Technology is changing and challenging governments around the world. With data analytics and artificial intelligence, new technologies present governments with tremendous opportunities to improve public services, get better value-for-money, and curb corruption.
Governments need to become fit-for-purpose in the digital era. Faced with the rising expectations of digital natives, they realize that business-as-usual is over. In Chile, for example, the current social malaise reflects frustrated aspirations of the new, yet vulnerable middle-class.
Bureaucracies are developing a greater appetite for new ways of thinking and doing. Progressive governments are pushing public agencies to be more tech-savvy and data-thirsty, willing to take risks and learning to adapt faster. In the past, governments tended to contract-out tech expertise to big-techs. They are now building-up their capacities to understand emerging technologies better and diversifying technology providers to avoid being locked into using certain vendors. They are creating central agencies to rationalize how they buy and deploy new technologies. Britain created its Government Digital Services in 2011 and has saved £3.56bn between 2012 and 2015. The United States and Sweden are the latest to follow course.
The public sector is indeed the greatest purchaser of technology, spending over US$400 billion annually on technology. With the acceleration of governments’ digital transformation, to figure is set to increase to reach US$1 trillion by 2025. There is a big market for tech companies willing to service the changing needs of governments in the digital era.
Countries are aggressively competing against one another to attract digital talent and tech start-ups. In Europe, there is a fierce battle to succeed Britain as the leading digital innovator after Brexit. In September, French President Emmanuel Macron drummed up €5bn from venture capitalists and asset managers to invest in tech start-ups over the next three years.
“Our desire is to make France the leading ecosystem in Europe,” said Cédric O, France’s minister for the digital economy when visiting London last September to promote France’s start-up scene.