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Government assumes the role of innovator

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The government should regain the role of innovator that was previously entrusted to it.
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The government should regain the role of innovator that was previously entrusted to it. It is often said that government is incapable of innovation, Because government officials don't feel motivated to innovate because they don't get profits. This idea took root in the eighties, To fuel two decades of aversion to government. But when we look at the digital history of government, She played a leading role in the development of computer technology, the digitization of processes and the creation of large-scale information systems in the sixties. It was not until the eighties that governments began to lag behind in keeping pace with companies in terms of innovation in digital technologies. In her book "Entrepreneurial State," Mariana Mazzucato talks about the fading role of 12 successive governments in many of the innovations that underpin our digital society today, from the Internet to GPS and iPhone.

Platform Community

We live in a "platform society" in which we spend an increasing proportion of our time on digital platforms, especially those offered by Google, Apple and Microsoft, social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, and shopping platforms such as Amazon and eBay. Not to mention newer platforms stemming from the sharing economy including Uber and Airbnb. All these platforms focus on users spending the longest time in them and thus providing more data that will be used in the development of the services provided, which results in users spending more time, Thus, we have an information circle on usage, data generation and innovation. The platform community is also putting pressure on the government to innovate using digital technologies and data.

The most obvious pressure on innovation has occurred in the decade of austerity and cuts that the world experienced after the 2008 financial crisis. This has prompted governments to do more for less by using technology and introducing digital programs that become society's first destination for easy access rather than multi-channel, high-cost methodologies. Other pressures come from the big transactional data generated by the platform community and the digital government itself that can be used to come up with innovative policies. Such as predictive or probabilistic policies currently in place in the education and police sector or smart mobility cards in megacities that generate an unprecedented amount of detailed data about trips and individuals with the potential to make a major shift in the design of transportation systems.

To say that this society is a digital society, The mechanisms of its organization and functioning must also be digital. Take the example of taxis, which are heavily regulated in most cities, but Uber's data-driven platform poses a huge challenge to traditional regulatory models. Similarly, The digital individual's interaction with other platforms means a high level of expectations towards the ability to communicate digitally with the government, He doesn't expect to write a check or fill out a form (although they will have to), He may also not expect to be able to contact the government (just as he wouldn't consider contacting Amazon, for example).

Finally, The government must innovate to meet the emerging challenges posed by the platform community to the provision of public services such as security and healthcare. Cybercrime, extremism and online radicalization are forcing security and intelligence services to reinvent their business and mechanisms.

Government as a platform for innovation?

All these pressures imposed by the society and economy of platforms are pushing the government to be more innovative. Is the government rising to this challenge? Government must evolve into a platform in its own right as suggested by the American writer Tim O'Reilly in his model "Government as a Platform." O'Reilly says that while studying the history of the computer industry, The innovations that shape each era are the same frameworks that supported the integrated sharing ecosystem, from the PC to the Internet to the iPhone. Therefore, The government's efforts should revolve around the transition to an open platform that enables innovation for parties within and outside it. O'Reilly also outlined seven principles of platform-based thinking in government: Open standards, commitment to simplicity and designs that allow sharing, experimentation, data mining, learning from hackers and leading by example.

The UK is one of the countries that has shown great enthusiasm for realizing the dream of "government as a platform", as this was evident when the model was set out in the government spending review presented by then-Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne in the autumn of 2015. After that, he was appointed as the head of the "Government as a Platform" model in the service of digital government, which is the main body of digital government. This methodology aims to create a series of platforms that can be embedded in the services of any government agency, such as Verify, a federal identification system, Gov.UK Pay to make payments to the government, and Notify, which informs individuals about the status of their applications or issues.

The challenge lies in the vast difference between the data landscape and giant platforms like Amazon or Google. The old databases of large departments that are not compatible with each other stand against any kind of data exchange or data-driven design, especially in the absence of a unified personal identifier for individuals throughout their lives to identify the individual with different mechanisms followed by different departments and for various purposes. The plan to reform the government's records looks promising. This plan calls for the retention of data in a department once and in an automated manner so that the department has exclusive responsibility for this data and is still in its initial stages. therefore Data-driven service innovation or the organisational model based on the "smart service delivery centre" of choice for merchants seems to be out of reach in the UK as well as in other countries.

Maybe Estonia succeeded, This small country of just 1.2 million people gives hope for realizing the idea of government as a platform for innovation. Estonian digital government is based on two main components, The first is an eID which is a secure identification system based on a PKI authentication technology that is located on the ID card or digital ID code. The second component is X-Road, which is a secure communication system between a series of records containing distributed data. Only one department or body can control any part of this data, and individuals can view their data stored with the government and know the identity and purpose of the person who viewed it. These two components make it possible to add another component that enables administrations to develop their services as they see fit, provided that they remain integrated into the X-Road system.

Although the "government as a platform" model is not clearly followed in Estonia, But X-Road and eID embody the innovation platform O'Reilly talked about. Administrations, authorities, banks, institutions and mobile operators can develop their digital services under these two components. It cannot be said to be a data-driven and policy-making system, However, possibilities exist. Certainly, Estonia follows the principle of "government as a platform" to lead by example. This is done by offering X-Road free of charge to other countries as a way to communicate between their respective data records. Finland, Oman, Azerbaijan and Palestine have adopted this system and Canada has expressed interest in it. German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited the Estonian e-Government Fair in the summer of 2016.

Commitment to simplicity

If the experience of Estonia indicates anything, It demonstrates the importance of the principle of "government as a platform" in building a simple system and allowing it to grow and develop, which O'Reilly considers a key factor for innovation to flourish: "A successful complex system is always the product of a simple, successful system... A system that is complex from the start does not work and cannot work." In order to regain the role of the innovator, Governments need to understand how to put this simple example of the platform into practice. In the end, We have to look at the majority of the giant platforms that we spend a large part of our lives on today such as Google, Facebook, Amazon and Twitter, They all started from simple and small beginnings.

This article was written by Helen Margitz, Director and Professor, Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford, United Kingdom

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