An Encrypted Future

Tag: digitize

Digitization in Government

By Joanna Allegretti, CHAMPtitles 

It is 2022, and US government is ripe for adopting digitization for two main reasons: the benefits (cost, security, ease just to name a few) are significant and the touchpoint are numerous (331 million citizens and counting). 

When most people think of government, they do not consider it a first mover for adopting innovative technology, but the desire is there. According to an Accenture survey, more than 65% of public service leaders have cited creating a personalized citizen experience as a priority. More than a mere preference for policy makers, digitization in government is now being adopted at a faster pace than ever before. There are plenty of good examples of implementation to mention.  

Here is one to start: Nearly all US citizens must file a US federal individual income tax return each year. If you submit your return online, you are the beneficiary of this digital government process. E-filing is a huge improvement on completing form 1040 by hand. It also saves the time spent mailing the return at the post office and the cost to send it to the IRS. Best of all, because of the digital process, the tax refund arrives more quickly. Citizens are not the only ones to benefit from this simplified process, so too does the Internal Revenue Service. Between 2010 and 2015, the IRS budget decreased in part due to increased electronic filing. It is no surprise that converting a paper return into a machine-readable format is costly! The more user-friendly digital process also means government resources are freed up for more important things. Customer engagement and satisfaction are also improving; in 2020, 94% of all individual tax returns were filed electronically! Mother nature is equally pleased about this change. Electronically submitting an income tax return is an environmentally friendly alternative to printing and mailing. 

Sadly, not all government processes have transformed like this one though, and there is far from broad-based support for digital government by key decision makers. It is the reason many government agencies at the federal and state level still employ legacy and paper-based processes using mainframes or cloud-based systems to process transactions.  

Take the Department of Motor Vehicles, a government agency that many adults in this country have interacted with whether it was to apply for or renew a driver’s license or title a new car upon sale. Citizens know all too well that these processes are cumbersome and paper-based: long lines and wait times at the DMV office, piles of paper to manually fill in, and the result: a paper license or title mailed home weeks later. For the DMV, these paper-based processes are costly, inefficient, and prone to human error and unnecessary delay. Even moderately sized states use an estimated 18 million sheets of paper per year to process car titles! 

A digital solution for DMVs would be one that modernizes their title and registration systems. For citizens, a digital vehicle title would be profoundly better than what they experience today, lowering costs, increasing security, easing the transfer of ownership, and improving customer satisfaction. As was the case with electronic tax filing, digitization is seamless for citizens and innovative for government. Digital systems replace legacy ones for a fraction of the price, which is a direct savings to taxpayers. A digital process is also more secure for government, and the time efficiencies and cost savings realized by this transformation allow them to pursue other priorities. 

The DMV is just one interesting example of the future of digital government, but the good news is interest in this idea of digitization is on the rise. We, as citizens, eagerly await the simplification and savings of all these once onerous and costly government processes.  

How to Digitize

By Ben Walton, CHAMPtitles

When starting an initiative that has never been done before, there is a high level of risk and uncertainty. Since there is no precedent, the approach needs to be highly iterative and adaptable as new information is discovered. This applies to the process of digitization since creating a digital asset is usually breaking new ground. To then reduce the associated risk and uncertainty, it is crucial to be well versed in a standardized methodology for digitization. A common method consists of these five phases:

  1. Problem definition 
  1. Discovery 
  1. Implementation 
  1. Testing 
  1. Launch 

The goal of the first two phases (problem definition and discovery) is to answer four questions: 

  • What is the problem? 
  • Who is affected by the problem? 
  • What is the solution? 
  • How will the solution solve the problem? 

Common risks in these phases include having a poorly defined problem, the wrong problem, or a problem that cannot be solved now. By taking the time to truly understand and then define the problem – the project’s why – these risks can be identified and managed. There are three core steps to this phase. First, use current knowledge to identify and describe all the pain points associated with the current paper asset including frequency, current cost (time/money), future cost, and so on. Second, write down a clear problem statement with a potential solution. Third, list out all the assumptions made for the chosen problem statement and solution.

To validate the problem, the first step of the discovery phase is to conduct primary and secondary research to prove or disprove the assumptions made and further detail the identified obstacles of the current state. This ranges from finding data online to interviewing stakeholders. Common assumptions are that the current regulatory environment of the paper process would support the digital asset and the competition does not pose an immediate threat. The output of this phase should be a business case for pursuing digitization that details all possible risks.

Based on the business case, a decision must be made to continue or end the project, which requires understanding the feasibility in terms of technology and regulatory environment and the amount of effort in terms of time and funding. If the project continues, then the implementation phase kicks off a solution pilot. Before that starts, certain success criteria should be defined so that the results can be measured in the testing phase. Testing will also validate the solution with customers and users to understand their reactions and solicit feedback. After testing is finished, the pilot is likely launched in a controlled environment and monitored to measure its effectiveness. Possible next steps include expanding upon the pilot, starting another pilot, or working to finalize a full solution.

For many, digitization is unchartered territory so following the method outlined above provides a road map while reducing the risk and uncertainty common to a brand-new initiative. Key milestones include having a clear problem definition backed up with data, a business case to pursue the digitization effort, and a pilot to validate the benefits of the solution. By using or adapting this methodology, the foreseen challenges can be anticipated, and the unforeseen ones can be managed to result in a greater chance for a successful digitization project.