Digitisation cannot be dependent on the goodwill of government authorities
The voluntary model of digital collaboration between government authorities means that Sweden risks falling behind in digitisation work, write PA Consulting’s Peter Daniel and Anders Persson.
In the latest OECD survey DGI 2019, Sweden received the worst rating of all participating countries in terms of strategies and digital governance. It is obvious that our approach to governance makes it more difficult for the citizen to access the centre. The authorities' ability to bridge organisational boundaries in the digitisation work to deliver digital services around various life events needs to be developed. The government has recently implemented a number of measures to improve the situation. The creation of the Agency for Digital Administration, Digg, is a concrete example. The measures implemented for secure and efficient access to basic data and digital infrastructure when exchanging information are different. The goal - that Swedish government authorities need to become better at creating common services and sharing data - is clear.
But unfortunately, it seems that the way government bodies are run and the role they continue to play will be based on voluntary collaboration between central authorities and those at local and regional level. Under these conditions, there is a big risk that Swedish silo-oriented governance - which is underlined as a weakness in international comparisons - will be very costly to Sweden's ongoing digitisation work.
Several organisations, such as those around Verksamt.se, have begun the journey with a clearer focus on putting the customer at the centre and creating more coherent processes. But they are also working towards greater technical and organisational links between authorities. Other organisations though are still prioritising their internal processes over simplicity for their interactions with both citizens and businesses.
A number of capabilities are required to create effective digital collaboration to reach the goal of increasing civic and societal benefits. Some of the most important are securing key competencies in technology, project management, architecture, law and change management. Other important capabilities are about how well processes and collaboration forums are defined, how the distribution of roles and responsibilities around digital collaboration works and to what extent financial management as well as leadership and culture support collaboration.
We believe that it is not a lack of expert competence or commitment from management that is putting the brakes on the collaboration work. A new study from PA Consulting has identified a number of measures that can contribute to improving the work on collaboration by Swedish government authorities within the current, voluntary, model:
- Increase the authorities' ability to set out to government how the legal management of digital collaboration initiatives needs to be developed. The authorities must become better at requesting the right legal conditions for digitisation in collaboration.
- Prioritise the management of collaboration initiatives so that all participants have clear, measurable benefits from the initiatives that they can steer towards. You cannot just rely on the good will of all participants for collaboration initiatives to deliver.
- Increase middle managers' competence around the technical and legal possibilities of collaboration. It is at departmental and unit level that the hard decisions about the priorities of different activities are made, and understanding is required in order to be able to make these decisions.
In the next few years, it will become clear whether the Swedish model of voluntary collaboration around digital services can be developed to meet the requirements set by both citizens and the EU. If Swedish authorities do not succeed in streamlining and developing their way of working together, we risk either slipping behind or having to change our way of directing authorities to a more top-down model, similar to that in most other EU countries.
Peter Daniel and Anders Persson, PA Consulting