Hacking the Silos: Horizontal Government

At the moment all government work, the whole $75 billion is down industry silos with the three biggest being education, health and transport…. We are going to transition in the 2017-18 budget – it will be the first budget going horizontally across Departments.” Rob Whitfield, Secretary NSW Treasury, July 2016.

Delivering on Digital: The Innovations and Technologies that are Transforming Government, the latest book from Deloitte’s William D. Eggers and Deloitte University Press, explores the concept of Horizontal Government and how it can change the way we look at how services are delivered to the public and businesses, the outcomes achieved, ministerial accountabilities and budgets allocated.

Horizontal Government is where government becomes more integrated and operates on a connected digital data platform, allowing departments to operate data exchanges and more importantly change the culture to trust and punch holes through agency silos. Rough estimates of adopting this approach in the UK suggest savings of £35bn. There are countless stories (and I am sure you know some yourself) where even within departments there is duplication of investment in IT projects that provide similar functionality – for instance between 2008 and 2013 the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found Defence, Homeland Security and Health and Human Services spent more than $321m on duplicated  projects! Specifically in Australia, the duplication of grant management systems at a state and federal level has created an industry of large system implementation, leading to duplication of cost and maintenance and making sharing of information nearly impossible.

The book explores a number of interesting case studies of government departments around the world that have tackled these challenges, explaining;

  • Their strategies in how they tackled the duplication, overlap and sometimes conflicting datasets and systems
  • How the data layer becomes the focus (rather than the systems) allowing for greater sharing within Government and external sources
  • Who is accessing and using the information and the need for identity management.

horizontal government

The government structure in Australia is complicated and a single common enterprise wide system is simply not practical – it would not be able to respond to the changing demands effectively and would be costly to administer. Instead, the best strategy is for agencies to create integrated data exchanges which are linked to other agency exchanges. For instance, student truancy from school has a strong correlation to the same student interacting with police. Being able to quickly (and cheaply) access these data sets allows for more targeted interventions to be designed and improves the ability to measure the effect they have.

Data is our biggest ally in the transformation of government. It cuts through opinions and allows fact based decisions to be made to solve complex problems. Advancements in analytical tools and cognitive intelligence will continue to accelerate government’s ability to expand the data layer, even including unstructured data, for richer insights and decision making. Thinking about the agencies’ data (rather than systems) will allow for easier integration across more systems.

Finally, identity management and privacy can become significant hurdles if not tackled in a proactive way. The first step is building trust with critical privacy and security groups and asking the public what limitations they have. There are an increasing number of examples (Australia, US and UK) where through the use of a consent step, privacy and identity challenges have been overcome with simple and cost effective technology tools.

Achieving such changes takes time and requires a cultural shift in the way public servants operate. Through proof of concepts that hack through the silos between agencies and prove the case for funding transformation, horizontal government will begin to emerge – reducing costs and improving services being delivered to the public and business.

Read more

‘Delivering on Digital – The Innovators and Technologies That Are Transforming Government’.

This latest book from Deloitte’s William D. Eggers explores how a new generation of digital innovators is reforming and modernising government, citing ground-breaking case studies from around the world, including Australia.

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