When Less Becomes More: The Journey to Digital Government

Five stages define a CIO’s journey from e-government to digital government.

For government CIOs, establishing an e-government model is just the first step on a journey to becoming a mature digital services organization.

The first thing to realize is that while e-government is judged by the number of services made available to citizens, digital government will be measured by a reduction in the number of discrete services in favor of an integrated experience.

Digital government is not an end goal, but a means to accomplish affordable and sustainable government services.

The second point is that digital government is not an end goal, but a means to accomplish affordable and sustainable government services, a state described by Andrea Di Maio, managing vice president at Gartner, as smart government.

In Gartner’s Digital Government Maturity Model, Mr. Di Maio outlines five key stages on the journey to smart government and urges government CIOs to focus on gathering and using data about citizens and their environment for delivering government policies and services.

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Level 1 – E-Government

Level one is where many departments and jurisdictions are today, and corresponds to a more traditional e-government model. The main focus here is digitizing existing services, such as vehicle registration and taxation, or state benefits applications. Success is measured in terms of increasing the number of services online to drive efficiency and cost-savings.

To progress, CIOs must shift their focus beyond simply digitizing services to collecting and harnessing the data generated during the provision of services.

Level 2 – Open

Many government organizations have open data programs in place and have established an open data platform, mostly focused on the consumption of open government public data by citizens and enterprises, through the development of mobile applications and dashboards.

In order to progress toward digital transformation, CIOs should move their agencies from being simply a provider of data to become a consumer of open data coming from other government and non-government organizations. Further, they should be planning how to extend open data initiative beyond public data.

Level 3 – Data-Centric

This level constitutes the real inflection point in a digital government transformation. Data becomes the key focus. Treating all data as open (which does not necessarily mean public, but accessible through a uniform interface) unveils countless opportunities for innovation. New ways of aggregating and analyzing data within and across agency boundaries will lead to new services and new service delivery models that likely involve non-government entities as intermediaries.

Level 4 – Fully Digital

At this level, the organization has fully recognized the importance of a data-centric approach to transformation, and regularly pursues opportunities for innovation based on open data principles. Data is leveraged more regularly across agency boundaries, leading to easier interactions, based on an understanding of the constituent’s context and situation. Privacy will remain a primary concern and will determine to what extent data can be used for service transformation.

Privacy will remain a primary concern and will determine to what extent data can be used for service transformation.

New value-adding services are built by leveraging data. This could include tax advice coming from agencies that have a real-time view of a taxpayer’s situation, or childcare services based on contextual information about candidate foster families.

Traditional and new services will be available through different channels, including non-government ones, and data will be shared not just across agencies but with external partners like banks, employers, retailers, where possible and in full compliance with privacy laws.

Level 5 – Smart

Digital transformation is now the norm, and the innovation process is predictable and repeatable. The CIO takes a greater and renovated role, as the master of information and data, and is in charge of prioritizing and managing the portfolio of transformation opportunities that present themselves. Challenges will remain, however, including keeping digital transformation sustainable and preparing for the arrival of smart machines in key business processes.


Gartner clients can learn more in “Introducing the Gartner Digital Government Maturity Model” by Andrea Di Maio.

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