What Are The Innovation Opportunities And Challenges For The Government Digital Service?
The Government Digital Service is an online technical platform that was created to conveniently bring services closer to the people. Another objective was to reduce the time it takes to process government-provided documents and other services. This paper explores the innovative challenges and opportunities facing the GDS.
What makes the GDS innovative?
The GDS provides government services in a digital platform that consolidates similar services from the various departments. Consolidation of competing government services has enhanced operational efficiency by reducing resource wastage among departments. The key aspect of GDS’ innovation process is its scalable operating model, which matches each government department’s needs. This mode of innovation reflects Govindrajan and Trimble’s (2010) arguments on the selection of innovation leaders. In this case, the GDS implements innovation by acting as the leading change agent within the government infrastructure, via its introduction of effective IT services.
Sustainability of the GDS operating model
The GDS model categorizes each government service as a block. Therefore, these services are conveniently placed in similar locations. This presents the opportunity to scale up blocks when demand increases, and reduces them when the converse takes place (Government as a Platform, 2014). This operational model is therefore configurable to divergent degrees of consumer demand. As such, the operational model is better suited to IT infrastructure than previous government projects. The GDS platform also has an API implementation that allows third parties to access relevant government data (Government as a Platform, 2014). This has boosted the government’s openness and accountability in its service delivery.
The software, as implemented under the model, serves as the core driver for sustainability. It is easily programmable and its API implementation has enabled flexibility to hundreds of different government and private services. Therefore, statistical data can be availed to the interested parties while also earning the government some crucial revenues. For government initiatives and start-ups to be successful, there is need for openness and accountability. The online platform makes it possible to achieve this. This is a way of increasing users’ confidence in the online platform and this enables them use it more often.
The external aspects of the model reflect its unsustainability. According to Tidd, Bessant and Pavitt, (2001), innovation is a perilous journey; it is therefore, important to try to anticipate potential problems and prepare to resolve them. This was not the case for GDS. It now faces serious challenges due to inadequate planning. These challenges include inadequate financing and lack of cooperation from other government agencies. These are predictable problems that may have been offset by creating special protections for the GDS. Consequent changes in administration are likely to affect negatively the financing of the government agencies.
Ways in which the GDS has been disruptive
An innovation is disruptive when it completely supplants an industry and market, subsequently changing how people think of a service. Disruptive change is often better, more beneficial, and meaningful to society. Consumers therefore expect new services to be competitive and better suited than existing competitors (Solomon, 2010). The GDS platform came in to change the way government provides services to citizens. It has therefore been disruptive to traditional government services by offering a central IT hub where everything can be easily conducted. This has resulted in a refined experience for UK residents who consume these government services.
The GDS’ disruption is best seen through the consolidation of overlapping government services, from various departments. As a result, service consumers have been able to identify services from a central point, as opposed to inefficient sourcing from a wide array of departments. As a result, they are able to quickly identify and consume services that are relevant to them hence reducing time and resource wastage.
The GDS has been disruptive through its provision of business opportunities. The platform provides a digital marketplace that allows suppliers to commission their services and products to various government departments. This is a completely new way for the government to source critical products and services from the private sector. The platform’s implementation has served to hasten contracting while promoting efficiency and transparency in the government’s sourcing procedures. This has therefore changed the way people live and work, which is what disruptive innovation does (Palmer, 2012).
Disruption has also been observed through the GDS’ efforts in leading other government departments in adopting more integrated digital platforms as part of their mandate to residents. It is important to note that previous implementations have failed to gain traction thanks to a multitude of reasons. However, GDS disrupts traditional convention and highlights what could be done for digital service delivery. Palmer (2012) explains that once others begin their own implementations, it is clear that the innovation is disruptive. The GDS plays just this role in revolutionizing the provision of government services.
Strategies that could help GDS establish platform thinking
One of the strategies that could help GDS establish platform thinking is to encourage teamwork among the departments whose services are in for consolidation. Ebert, Chandra and Liedtke, (2008) state that pulling ideas from different departments, and understanding that each contributes in a different way, is the epitome of open innovation. This strategy could help in uniting the departments and make consolidation of services an achievable feat.
Another strategy would be the improvement the GDS’ core services such that it performs exceptionally well. Hyatt, (2012) explains that no amount of marketing expertise, operational excellence, or salesmanship overcomes a weak product. Further, if people do not want to use the product and will not recommend it to their friends, then the business platform has failed (Hyatt, 2012). Therefore, it is important to improve the product to attract users and encourage sharing and transactions. This may be achieved by sourcing more feedback from stakeholders that have invested in the platform. These could be private organizations or the public at large. Collection of feedback should enable the organization as it critiques its current services and develops new measures for the dynamic market. The GDS is well positioned to implement such an improvement as its operating model provides a foundation for feedback delivery mechanisms.
Ways that the GDS could influence the public`s use of the government`s digital platform
The GDS could use social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter to market its digital platform. It would also help if the GDS used these outlets to inform people on the changes that they have made to the online platform and other relevant updates. This would serve as a way of attracting previously dissatisfied users alongside new users to the platform. Similarly, the GDS would be able to funnel important user feedback to its platform development processes. Szmigin and Piacentini, (2014), explain that perceptual bias in consumers distorts when they receive new information about a product. Therefore, the GDS can exploit this opportunity to encourage people to use the platform. In this way, the poor perception of the online platform can turn into a positive outlook. Marketing by word of mouth is then likely to attract more users to the platform.
Another action that the GDS could take is to ensure that the online platform meets the reasonable expectations of the users. The GDS is an online platform meant to benefit the citizens. Therefore, there is need to understand the needs of the citizens and meet them (Great Britain: National Audit Office, 2013). They can do this by encouraging the citizens to take part in online surveys, where they can give their opinions on products and suggest improvements. Keeping track of the user opinions posted on social media outlets would serve as a way of gathering information on what the citizens think of the platform. Added user interaction, in matters concerning the platform, is likely to further broaden the GDS’ user base.
The GDS is an innovative platform that needs proper execution, in order to reap benefits for both the government and the platform’s users. It is clear that successful innovation relies heavily on the process of creating ideas and how their implementation in the concerned organization. For government agencies, the process is even more complicated with interdependence among departments and regime influences. However, improving the platform to meet even more user needs, and a proper implementation of social marketing would improve the situation. Such an implementation would enable the establishment of a complete feedback loop where important innovations are developed in response to user needs.
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