We’re very much in the early days of govtech and a wealth of possibilities lies ahead. Indeed a recent report likens it to the infancy of fintech; it’s currently developing in an ideal environment with the right mix of clout, heritage and appetite for innovation, evidenced by an increasing number of players identifying it as a space to be in.
Driving innovation in government through technology is at the heart of what we do.
We believe this is best achieved through increasing collaboration between startups and government, while respecting existing structures.
There’s a tendency to pop ‘tech’ at the end of every possible categorisation of any tech business – proptech, edtech, healthtech and so on – but we don’t believe this is the best way to group these technologies. Indeed, usage often goes beyond one tag.
In the public sector, we believe there are two ways in which technology can make an impact – 1) govtech and 2) civtech.
Govtech v civtech
We define govtech as any technology that improves the back office side of governmental operations. This could include improvements made in any of the following areas:
· Routine administrative tasks (e.g. payroll, contracts)
· Value added service support tasks (e.g. legal, marketing, finance)
· IT systems (e.g. storage, security)
By contrast, civtech is the B2C equivalent; any technology that directly improves life in the civic space. This offers a whole breadth of opportunities; from improving passenger experiences on public transport, or improving energy consumption in the home, or care provisions.
Grouping both brings everything under one term that, while not particularly catchy, seems accurate.
It’s what we call ‘public sector transformation.’
A different kind of investment
One of the largest barriers to change is cost. Change within this environment is traditionally linked with large contracts running over several years – a huge commitment.
The beauty of these young technologies is that they offer new routes to change, at a far lower market rate. By digitising various elements of legacy contracts, it is possible to affect positive change in a more effective way.
Of course, these changes must remain encased in protections that minimise risk but simultaneously enable these new ideas to thrive. One way of doing this is to introduce a specific innovation role or team to the organisation; these individuals can act as guardians of the organisation and the drivers of change.
And that’s not all.
Open data at its heart
In this new world, there is no resource more valuable than data.
For the public sector, it’s open data that offers the greatest opportunity. Data it holds – but that, by definition, is owned by taxpayers – is a basis from which it can enable others to create and improve services and systems.
Leaving this resource untapped or underused makes no sense. It can propel the public sector years ahead on its transformation journey without any high level of investment.
The alternative is to continue delivering sub-par services which, in a world in which everyone is used to consumption on their own terms, is nowhere near what taxpayers are satisfied with.
Supporting govtech and civtech
Clearly there is investment required for public sector transformation. But a large part of this is an investment of time and knowledge transfer, rather than money and tangible resources.
It’s an investment well worth making.