I've spent the better part of the last five years working at the confluence of public policy, people, and technology and can say with certainty that the experts in the field agree: the proliferation of digital communication technologies is fundamentally reshaping all sectors of society. While this may be most apparent in the newspaper, music, or television industries, to think that governments are somehow immune to the changing environment is irresponsible. Thus far governments have managed to operate under the radar, espousing collaboration as the new modus operandi of the public service while hiding in the murky rhetoric of ‘doing more with less'; but frankly it’s no longer a viable option for dealing with the coming change.
Digital is different, so let's do things differently
If you don't believe me, look at what is happening across the pond in the United Kingdom where budgets are being slashed on average of 20% but up to 35% in some cases. The harsh reality, as the Brits are learning, is that they can't even afford to do more with less. Being more collaborative isn't the same thing as being innovative. Similarly, all the collaboration in the world doesn't break you out of old mental models or help you re-imagine your role in a rapidly and ever changing society. We need to cut through the noise of ‘greater efficiency through greater collaboration’ and the rhetoric of ‘doing more with less’ and focus instead on doing things fundamentally differently. Given the profound impact of digital communication technologies on our society, I think that doing things differently starts with cultivating a better understanding of how digital is reshaping what citizens expect from their public institutions and how public institutions can best respond to those needs.