Microsoftâ Solutions for:

The Digital Nervous System in Government

 

 
 



Abstract............................................................................................................................. 1

Overview............................................................................................................................. 2

The Digital Nervous System: Smart Government in Action................................................. 6

Officials (Knowledge Management).......................................................................... 7

Process (Service Operations)...................................................................................... 9

Citizens and Partners (eGovernment).................................................................... 10

Rating an existing DNS..................................................................................................... 12

Summary.......................................................................................................................... 13

Further Resources and Information................................................................................. 14


Abstract

 

This paper provides government decision-makers and key influencers with an overview of Microsoft’s vision of a digital nervous system in government. It explains how a digital nervous system can improve a government’s internal operations as well as the interaction between different government departments and agencies, and its interaction with the citizen and partners.

 

A companion paper to this, entitled Windows DNA for Government, is aimed at IT professionals working in government. It provides an overview of the technical framework for developing a digital nervous system.

 

The latest versions of these papers and a variety of case studies and supporting documentation can be found at: http://www.microsoft.com/europe/industry/government


Overview

 

It is important for governments to exploit the ubiquity and power of new distribution channels, such as the internet, in order to provide innovative and more effective interfaces to citizens and partners.

 
Governments everywhere recognise the need to provide better, more efficient services to their citizens in a more timely and cost-effective fashion. It is important for governments to exploit the ubiquity and power of new distribution channels, such as the internet, in order to provide innovative and more effective interfaces to citizens and partners. Governments also need to be more efficient in the way they conduct their own operations and services.

 

An effective means of achieving a government’s aspirations for improved services and efficiency is through the development of a digital nervous system (DNS). A digital nervous system can be developed for government through the application of a consistent set of principles to facilitate information flows at both organisational and departmental level. A digital nervous system is the digital equivalent of the human nervous system, providing a well-integrated flow of information to the right part of government at the right time. A digital nervous system requires a combination of hardware and software. The accuracy, immediacy and richness of the information it brings to knowledge workers distinguishes a digital nervous system, together with the insight and collaboration made possible by the information.

 

An effective digital nervous system uses technologies that act as a key enabler for governments, assisting them in the machinery of their own administration, the provision of services to the citizen and in the exploitation of new opportunities. Governments require an adaptable systems architecture that provides the flexibility to interface easily with existing decision support and operational systems (hence protecting existing investments) whilst being able to make use of emerging technologies – particularly those of the internet.

 

This white paper describes Microsoft’s approach to enable governments to establish a powerful and cost-effective digital nervous system. Microsoft’s DNS initiative integrates the technologies of the PC and the internet with legacy government systems based on mainframes and mid-range systems.

 

Microsoft is an established global partner of governments at all levels and across all vertical divisions, helping to deliver on the vision of efficient and effective services. Initiatives range from central justice systems through to benefits claims and payments; from central government collaboration and co-ordination at the policy level through to the delivery of local government services to the citizen; and from smartcard interactions between the citizen and government departments through to electronic voting.

 


Microsoft’s government solutions bring together two key global initiatives:

·         A digital nervous system (DNS): to provide an integrated flow of information and services to the right people at the right time.

·         The Windows Distributed interNet Architecture (DNA): a technical framework to help develop a digital nervous system – built on existing IT investments and the power of the PC and the internet.

 

This white paper focuses on the issues of developing an effective government digital nervous system – an approach that has also been referred to as “joined-up government”. A companion paper to this, Windows DNA for Government, focuses on the technologies that enable the delivery of a DNS for government.

 

Some governments manage information better than others, even though many use similar technologies. Many governments use digital tools today to manage their basic operations – like general accounting, stock control, etc. – but very few are using such tools to manage the flow of information within government as a whole, or in the direct delivery of services to the citizen. Establishing a digital nervous system enables governments to act smarter.

 

By moving to a system where information is held in digital form, and organised according to the priorities that a government aspires to fulfil, the benefits can be dramatic.

 
All governments are faced with the challenge of handling ever-increasing demands and ever-increasing amounts of information. Microsoft calls the processes involved with handling and managing that information the nervous system of a government. Today, much of this information is still on paper. Contact between government departments and between the government and the citizen generally consists of letters, complex paper forms, phone calls and meetings. Simple questions such as “What benefits is this citizen entitled too?” are difficult to answer because the relevant information about citizens is generally held in separate information silos and there is no simple way of obtaining a coherent view of that information without becoming involved in a resource-intensive process.

 

Enabling different parts of government that are in different locations to work together and share information is complex given the way that information is handled today. By moving to a system where information is held in digital form, and organised according to the priorities that a government aspires to fulfil, the benefits can be dramatic. A digital nervous system can also ensure a systematic process of data protection and safeguard the privacy of the citizen: with data protection and security audit facilities, access to information can be carefully controlled and restricted to those with appropriate authority. Access to information and the use to which that information is put can also be automatically audited – an improvement over paper-based systems, which are difficult to monitor, control and audit.

 


A digital nervous system is developed on a commitment to the following principles:

·         as PC computing architecture with a secure single log on;

·         all information is held in digital form;

·         universal e-mail;

·         ubiquitous connectivity;

·         common end-user productivity tools;

·         integrated business-specific applications.

 

A successful digital nervous system is more than just these components, however. It is also concerned with how the elements work together – how they are integrated. An effective government digital nervous system provides powerful tools across the whole range of government activities, through the areas of knowledge management, service operations and eGovernment.

 

The most successful governments – national, regional and local – are likely to be those that best harness the components of a successful DNS in order to improve their own internal operations, as well as the interaction between the different tiers of government and with the citizen.

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


In overview, a DNS for Government:

·         fosters communication of both risks and opportunities;

·         allows citizens and partners (eg. suppliers) to work closely with the government;

·         facilitates the use and flow of information in all parts of government, by making faster or better decisions.

 Microsoft’s vision for an effective government DNS avoids the expense of the ‘rip and replace’ mentality that was previously proposed by many software and hardware vendors.

 
 


Microsoft pioneered the concept of low-cost, high volume off-the-shelf software and has already transformed the cost-benefits of back and front office systems. The proper application of DNS principles and the Windows DNA for Government framework can help bring similar cost-benefits across the whole portfolio of government activities. This can lead to a reduction in the costs of IT operations and thereby release resources from administration into service provision. This presents a strong “win-win” situation for government, where operational costs can be contained and reduced, and limited finances re-dedicated to areas of more pressing need.

 

Microsoft’s vision for an effective government DNS avoids the expense of the ‘rip and replace’ mentality that was previously proposed by many software and hardware vendors. It enables a process of step-changes to be implemented with a potentially rapid return on investment.

 

By providing an approach that integrates with a government’s existing investments in mainframe, midrange and PC systems, and fusing these with the industry standards of the internet and intranets, Microsoft provides a powerful vision and set of standards-based tools to deliver on that vision.

 

For example, the effective application of the principles of DNS and Windows DNA for Government can help to reduce the costs of IT and administration and hence release resources for utilisation in the delivery of front-line services. With modern governments increasingly under pressure to contain and reduce taxes whilst at the same time improving services, the proper application of DNS and Windows DNA for Government can be a powerful tool in helping governments to square this circle.


The Digital Nervous System: Smart Government in Action

 

In the digital age, governments need to be able to collaborate, organise, analyse, connect, communicate and transact. The citizen needs to be at centre of all a government’s thinking and operations.

 In the digital age, governments need to be able to collaborate, organise, analyse, connect, communicate and transact. The citizen needs to be at centre of all a government’s thinking and operations.

 

 
 

 

 

 

 

 


A digital nervous system enables governments to get the right information to the right people at the right time. It provides tools to analyse and understand the significance of that information, and gives them the power to act rapidly on their conclusions. It also eliminates the daisy chain of forms and layers of approvals that make simple, day-to-day tasks time-consuming, resource-intensive and expensive for the citizen as taxpayer.

 

The machinery of modern government, the increasing expectations and demands of the citizen and the media-driven demand for fast action and reaction to domestic and world political events have all increased in complexity – requiring governments to find more efficient and cost-effective ways of conducting its business and in providing services to the citizen.

 

At the business level, the principles of an effective DNS for government include:

·         The citizen is at the centre: governments need to provide a more integrated and cost-effective way for the citizen to deal with the wide range of national and local government bodies. Governments also need to accommodate the needs of the citizen in a variety of roles – the citizen as a patient, the citizen as a taxpayer, the citizen as a benefits claimant, the citizen as student, for example.

·         Every government employee is a knowledge worker: governments need to recognise the value of the knowledge of their workforce and to use their IT systems to capture and use this knowledge efficiently – preventing, for example, the problem of intellectual capital leaving the government when an employee retires or leaves for another position.

·         The internet changes everything: the internet provides a universal, standards-based method for conducting government business, both within and between government as well as between the government, the citizen and its suppliers and partners.

·         Bad news travels fast: governments need to know about and identify problems quickly and have the systems in place to respond and deal with them efficiently.

 


The development of a digital nervous system is organised around three primary functions: knowledge management, service operations, and eGovernment. The diagram below shows how these functions relate to the core constituents of government – officials, process, and citizens and partners.

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


eGovernment – the on-line interaction of governments with their citizens and partners – is the key driver for change. Changes in the nature of a government’s interactions with citizens and partners require a re-structuring of a government’s knowledge management and service operations in order to match demand. A tight digital feedback loop enables a government to adapt quickly and constantly to change and to be more cost-effective and efficient in its operations and the provision of its services.

 

Officials (Knowledge Management)

From a government perspective, an effective DNS will enable its employees to combine experience with readily accessible information in order to produce an effective organisation. In the past, staff attrition in the public sector has impacted service delivery – when people leave government service, they take their accumulated knowledge and expertise with them. Governments need to develop systems that facilitate the capturing of intellectual capital and the development of effective knowledge management systems. The development of an effective internal organisation for government needs to cover areas such as:

·         service feedback and design;

·         case and issue tracking;

·         information and knowledge management;

·         service planning and analysis;

·         intra- and inter-departmental flows of information;

·         employee management, education and training.

 


 Government has traditionally developed on a vertical departmental basis, creating a series of separate ‘services’ or organisational units. This vertical segregation of functions is increasingly inappropriate in the context of the delivery of citizen-centric services.

 
Government has traditionally developed on a vertical departmental basis, creating a series of separate ‘services’ or organisational units: a Ministry of Taxation, a Ministry of Health, a Ministry of Social Security and so on. This vertical segregation of functions is increasingly inappropriate in the context of the delivery of citizen-centric services. It is also expensive to maintain: information is duplicated in multiple locations and is frequently difficult to collate and process. Issues involving more than one department are time-consuming, resource-intensive and bureaucratic to process. Developing an effective DNS means that form can be mapped more accurately and more cost-effectively onto function.

 

 A DNS for government provides a strong backbone for communications and collaboration, as well as tools to make information more accessible, easier to analyse and responsive to demand.

 
To assist a government to become more cost-effective and resource efficient in its operations there are a variety of key components involved in building a DNS:

·         collaboration (enabling the free-flow of information between government officials);

·         publishing and searching (enabling the capturing and sharing of experience);

·         tracking and workflow (enabling an understanding of the key issues and where to focus attention – eg. social case work, housing management, criminal case files and tax files);

·         data analysis (enabling the transformation of information into insight – eg. demographic patterns, crime pattern analysis and fraud investigation);

·         learning (enabling training and education).

 

Governments need to improve the way in which they function, both within departments and between departments. This is particularly true where work involves more than one agency of government – such as during the formulation of policy, for example. A DNS for government provides a strong backbone for communications and collaboration, as well as tools to make information more accessible, easier to analyse and responsive to demand.

 


Process (Service Operations)

The process component of an effective digital nervous system is concerned with achieving operational excellence. This applies right across the broad range of government activities – through administration, procurement, finance, services and logistics. Even where government remains organised on a departmental basis, the application of an efficient process can provide for an improved flow of information and more cost-effective application of resources. For example, an effective digital nervous system can enable a government official seated at a PC to use a web browser to access information drawn from a variety of underlying systems. The application of common components across the functions of a government can enable information to flow more freely within and between departments, even where different backend mainframe and mid-range systems are in use.

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Processes are not confined within government. The development of a digital nervous system in government extends to embrace citizens and partners – for example, through on-line government – and through an extended value chain to include key areas of expenditure such as procurement.

 

Making better business decisions quickly is the key to succeeding in today’s competitive marketplace.

 The application of common components across the functions of a government can enable information to flow more freely within and between departments, even where different backend mainframe and mid-range systems are in use.

 
 


Governments seeking to improve their decision-making and internal processes are often overwhelmed by the sheer volume and complexity of data available from their varied operational systems. Making this data available to a wide audience of users is one of the most significant challenges for today’s information technology professionals.

 


Many organisations are choosing to build a data warehouse to unlock the information in their operational systems and understand the key problems facing them. The data warehouse is an integrated store of information collected from other systems that becomes the foundation for decision support and data analysis. While there are many types of data warehouses, based on different design methodologies and philosophical approaches, they all have these common traits:

·         Information in a data warehouse is organised around the major subjects of the organisation (for example, citizens and services), reflecting a data-driven design.

·         Raw data is gathered from non-integrated operational and legacy applications, cleansed, and then summarised and presented in a way that makes sense to users.

·         Based on feedback from users and discoveries in the data warehouse, the architecture of the data warehouse will change over time – reflecting the iterative nature of the process.

 

Citizens and Partners (eGovernment)

The third key component of a DNS is to build strong relationships with citizens and business partners. This applies across the improved provision of government services, procurement from suppliers, and financial and information services.

 

 A single interface whereby the citizen can notify a government once of life episodes and all relevant functions then receive an automatic update of that information is clearly both an improvement in service provision and a reduction in the cost of the process.

 

 In the same way that financial institutions such as banks have developed services that place their customers at the centre of their, governments need to consider how they can present a single point of entry to their diverse and often complex services and functions.

 
The citizen needs to be at the centre of all government thinking. In the same way that financial institutions such as banks have developed services that place their customers at the centre of their operations (providing 24-hour banking, internet banking, worldwide access to automated teller machines, branch independence and so on), governments need to consider how they can present a single point of entry to their diverse and often complex services and functions. At present, the citizen can become entangled in a web of complex bureaucracy for simple lifetime episodes such as the registration of a birth, marriage or retirement. Numerous government departments wish to see confirmation of such a life event through examination of the original marriage certificate. The citizen repeatedly has to inform all relevant government functions of the same information. This is time consuming for the citizen, as well as waste of a government’s limited resources. A single interface whereby the citizen can notify a government once of such life episodes and all relevant functions then receive an automatic update of that information is clearly both an improvement in service provision and a reduction in the cost of the process. Both the citizen and the government benefit from such an application of the digital nervous system.

 


The internet is increasingly becoming a key way of interacting with the citizen. Government services delivered via the internet can be provided directly into the home (for those citizens with their own access), as well as through one-stop shops run by local or national government, post offices, libraries and supermarkets. A key aspect of using the new delivery channels is to ensure that no citizens are disenfranchised purely through social or economic reasons – for those unable to use direct access, call-centres and telephone-based access provide a viable alternative. A well-planned approach to service delivery for citizens will ensure a broad spread of delivery channels that enable all citizens to have the same degree of access, even if their methods and points of delivery vary. Partners have a key role to play in assisting governments achieve effective and accessible services for the citizen, both through assisting with the provision of technology to drive delivery channels such as kiosks in post offices and supermarkets, as well as digital innovations, such as smartcards, that make eGovernment a viable proposition.

 Moving to more automated means of raising and authorising orders and payments has the potential to release considerable resources and cut costs.

 
 


Governments also need to work more efficiently with their partners, including their suppliers. A large part of government expenditure is concerned with procurement of goods and services and the logistics and financial processes that surround such procurements. Moving to more automated means of raising and authorising orders and payments has the potential to release considerable resources for redeployment from administration functions into direct service delivery. Microsoft has already successfully deployed DNS and Microsoft Windows DNA scenarios for the financial services industries and a key aspect of the vision of DNS and Windows DNA for Government is interoperability between all market sectors. Even small percentage savings in the costs of procurement through the use of more efficient and streamlined processes have the potential to release significant resources for redeployment into direct government services.

 

 A well-planned approach to service delivery for citizens will ensure a broad spread of delivery channels that enable all citizens to have the same degree of access, even if their methods and points of delivery vary.

 
In the same way that financial markets have dematerialised their day-to-day operations, governments too need to take a benefit from the new technologies – and thereby enable the deployment of resources from administration and overheads into core essential services. Microsoft’s DNS frameworks, delivered through the Windows DNA for Government architecture, can enable the development of modern systems that build on a government’s existing investment in technology, but which facilitate effective integration with the newer technologies of the PC and the internet.

 


Rating an existing DNS

 

Governments can assess the degree to which their services and operations have moved towards an effective digital nervous system by asking themselves questions such as:

·         Are you still using paper forms?

·         Do you have government-wide e-mail to help streamline communications and improve intra-government co-ordination?

·         Do you use the web to publish government information and provide direct electronic services to citizens and businesses?

·         Is the same data required in various government agencies or departments and re-keyed or entered multiple times?

·         How good is your government’s memory? (that is, does knowledge leave when employees leave?)

·         Can the right people easily find the information they need on a citizen’s circumstances?

·         Are your partners part of your system?

·         Is everyone in a position to respond effectively to a crisis?

·         Are you starting with technology projects that directly benefit citizens?


Summary

 

This paper has provided an overview for government decision-makers and key influencers of Microsoft’s vision of a digital nervous system in government. The development of a digital nervous system is already enabling governments around the world to implement effective improvements in the conduct of their own operations and the delivery of their services. It is no longer necessary to adopt the expense of a ‘rip and replace’ strategy that was previously proposed by many software and hardware vendors. A digital nervous system in government is as much about cultural change as it is about the technologies that deliver on that vision. Microsoft’s initiatives in this area bring the same value for money benefits that the package software approach has provided in the front and back office areas. Using Microsoft’s digital nervous system in government can enable governments to improve their services and operations whilst freeing resources from administration and bureaucracy into direct service provision. A digital nervous system means that governments will act, re-act and adapt faster and better to the demands of their citizens.

 

 A digital nervous system means that governments will act, re-act and adapt faster and better to the demands of their citizens.

 

Further Resources and Information

 


For more information on DNS for government, visit the Microsoft in government web site at http://www.microsoft.com/europe/industry/government. This site includes case studies and information about the worldwide alliance of Microsoft partners who are actively delivering the vision of a digital nervous system in government.

 

For IT professionals involved in government, the companion paper to this, Windows DNA for Government, provides an overview of the technical framework for developing a digital nervous system.

 

This white paper will also be available at the above web site.

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