When you walk around the halls of the National Association of State Chief Information Officers, you often hear talk of “digital government.” This is not to be confused with IT governance; rather, NASCIO’s concern is with the capacity to provide government services through digital technology.
Last year, NASCIO recognized Michigan for its Michigan Education and Career Pathfinder, an online career-planning tool for those interested in navigating education and job options available in the state. Michigan won a NASCIO award for digital government because of its creative solution to its citizens’ employment challenges.
With digital government, states and localities provide for their residents in a way that makes sense for them. Digital government often comes in a mobile-friendly form so that citizens can engage with their smartphones and tablets. In advanced forms, digital government provides common online identities between services, enables crowdsourcing and supports digital assistants to field questions and help navigate services.
State and Local Agencies Should Focus on Unified Digital Services
Of course, state and local agencies can support seamless transactions for citizens by pooling their resources through a digital services organization. A single government office responsible for promulgating login credentials across a government enterprise can make digital services accessible and pleasant for everyone to use. Imagine trying to pay taxes, pay a parking ticket, or apply for an ID card or permit, and using different logins and passwords for each government function online. Ideally, one login would provide citizen access across the entire government.
A digital services organization can make such a thing reality. But to get there, state and local governments have to plan ahead. In 2018, the Public Technology Institute surveyed local governments and discovered only 32 percent of respondents have or plan to create a digital services organization, leaving 68 percent to forge ahead without one or to leave responsibilities to individual agencies.
“The delivery of digital services has become more complex as expectations increase and many new and more sophisticated users — whether residents or other departments — are utilizing government web services,” PTI says in an infographic of the survey results.
The end goal is simply good customer service. And agencies can learn a lot from the private sector on how to deliver digital services. In an article for McKinsey & Co., authors Tony D’Emidio, David Malfara and Kevin Neher say that corporate examples can lead the way for government.
“Technology has handed consumers growing power to choose how and where to buy products and services, and customer-friendly leaders such as Amazon and Apple steadily raise customer expectations for superior service ever higher. We find that how an organization delivers for customers is beginning to be as important as what it delivers,” they write.
MORE FROM STATETECH: Find out how different states are going on a smart state journey.
The Importance of Simplified Identity Management
In the report “Delivering the digital state,” Deloitte’s William D. Eggers and Steve Hurst provide some excellent guidance for government agencies seeking to transform the digital experience and bolster digital government.
Eggers and Hurst also praise Michigan. “The MILogin identity management system allows users to access state information and applications, including private data, from multiple agencies with a single sign-in,” they write. “The system uses tools such as credentials verified by a third party, strong passwords, and multifactor authentication to protect the user’s identity, with specific requirements determined by the agency that owns each application.”
Roughly 4 million Michigan residents use the system, reports Government Technology.
Thanks to careful planning and enforcement by Michigan’s Department of Technology, Management and Budget, citizens enjoy good customer service. With some planning and ingenuity, most other state and local governments can follow its example.