Accelerating Digital transformation in the Public Administration: advantages and opportunities

Digital transformation in the Public Administration is at a turning point, and there are great opportunities for acceleration. 

An efficient, agile, and smart Public Administration must become a reality as soon as possible; digitization is the main path companies need to follow to make it happen. The transition to digital can no longer be postponed; the time to act is now, especially in this complicated period, where much of the world has experienced an unprecedented health emergency, one that has triggered serious economic consequences.

However, the panorama before us is not all negative. This crisis has been a real watershed. As always, in the midst of so many difficulties, the new opportunities to be seized have already emerged with great force. In this “new world,” most of the new opportunities are related to Digital transformation, specially in Public Administration.

 

Public Administration situation in Italy post Covid phase

In Italy, the post Covid-19 can turn into a great opportunity to fill some of the gaps that still separate us from the highest European standards. It’s a unique opportunity, above all, to move ahead of the competition. 

To look at the current situation in Italy, the latest report DESI (Digital Economy and Society Index, available here), which monitors the progress of the digital agendas of all European countries, is a good starting point.

In the general ranking, Italy is far behind: 24th out of 28. Italy must be able catch up on several fronts: connectivity, human capital, the effective use of Internet services, the integration of digital technologies by businesses, and digital public services.

The good news is that progress has already begun. The proof is in the numbers: the overall score for Italy has gone from 38.9 in 2018 to 43.9 in 2019; this is an increase of 5 points, compared to 2.7 points of the European average. In the last year of research, it’s Italy that has recorded the most significant growth.

What should we do now, after this period of emergency? Consolidate this trend; and accelerate it. The Public Administration has a central role to play in this, and it must become ever more crucial. The dynamics of the PA, in fact, have a decisive impact on almost every type of business, on the administrative and economic system in general, and especially on the lives of all citizens. This is why it’s essential to start from here.

 

It’s a question of “dematerialization”

Digitization and dematerialization are not synonyms. And this is really important as far as Public Administration is concerned. The difference between these two concepts has a decisive impact on the legal and operational level.

So what do we mean when we talk about dematerialization? In short, it’s a process through which physical documents are replaced with a paperless and digital system where digital versions assume the same legal and evidentiary value as their physical counterparts. 

For the Italian Public Administration, dematerialization began with Legislative Decree n.82 of 7 March 2005 (source docs.italia.it), which sanctioned the birth of Italy’s Digital Administration Code (CAD). Since then, things have come a long way, as evidenced by the 29 updates to the CAD. In particular, an important turning point in this area has been the introduction of electronic invoicing, which is a truly central theme. For transactions between businesses and the Public Administration, it is estimated that the digitization of the full order cycle could lead to savings of €6.5 billion every year (source: agendadigitale.eu).

More generally, with dematerialization, the electronic document replaces the paper document. The digital signature takes the place of the handwritten signature; traditional mail is replaced by email; and Certified Electronic Mail (PEC) takes the place of registered mail and fax. And, above all, the digital archive replaces the traditional paper archive. All of this translates into a surge in efficiency, significant cost savings and also savings of time invested in relations between the PA and citizens. Then there is the increase in security and reliability, the ease of sharing information and documents (to learn more about the many advantages of the digital document over the analog one, see this post on our blog).

That’s not all; with digitization (and dematerialization) the Public Administration becomes “closer” to citizens. We’ll learn about this in the next paragraph. And, later in this post, we’ll look at a successful case study. Let’s see all the advantages and opportunities of digital transformation in Public Administration.

 

The citizen at the center: how to learn from the best Customer Experiences

The role of the customer is very different from that of the citizen. The customer knows that if the quality of a service or product does not satisfy him, he can turn to another company. Of course, companies know this too, and they operate accordingly.

The citizen, on the other hand, operates within a determined and established regulatory framework, which, ideally, should be both transparent and easily accessible. However, in the midst of all these decisive differences, there are points of contact that must be considered. This is why the more enlightened Public Administrations are starting to look more and more at the dynamics of Customer Experience in the private sector, imitating its best practices, especially on the digital side.

What does this mean in concrete terms?

First of all, this will require a focus on the usability of digital services, which must be user-friendly, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, optimized in omnichannel mode, with particular attention to mobile. Therefore, Public Administrations must be able to take advantage of tools for data collection, analysis, and interpretation. This allows them to better know the “citizen-users”, their characteristics, their online behavior, their needs. 

Such knowledge about the target audience is the first step for the continuous improvement of its processes and services, and to establish an efficient and fruitful dialog that is tailored in a one-to-one perspective. All of this impacts the citizen’s perception of any type of administration, especially in critical or emergency phases (such as the current one).

Another key word to keep in mind is “disintermediation”. Here, procedures that wasted time and the patience of citizens, and the senseless expenditure of public resources are going away! Today disintermediation passes through a Public Administration that knows how to operate online — with functional and practical websites — and that is also at ease on social networks, where the administration makes it easy to communicate with citizens, also through dedicated apps.

It is clear that, in order to implement a coherent, effective, and global strategy, public administrations will need to collaborate with specialized companies who have the specific expertise in this area. The end result of these operations, of this digital transformation of the relationship between PA and citizens, is the creation of a close relationship of trust, from which everyone benefits.

 

Dialog with citizens through personalized videos: the case of the Municipality of Cesena

Today, it’s fundamental for Public Administrations to establish a tailor-made, one-to-one, and digital dialog with citizens. Let’s look at an example that is based on two ingredients: the medium of video and personalization. The combination of these two ingredients takes communications to a truly unprecedented level of effectiveness.

Forbes, in an article, defined the combination of video and personalization as “the ultimate marketing breakthrough that brands need”. It’s not just for brands, however; the Public Administration also needs such tools to communicate with citizens.

The Municipality of Cesena decided to implement digitization for all of the touchpoints between citizens and the administration, from the discovery and access to services, to the management of deeds and documents, up to the fulfilment of tax obligations. By collaborating with Doxee, it was able to take this even further, through personalization for the collection of the Tari tax. 

In this scenario, the citizen receives via email a video that is built uniquely for them (thanks to data collection, starting from the information collected when they register on the site), and information about their property. This communication provides a detailed explanation of how the tax is calculated and how the revenue produced is used. Another fundamental element of the communication: It’s interactive. Through personalized call-to-action, the citizen is immediately and simply directed to perform a variety of actions, from updating property data, to customer service, to the payment process (to learn more, check out the case study, here).

In this way, a traditionally slippery and unpleasant touchpoint is transformed into an opportunity for dialog between the PA and the citizen, one that is transparent and confidence-building.

Here, in conclusion, is the real revolution of Digital Transformation in Public Administration: putting  the citizen at the center of things.

 

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