Government as a platform: The case for UCaaS in Canada

The founder of the Cloud Best Practices Network says unified communications as a service is a great example of how the public sector could drive innovation

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Government as a platform UCaaS

Government is typically associated with red tape, bureaucracy and inertia. But if you work in public sector, you probably face staffing and budget limitations, so rolling out new technologies — which aren’t so new in the private sector — can be particularly challenging.

“The concept of e-government has moved on from simply creating online interfaces to existing processes without changing them,” says Neil McEvoy, founder of the Cloud Best Practices Network, in a recent article. Instead, “the more strategic use of the technology is to harness it to achieve new organizational models that weren’t previously possible.”

UCaaS — or unified communications as a service — is one way to make government more efficient, but also more innovative.

It has the potential to enable what McEvoy calls “transformational digital government,” allowing you to repeat best practices across departments and agencies, and enabling easier collaboration — from document sharing and simple voice conferences to more sophisticated group video sessions.

This is part of a larger trend toward government-as-a-platform, which provides a common infrastructure on which to build government services (which means you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time you roll out new systems or applications).

Sounds great in theory. But it’s not so easy, right?

A recent Accenture report found that U.S. federal agencies are finding it difficult to take advantage of cloud technologies, due to a lack of necessary staffing and lengthy procurement processes.

But while there are initial challenges in the adoption of cloud, the report says governments have much to gain, and cloud holds the potential to play a major role in increasing government efficiency and service delivery.

Cost savings and budget reductions are usually the primary drivers behind cloud adoption strategies in government — after all, cloud requires less upfront investment, so it’s easier to get in the game (though it still requires training and skill sets that your team may need to invest in).

But if you’re considering cloud-based communication tools — such as UCaaS — simply as a way to cut costs, you’re missing out on a big opportunity. Sure, saving cash is great, but cloud is about innovation, especially in a sector known for red tape, bureaucracy and inertia.

UCaaS provides tools for better communication and collaboration, which can improve efficiencies, speed decision-making and even improve employee morale.

But it also has the potential to change government processes: think of telemedicine or connected justice. UCaaS can increase the speed of treatment or justice, respectively, regardless of location. It not only makes processes more efficient, but it has the potential to fundamentally change these processes.

A social welfare case management application, for example, could make dynamic collaboration part of the case management process, says McEvoy. And that — making government workflow systems programmable — is “the power vision of government as a platform.”

Building citizen-centric digital government is a massive task. And cloud is not a panacea for all that ails IT. But it’s another tool that can help governments evolve into digital governments — and move from inertia to innovation.

photo credit: love your wires, w2 and blue sky vancouver-gastown-xe2-zeiss-35-2-20141212-DSCF5203.jpg via photopin (license)

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