Governments worldwide need to rise to the challenge of digitising their data. Today a number of countries stand out from the pack.

Public sector digitisation bringing productivity gains

The authorities in many countries are still dragging their feet when it comes to digitising government data. However, the digital transformation is now regarded as key to improving the efficiency and productivity of public administration. An article published in December by global management consulting firm McKinsey, entitled ‘Public Sector Digitization: the trillion dollar challenge’, states that the “analysis suggests that capturing the full potential of government digitization could free up to $1 trillion annually in economic value worldwide, through improved cost and operational performance.” Many countries have now grasped the importance of becoming a ‘digital’ country, from both the economic and the civic viewpoint. Today over 130 countries have worked out what needs to be done as regards putting public administration data online and have started rolling out online government services.

Substantial cost savings available

In 2012 the UK government launched, which serves as a one-stop information hub for all government departments. The launch “marked the creation of one of the most accessible digital-government services in the world,” say the McKinsey report authors. Leading the project to set up the website was the UK’s Government Digital Service, which called on the experience of digital leaders from various different administrative departments. According to government estimates, saved £42 million (€54 million) in government spending within a year of its launch. In the same vein, Denmark set up IT Projektraad, a digitisation council reporting to the Ministry of Finance, to collect data and provide reports assessing the returns on Danish government spending in the IT field. This move has enabled the government to reduce unnecessary investments and has moreover fostered closer collaboration between individual government departments.

Improving structural efficiency

In 2011, the Netherlands released i-NUP, which the McKinsey team describe as a “government-wide implementation agenda for e-government services, to prioritize citizen- or user-centred design by boosting convenience and trimming red tape.” One result has been that the number of visits to the municipal offices in Rotterdam fell by around 50% from 2010 to 2013, a great success for Logius, the national digital-governance agency, which is a key player in the overall project.

Since 2009 the US administration has been one of the most active in drawing on available data to support government decision-making. It has already made more than 85,000 data sets available to businesses and citizens via the website, thus greatly facilitating entrepreneurial project research and development. Digitising data may also help to protect strategic infrastructure and confidential information. For example the UK government has set up the UK Fusion Cell, which brings experts from government and the private sector together in an information-sharing and threat-analysis hub for the purpose of detecting and responding more quickly to potential cyber-attacks and threats to critical systems.

By Pauline Canteneur