July 21, 2017 – OpenGov
We know technology built for the public sector can deliver transformative government performance solutions to empower more effective and accountable government. For those tasked with building and those seeking to adopt these solutions, understanding emerging GovTech trends is both exciting and instructive. As communities evolve each day, understanding the technology landscape can keep public sector organizations energized and agile.
Here are five exciting emerging trends that we see throughout the GovTech community. At the core, we notice they each critically focus on transforming how people and technology intersect. In some way, they each reflect how govtech’s focus is shifting – with good reason – toward developing technology that is useful, usable, and used.
1. Data-Driven Leaders
Among public sector personnel, the move from merely collecting data to analyzing it is transformative. Local governments’ staffing needs and resources change, especially as governments are expected to do more with less.
New data-driven titles like Chief Data Officer, Chief Performance Officer, and Chief Accountability Officer are becoming increasingly common. In fact, Gartner projects Chief Data Officer positions will grow 1,600 percent in the next two years across all industry sectors.
These new hires are pushing forward data-driven decision making in specific ways. The Chief Data Officer oversees data collection and analysis. The Chief Performance Officer uses data to evaluate organizational efficacy. The Chief Accountability Officer – more common in the education sector – is still rare in cities, but may steadily emerge as a key factor in analyzing and interpreting data to inform decisions and plan strategically with a focus on improved outcomes.
The emergence of these roles will help usher in the era of smart government, including creating a climate ripe for stronger performance management, benchmarking, and effectiveness.
2. Next Generation Open Data
The next generation of open data is focused on action. Joel Natividad, OpenGov’s Director of Open Data, recently discussed this evolution in our interview, The Open Data Future. He noted that governments are focusing on opening data – making it useful, usable, and used.
Early open data was first marked by links to spreadsheets or PDFs, then by portals displaying spreadsheets in web browsers. Often labor-intensive, they typically required governments to build and maintain much of the technology in-house, shutting out governments with smaller technical staffs. Next generation open data, on the other hand, is more flexible and accessible to all public sector agencies, not just large ones. Smaller governments focused on communicating more clearly are increasingly adopting easy-to-configure data portals featuring dashboards and easy-to-understand charts. They may focus on opening data trapped in their legacy software systems like Financial Management Software (FMS) or Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP).
A more robust open data ecosystem better supports governments, with experts from organizations like the Sunlight Foundation disseminating best practices and developers contributing to the open source CKAN community to maintain the platform’s technology.
Software solutions like CKAN-powered open data portals are facilitating the operationalization of data to enhance public performance. In particular, value-added applications that go beyond a transparency function can provide an easy-to-understand linkage between high-value data points and, most meaningfully, the annual budget. By connecting with spending with outcomes, operational efficiencies follow, as does the ability to quantify for citizens, down to a neighborhood level, just what they are receiving for their tax dollars. The standards-based solutions of the future allow for innovation, widespread collaboration, and ultimately, restored citizen trust in government.
3. Inclusive Innovation
In a number of ways, organizations based in the nation’s capital is at the forefront of “inclusive innovation,” which seeks to purposefully reduce barriers to technology innovation through policies and initiatives. Proactive attempts to diversify the tech sector include D.C.’s relatively new grant program for female entrepreneurs, as well as the IN3 incubator, a physical space built to house tech innovators from underrepresented demographics.
During the 2017 SxSW Conference, Deputy Mayor Brian Kenner described these initiatives in Governing’s Facebook Live Video:
4. Virtual Reality and New Apps Meet Citizens Where They Are
Emerging technologies help deliver on the notion of government service as customer service. Cities nationwide are testing digital solutions for more immediate, effective approaches to citizen engagement. The applications they are adopting are increasingly flexible and scalable, which can ultimately benefit a variety of localities worldwide.
Virtual Reality (VR), for example, may have a valuable place in the civic space for localities with high-quality, detailed data. There are so many possibilities in this arena. As GovTech describes, immersive VR could help city planners bring proposed developments to life for residents prior to capital construction. Virtual reality may also be an effective tool for introducing residents to their full stack of infrastructure – from building to gas-line levels. Cities such as Los Angeles are already utilizing VR apps to allow residents to explore, for example, a river and its ecosystem in the context of developmental impact. Or it has the potential to experientially illustrate data points such as property value and tax data city-wide. Virtual reality may also enhance networking between cities. For example, imagine chief data officers from across the country one day exchanging ideas in virtual meeting rooms.
The cities of West Sacramento and Santa Monica, California are working with Tinder-type apps to gather citizen feedback on projects. As is commonly evident, those few residents who appear at public meetings tend to represent only a narrow fraction of a municipality’s population. The challenge of how to achieve broad and diverse feedback is ubiquitous. In this Governing video, West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon sheds light on his city’s Tinder-like app, which allows users to swipe left or right to immediately rate potential projects:
5. Drone Use and Regulation
As technologies advance, so too must policies and regulations. The federal government, particularly the Federal Aviation Administration, continues to grapple with how far to go in regulating various types of drones and their use. Municipalities are actively considering their own regulations to fill in the gaps or address unique issues, as explored in this recent ICMA thread.
There exists a thin line between hobbyist quadcopters and commercially operating drones. Recreational use, for example, can cross the line into commercial, should a user take a drone-captured photograph then sell it. Drone photos are also tempting enhancements for real estate agents’ listings. The future of regulation combines local-level safety and privacy concerns with complex airspace navigation regulations.
While drones are already disrupting conventional business processes – especially product delivery – they may also have value-added application at the civic level. Drones are beginning to emerge as potential public safety tools, for example, to supplement traditional fire and rescue services. This GovTech article explores how drones carrying defibrillators may save lives through faster delivery of life-saving equipment.
To learn more about next generation open data, download a free copy of Discovering Next Generation Open Data. And to learn about how technology is transforming the public sector, download a free copy of The Digital Transformation of Public Administration.