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The role of ‘smart’ governments during a crisis

from  May 6, 2020 | 3 min read

During a crisis, ‘smarter’ governments are discovering new data-driven ways to increase efficiency, reduce costs, and divert valuable resources from non-essential services to where they’re needed most.

Public sector organizations have always struggled with doing more with less. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and in its wake, this is only going to get worse.

As a result of the current crisis, public sector organizations are facing colossal increases in demand for services. One UK public sector supplier of AI solutions says some saw a 600 percent increase in citizen contact over a three-day period.

Now more than ever, governments need to find ways of delivering the services taxpayers need not just right now, but as the world recovers. Part of the solution is through the use of ‘smart’ technology (digital, automated, connected devices and systems).

IoT offers new ways to cut costs

To serve citizens better, governments in the US, Canada, the UK and the Nordics (among other countries) are already becoming more digitally smart through initiatives around mobility, security, education, environment and economy, according to Deloitte Insights’ Government Trends 2020 report.

“As we see with smart cities, integrated, connected, and sustainable governments will deploy technology to serve citizens in a collaborative and comprehensive manner, improving everything from mobility to health care to the environment,” says the report.

“Cities are at the forefront of the trend, but it is now coming to regions, universities, military bases, and rural communities, among others. The convergence of cyber and physical is enabling government to track, monitor, and manage resources and make data-driven decisions.”

Smarter governments, more targeted services

Data collected from Internet of Things (IoT) device sensors can be used to measure performance against plans and KPIs to better manage resources and assets to deliver more targeted services to taxpayers. Globally, government organizations have been investing in technologies that help them analyze this data to drive decisions.

In the current crisis, specifically around healthcare, smart cities can help deliver more effective triage and tracking of disease and infection. They can also streamline billing, after-care and pharmaceutical processes.

Data gathered from IoT devices also has a broader application — it’s crucial for helping public sector organizations discover new data-driven ways to increase efficiency and reduce costs in other areas, as well as diverting resources from non-essential services to essential ones.

Supported by ERP

Supported by an app-based, cloud-based ERP, with integrated financial planning and analysis tools, government organizations can regain visibility and control over every stage of the record-to-report cycle. With all this data feeding into a single unified ERP system, they can streamline budget planning and analysis while consolidating organization-wide data.

They can also optimize business planning using an integrated corporate performance management tool, with advanced AI-powered forecasting capabilities.

During a crisis like COVID-19, ‘what-if’ scenario planning can be used to calculate the impact of diverting resources away from non-essential services — such as pollution control initiatives in cities — to where they are most needed, like emergency healthcare and infection monitoring.

And smart cities also lead to smarter services, thanks to increased collaboration, adds the Deloitte Insights report: “There is a new information-sharing partnership between government entities, residents, and businesses. Governments are using technology to enable civic participation and leverage decentralized expertise to reinvent and overhaul core services. In other words, data + smart citizens = better city decisions.”

Mobilizing civil servants and communicating is also a big part of this. ERP-integrated tools for talent management, HR and payroll further reduce admin, duplications and human error while increasing insight into resources, workflow and staff self-service to manage people better and improve People Experience.

Reducing costs saves lives

All of this delivers lower admin costs and increases operational efficiency to free up resources for essential services which are in unusually high demand.

It also improves the agility and foresight of public sector organizations. They can react faster and more proactively to short-term demand spikes, as well as make processes more agile for potential crises in the future. The result, during such a global pandemic, is saving lives.

In India, 45 smart city command and control centres turn into Covid-19 war rooms, monitoring quarantine facilities, supporting people and tracking the health of suspected patients.

Smart city startups in South Korea are claiming they helped to curb the spread of the virus. And UK newspaper, The Guardian, asks whether governments may consider smart cities as safer from a public health perspective.

It seems the role of smart cities during the coronavirus crisis is only just being realized, and no doubt this technology will have an important role to play in future unexpected events.