Mobility transforming public sector

OvumOver time, IT has delivered a lot more than just hardware and software. It has also played an important part in delivering some of the big transformations that now define the modern enterprise.
Consider life without desktop computing, email, the internet, and modern data analytics. Notwithstanding, many would argue that the days of technology-driven transformation are over, and IT is now just a commodity.
There is an alternative view that the best ideas are still to come. Mobile devices have already demonstrated that the wider community has an insatiable appetite for technology, as long as it is well-targeted and innovative.
Mobile technology has awakened the inner geek in all of us, and has opened the door to a “quiet revolution” in enterprise. At a time of government cutbacks and cost reductions, this quiet revolution may point the way toward an alternative path led by innovation, rather than the dismal prospect of just getting less for less.
Traditionally, [a company’s] technology developments have been created and managed by the IT department, and then delivered through planned system releases. The quiet revolution has seen mobile technology infused into the enterprise from all directions. Even chief and senior executives have joined the chorus of mobile converts, each demanding their own smartphone or tablet device. These are the same senior executives who, only a few years earlier, each proclaimed, “I’m not an IT person.”
But this revolution runs even deeper. There has always been a presumption that only enterprise IT could provide the necessary technical horsepower to deliver business systems. Essentially, high-tech enterprise needed to deliver IT services to a lower-tech consumer. The new paradigm has a high-tech enterprise and an even higher-tech customer base.
Today’s reality is that the enterprise cannot always compete with the combined energy of innovation-hungry clients. Enterprise IT must work at a slower pace. After all, the enterprise needs to deal with legacy systems, privacy, large databases and a host of other complex issues. Enterprise IT must move forward in well-planned, deliberate steps. On the other hand, customers can just go out and buy the latest device, connect to personal cloud services, and download a host of cheap point solutions.
Mobile is the missing link
Mobile technologies are already having a profound impact on the way businesses run and grow. If we need to find evidence of these growing forces of change, we only need to look at recent announcements about the impact that online publishing is having on the print media sector, or the impact that online shopping is having on Australia’s retail sector.
Internet-based news and shopping have been with us for some years, but the missing ingredient has been mobile technology. Readers can now take their favorite newspaper with them on their iPad, or compare retail prices online even while at a competing retailer’s shopping outlet.
Mobile is also having a transformational impact on the banking and finance sectors. The innovative capacity of technology services is now becoming an important differentiator for business competitiveness. Clients can now be easily wooed to a competitor by a superior online presence.
Citizens can now do many things for themselves. The big challenge for government agencies is to find ways to take advantage of this additional capability. Many agencies are already taking the first steps toward opening up their services with appropriate mobile apps and by making corporate websites more accessible through mobile devices. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Mobile technology requires a rethink about much deeper questions involving interactions with government in new ways. Consider the following examples:
  • After a recent natural disaster in New Zealand, students and volunteers were able to develop a web-based disaster information service within just a few days, by sourcing information updates from mobile devices throughout the community.
  • The Australian Capital Territory government undertook public consultation by holding Australia’s first online Community Cabinet meeting. Constituents were able to question any of the assembled government ministers in real time via Twitter.
The boundaries between traditional government and the wider community are shifting, and this is creating opportunities to offer innovative services and achieve efficiencies. There are savings to be made by engaging citizens innovatively using available technology. However, in the race to cut government spending, we may be consigning ourselves to the dismal prospect of just delivering less service for less money.
Kevin Koonan is a research director in Ovum’s Australian government practice. For more information, visit