taxes: While 33% defer to professionals, 27% file their own taxes by downloading computer software, and 22% do so through a website. One in 10 of these consumers still files taxes by hand using paper forms.

 

 

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To Name Your Price Is To Know Your Price: SmartProcure Brings Data Sharing To Public Procurement

Jennifer Belissent, Ph.D.

So you need some work done that you’ve never had done before or you need to buy something you’ve never bought before.  What should you pay?  That can be a tough question.  What seems reasonable? Sometimes we set arbitrary rules. It’s OK if it’s under $50 or under $100. But that’s just a reassurance that you’re not getting ripped off too badly. Certainly the best way to avoid that outcome is to know how much that service or thing is worth, or at least know what others have paid for the same thing.

Fortunately now, in the age of the customer, that’s easier to find out. Price information for most consumer goods is easier to come by, making the buying process more efficient. But what about governments? We’ve all heard about the $600 toilet seat or the $400 hammer. Stories of government spending excess and mismanagement abound. Some are urban legends or misrepresentations. Others have legs — such as the recent reports of Boeing overcharging the US Army. While these incidents are likely not things of the past, open data initiatives have made significant progress in exposing spending data and improving transparency. Citizens can visit sites such as USAspending.gov for US federal government spending or "Where Does My Money Go?" for details on UK national government spending, and most large cities publish spending as well.

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CIOs Are Leading The Mobile Mind Shift In The Australian Government

Tim Sheedy

Over the past few months I have spoken with a lot of CIOs, customer experience professionals, marketing professionals, and BT strategists in both the public and private sectors in Australia about their organization’s or department’s mobile strategy. This culminated in a number of meetings in Canberra last week, where I got a great feel for how mobile strategies are playing out within the Australian federal government.

While there is a broad spectrum of maturity when it comes to embracing the mobile mind shift, the good news is that everyone I spoke with recognized not only how important mobility is to existing business processes, but also that mobile will transform their customer base and their organization.

It was interesting to note that the conversations I’ve been having with private-sector organizations about mobility usually involve both someone from the CIO’s department and someone from marketing (sometimes CX, sometimes management, sometimes channels). Mobile initiatives are generally partnerships; while the business side leads these initiatives, they also involve the technology department. In contrast, in the public sector the mobile initiative is often led by the technology department — and often by the CIO herself.

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Sharing Is More Than Caring: Shared Services Enable Public Sector Tech Upgrades

Jennifer Belissent, Ph.D.

As we all learned as kids, it's nice to share.  That holds true for public sector organizations as well, particularly in tough times. Public sector organizations don't have the privilege of dialing back on scope in challenging economic times. In fact, when the going gets tough, government organizations often have to kick into high gear. And that was the case with state unemployment insurance (UI) programs in the US, which saw spikes in applications when the economy slumped.  But in most states the technology infrastructure wasn’t up to the task.  

  • Legacy systems were on life-support... Colorado’s 25-year-old COBOL-based mainframe systems continued to process unemployment insurance claims, but it was increasingly difficult and costly to find the "doctors" to keep it alive. They had to bring developers out of retirement to maintain it.  State officials knew it was only a matter of time before they had to pull the plug on their system.
  • …and just weren’t up to the task. Not only did the “look and feel” leave a lot to be desired, the legacy system failed to deliver. The system ran processes in batch mode, meaning that data was typically collected over a period of time (daily, weekly, or monthly) and processed into the system at the end of the period. Daily downtime for processing excluded the possibility of 24-hour availability or even extended hours. The delays and lack of availability frustrated end users who wanted or needed real-time or near-real-time information to make decisions.
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NARA To Software Vendors: Help Government Rethink Records Management

Cheryl McKinnon

On September 10, the US National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) hosted an interactive panel discussion to educate solution providers, vendors, and the broader records management community on an opportunity to help shape the future of records management (RM) inside government. A follow-up activity to the August 2012 Presidential Directive on RM, this panel is a call to action to software vendors, consultants, and subject matter experts who care about moving the records profession in public sector out of the “mental model” of paper.

Important links include: the agenda (PDF) and the two-part event recording, hosted on the NARA UStream External Engagement channel, and the RFI (closes October 4, 2013).

My take? If you are a software vendor, consultant, records management practitioner, or a software developer looking for inspiration, listen to the videos. There is some important stuff there, with the US federal government demonstrating some true leadership in rethinking the oft-maligned records management software system. What does NARA want? Fresh systems, more automation, and a readiness to divorce from the construct of paper that has limited our progress in tackling e-records.

The discussion and sense of urgency here supports the trends and we’re seeing here at Forrester in this area. (See recommended reports and blog links at the bottom of this post.) Our research shows that RM programs today struggle to get consistent user adoption, align related initiatives (like RM, archiving, and eDiscovery), capture new content sources like social and mobile, and get over fear of the cloud.

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Bringing The Public Back Into Public Safety Through Citizen Engagement

Jennifer Belissent, Ph.D.

For some reason public safety has been a hot topic for me of late. I recently presented at ZTE’s Public Safety Summit in Dubai, where there was an audience of public safety officials and telecommunications ministry representatives from the Middle East and Africa. One element of the presentation that sparked interest and audience questions was citizen engagement. 

We often think of public safety in terms of emergency services – police, fire, and ambulance; and, for many people, public safety first conjures up images of the police chasing bad guys – likely the effect of too many TV shows like Cops or Southland. But as I defined it in a previous blog, public safety covers a broad range of issues that touch a city’s inhabitants: crime prevention, traffic control, health services, public infrastructure management, and any of a list of emergency services including those for natural disasters such as earthquakes and flooding or incidents like urban wildlife sightings as well as fire or riots.

In order to better act as the eyes and ears of the city – particularly given the mandate of doing more with less – many public safety organizations are returning to a kind of community policing – through better engagement with citizens. This isn’t a new concept. 

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The Key To Being A Smart City Is Good Governance: “Smart Governance”

Jennifer Belissent, Ph.D.

What’s it take to be a smart city? Is it smart transportation, such as sensors in parking spaces that call out to drivers like sirens calling to Ulysses as he headed back to Ithaca? Or parking meters sending SMS messages to alert those parked that their time is up, like a baby bird calling to be fed? Is it smart buildings that turn the lights on when you enter or off when you leave? Is it smart waste management? Is it smart energy grids? Is it smart water systems? Or smart administration? All of these help make city services and operations more efficient. But the real key to being smart is to have an overall management system that allows leaders to coordinate across these smart systems, capturing and sharing the data generated and using it to inform new policies and city programs. Smart cities require good – “smart” – governance and the processes and tools that enable it.

Increasingly, city leaders are adopting enterprise management practices – and technologies – in order to improve city governance. Smart city leaders:

  • Match budgeted spending with performance objectives.
  • Adopt enterprise apps such as EAM, ERP, and CRM in shared or cloud models.
  • Appoint professional operational and IT management to coordinate.
  • Implement regular process and performance reviews – and supporting technologies.
  • Establish integrated reporting for greater transparency.
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CIO Tips From The Gov2.0 Summit

Nigel Fenwick

As I reflect back on the highlights from the Gov2.0 Summit last week (and read back through my Tweets), it's easy to identify the underlying theme that seemed to resonate throughout the event:

Governments need to open up access to data to allow nongovernment groups (private enterprise) to develop citizen-friendly applications that leverage the data in new and useful ways.

The very first session highlighted some fascinating public transport services created on top of open government data (see embedded video below).

 

A Case for Open Data in Transit

There were certainly some compelling arguments made in favor of this approach — not the least being that it's a highly cost-effective way to provide improved services to taxpayers who ultimately foot the bill for government IT efforts. As an investor in government IT (I pay taxes), I'm fully supportive of anything that improves services and reduces costs!

One of the most memorable quotes came early on from Carl Malamoud when, in his opening keynote, he suggested, "If we can put a man on the moon, surely we can launch the Library of Congress into cyberspace." (See his keynote below).

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Can Challenge.Gov Empower A Nation?

Nigel Fenwick

On September 7, 2010, US Federal CIO Vivek Kundra (Office of Management and Budget) joined with Federal CTO Aneesh Chopra (Federal Office of Science and Technology Policy) and Bev Godwin (Director, Center for New Media and Citizen Engagement, U.S. General Services Administration) to announce the launch of Challenge.gov at the Gov2.0 Summit.

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