Covid-19, an opportunity for public sector transformation?

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Covid-19, an opportunity for public sector transformation?
Covid-19, an opportunity for public sector transformation?

By Idoia Ortiz de Artiñano, Beatriz Belmonte and Sofia Silva

The Covid 19 crisis has led society to face its own weaknesses and inconsistencies from one day to the next. As if it were a massive and surreal experiment, the pandemic is testing the resilience of our social model and its economic gear. Also and especially the responsiveness, decision and success of our governments and our public institutions.

It is not the first time that a brutal pandemic like the one we are experiencing is causing society to rethink its values, its growth and governance model. The Black Death in the 14th Century or the Boston Smallpox Epidemic in the 18th Century are historical dramas that have been a great stimulus for research, experimentation and progress. More recently, some of the countries that faced SARS in 2002 are now a model for fighting Covid-19. Although every crisis is unique and its losses are unaffordable in most cases, society faces a crisis, tests, fails or is successful and ultimately learns and advances.

This crisis can serve as an incentive to modernize and transform our public institutions. In a few days, some local, regional, and national governments have found that their ability to act and impact have been slowed or even wiped out due to serious operational constraints: from the lack of basic infrastructure (such as laptops or remote access) to the lack of platforms for digital work. .

Beyond these limits, this crisis has highlighted the need to rethink public functions and how they work and to invest in digital infrastructure, knowledge and skills. A new digital logic that makes it possible to rethink the relationship models between people, companies and public institutions and to ensure an agile and efficient adaptation to new and unpredictable contexts. For example, the multiplication of online help channels (chatbots, applications, etc.) and the provision of websites that easily provide reliable and up-to-date data and can quickly adapt to the needs of citizens. None of this is new or absolutely innovative. But for one reason or another, many of our institutions lack these solutions.

On the other hand, the challenge of maintaining and improving the level of services, processing and public order in remote work contexts and high volatility situations is evident. This requires technological infrastructures and regulatory framework conditions that enable the use of identification and certification systems such as face recognition. There is also a need to rethink digital governance and decision making, data management, its analytical and predictive use, and related cybersecurity issues.

The challenges facing administrations in this area are not only limited to coping with the health crisis, but also to the ability to respond quickly and operationally when childbirth ends. Our institutions should be the driving force behind the recovery, reactivate all tenders and contracts as quickly as possible, manage aid early and efficiently and facilitate bureaucratic procedures to activate the economy. The technology can enable administrations to manage aid and social policies for vulnerable groups, support the economy as they move towards more sustainable production and consumption models, and of course change the size of emergency and security investments and develop forecasting capacity . and bigger response.

Without wanting to minimize these challenges, the truth is that officials and workers are demonstrating their public calling these weeks by making tremendous efforts to try to respond to the great demands that arise every day. The situation has left cultural and regulatory barriers to prioritize the creation of value and public welfare with innovative companies that are unusual in institutional settings. Today’s newspapers surprise us with stories about small businesses that work with public institutions to invent, create, produce, and test solutions in record time. Companies like Taiger and its artificial intelligence solutions through chatbots, Citibeats and its citizen observation observatory for public decision making, OS City and its solutions for managing hospital care or ElectronicID and its technology that enables people In times of uncertainty, remote identification is with management part of the solution using a camera.

In this great experiment, public institutions were forced to be more agile and effective, to work with a wide range of competitive players, and to take on an unusual level of risk and uncertainty. These are three of the basic skills to become digital, adaptable and resilient institutions. Thanks to the efforts of the people in the administration who are struggling to make things better for everyone, from management to the front of the service, this transformation is already a reality and has only just begun.

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