Technology innovations have permeated every stratum of life from bringing fundamental changes in operations to creating new products and services. The usage of technology cannot be considered limited or exclusive to private institutions. Digital technologies have proven their worth and capability of tackling some of the evolved world problems. Technological innovations like robotics, big data analytics, etc., have showcased the potential to present solutions for better public services as well as cater to the needs of many people in a situation of crisis.
The world is attracted by tech solutions primarily because of the ease they bring to users and how they make public institutions look promising and trustworthy in the public eye. Delivering better public services and meeting citizens’ expectations are among popular contentions given by the electorally competing parties. Unfortunately, public services remain crippled with conventional legacy systems. People demand more transparent and reliable digital services while safeguarding their interests in the digital age.
We have witnessed some countries like India taking steps towards adopting emerging technologies and ensuring transparency. To combat the pandemic (COVID-19), India developed a successful contact-tracing and self-assessment application which was made open-source in May 2020. It was an endeavor to adopt open-source software in all e-Governance systems implemented by various government organizations. When a government makes the source code of any application available in the public domain, it allows experts and researchers to review, detect vulnerabilities, and more importantly, allow public contributions to improving the system.
The emergence of new digital technologies can provide powerful tools for governments to improve the transparency and efficiency of public investments in the system. The legacy steps involved in the administrative processes grapple with “leakages” in the public delivery of welfare and development goals, due to high chances of manipulation, consequently losing the public’s trust. People have expressed more trust and appreciation towards digital processes like online forms/applications because they shift the onus of submitting correct information and data to the applicant instead of a government representative.
Leaders have to realize that as technology is creating and evolving the world we all live in; the demands of the citizens are evolving at the same pace. One cannot be oblivious to the capacity held by software in bringing change in the functioning of public services. Governments are in dire need to modernize their legacy systems and policies. They should explore innovative solutions to keep up with the expectations of citizens in public services.
The software-driven society adoption can be cheaper to use and provide more support than proprietary software applications. Some countries adopted the idea of open-source software. For example, in 2017, the council of Mappano (Italy) decided to build its IT infrastructure and offer its eGovernment services using free and open-source software.
At the same time, we also witnessed countries lagging in this fast-paced technological society. For example, a report into Australia’s digital future shows that the nation is falling behind the US, UK, Canada, France and China when it comes to tech innovation.
The small businesses in Australia struggle to access affordable finance. It is worrisome that the Reserve Bank of Australia’s analysis of the COVID-19 pandemic shows that lending to these smaller firms has been relatively flat since January 2019, given the significant contribution of small businesses in Australia’s economy. One of the reasons for the slowdown is the lack of inclusion of technology in traditional banking sources.
Only a few governments can retain sovereignty and trust while adopting technology innovations. A new party, called the Non-Human Party, intends to maintain this balance. Owen Miller, the founder of the party, advocates that building an open-source, software-based society is the most practical way to influence the future and instill trust in people. The party believes that it is not fair to offer dated and corrupt government systems to citizens. They aim to allow citizens to extend their existence in this system, through the use of intelligent agents that might also be known as software agents, bots, or robots (non-humans).
The public sector requires complex policy decisions that affect citizens, such as service delivery, public institutions set up, response to crises, etc. It is necessary to understand that policy or legislation framed without acknowledging the evolving society can be ineffective and can lower people’s confidence in the system. Authorities should more rapidly adopt advanced technologies like IoT and AI software to improve the efficiency of government-administered programs, by allowing citizens to help create the necessary software. Incentive structures like open-source software can fit well here to effectively develop citizen-centric business models.
The government sector must become an accelerator for a software-driven society, given its scale and operating constraints. This helps authorities to ensure transparency; meet citizens’ rising expectations for digital services; and offer better-streamlined quality services. Parties like the Non-Human Party can increase openness and participation between government agencies and citizens.