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The Future of Government

Moving from reactive to predictive service delivery

By Randall Smith

One interaction that flies under the radar in the everyday life of the average New Zealander is their interactions with government. Some are obvious, such as applying for a tax return, or checking the balance of your Kiwisaver account. Others are less clear, such as going to the doctors where your health information is managed, maintained, and updated by a variety of public and private sector entities. Difficulties arise during these interactions, particularly when several different agencies are involved, juggling versions of correct and incorrect information. If you stumble at any stage of this process… time to start again. The reality is, knowing all the correct information up front, or what services are available, isn’t simple. The above scenario demonstrates a reactive model of service delivery, and it’s not adequately servicing a modern citizen.

In response to these challenges, the New Zealand Government has committed to transforming itself, increasingly through the adoption of innovative IT solutions, and a citizen centred service approach. However research is demonstrating the future of government will require further transformation to enable Predictive Service Delivery.

Predictive Service Delivery (PSD) harnesses the power of vast quantities of citizen data in tandem with cutting edge technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), automation, and the Internet of Things (IoT). Fintech’s have been a leader in this space. Take Envestnet-Yodlee, and its AI FinCheck offering that aggregates data, to guide smart spending behaviours and improve overall financial health. In combination with these technologies, a model of digital government is required where all services are delivered to citizens over a digital platform sets the foundation for PSD. To ensure timeliness and accuracy of operation there must be a singular record for each citizen, to trigger the service delivery process. Let’s take one scenario to explore PSD idea in more depth.

Public Safety and Justice is an important issue for all governments. Any advances made in this space has a big impact in the lives of citizens. Consider a hit and run between a vehicle and a cyclist. A PSD environment would trigger the following responses. Mobility sensors on the bicycle will notify the emergency services, who send a drone to make an initial assessment of the accident. Roadside cameras will record the series of events, including capturing the offender’s license plate and facial recognition scans, leading to the offender’s arrest. At every stage the implementation of innovative technology can be seen, with a public service operating model that is able to predict the required service pathway, engaging multiple different agencies in the process. There are clearly numerous benefits demonstrated in this model, but what are the key benefits for NZ citizens?

Firstly, the model demonstrated in the above scenario highlights the benefits of a public sector that is better connected and is able to harness the wealth of information at its fingertips. Central to this, is creating an un-partitioned view of a citizen, particularly in regard to data, simplifying inter-agency interactions. The un-partitioned view of a citizen enables smart, predictive decisions to be made, pre-empting an issue before it arises. This is evident in the above scenario by being able to quickly bring the offender to justice, through the use of facial and vehicle data to locate them and automatic communication across agency boundaries.

A second benefit is improved service relevance and responsiveness, as government looks to achieve, delivering the right service at the right time. If we consider above scenario this was clearly demonstrated. Whether that was through the sensors on the cyclist’s bicycle triggering the emergency services as the incident was taking place, or through the roadside cameras capturing the necessary information to ensure the offender was swiftly arrested. 70% of all accidents/incidents in NZ involving a cyclist-vehicle collision were caused by the vehicle’s driver, this use case for PSD would have a big impact on cyclists’ safety on NZ roads.

  1. While the NZ public sector is significantly transforming, there are further questions to be posed around how government can align services, delivery models and structures around a citizen. Particularly a need to rethink citizen data models to enable an un-partitioned view of the citizen, creating a truly citizen centred public sector.
  2. Further development is necessary in the fields of information security and privacy, particularly given existing constraints in the Privacy Act 1993. A recent victory in this space has come with an amendment to this act going through parliament. The privacy commissioner has given his full support, specifically highlighting the need for a new privacy principle regarding transparent, automated, algorithmic decision making, core ideas to PSD. He also highlighted the limited impact of the amendment, noting that the act should reflect privacy as a “basic human right.” This is clearly an area of tension in the PSD space and the outcome of these discussions will be worth monitoring considering the potentially profound implications for PSD.

Finally, if you like the idea of PSD, engage with the political process and public-sector agencies. Who knows, maybe we can achieve this gold standard sooner than you think!

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