Digital Transformation in European governments

Digital Transformation in European governments

Dinand Tinholt , Vice President – Global EU Lead, Capgemini Consulting
Eva van Steenbergen, Consultant, Capgemini Consulting.

Nowadays, a substantial amount of online information has initially been collected by the public sector and is released as Open Data. Open Data refers to information that can be freely used, modified, and shared by anyone for any purpose. To stimulate Open Data in Europe, the European Data Portal was launched during the European Data Forum on 16 November 2015 in Luxembourg. This portal is one central place for all public sector data throughout Europe, as it harvests the metadata from national, regional and local Open Data portals. Currently, the portal collects 400,000 datasets from 34 European countries distributed over thirteen categories. The interesting part is to look at what the data can be used for.

Digital Transformation

Given its potential, Open Data offers an excellent opportunity in assisting organisations in achieving Digital Transformation. Digital Transformation is the increasing adoption of digital tools and technologies by any organisation to fundamentally alter both its internal and external processes and functions. The aim is to radically improve the performance or reach of organisations. Digital Transformation consists of three key areas every organisation needs to focus on: customer experience, operational processes and business models. Different types of organisations are already using Open Data. Those organisations range from financial institutions, to high tech businesses and start-ups. How they use Open Data varies from internal process optimisation to selling data insight. Enrichers are the largest re-users of Open Data consisting of organisations using Open Data to gain new or better insights they can use to create or improve services or products to their customers.

Open Data in the public sector

The public sector is not only a provider of Open Data, but also one of the biggest re-users of Open Data themselves. Improving customer experience, in the case of the government citizens’ experience, is an important part of the governmental task to provide good services. A good example of the use of Open Data to improve services to citizens is to create an application with all public transport information. Using this, citizens are able to plan their travels based on the best schedule available in real-time.

So-called ‘performance management’ is improved directly after the release of Open Data, because it is easier for all citizens to find the information they are looking for. Hereby, the time searching or waiting for information is reduced. Public institutions like the police or fire department highly benefit from the available data as well. The Amsterdam police is combining crime data with neighbourhood characteristics, the number of convicted criminals living there and GPS data of police officers present to make better predictions of criminal behaviour. The Estonian government aims to set up a central digital system that allows traffic police officers to identify and tag drivers based on their vehicle number and/or other details in real time. Two tools were introduced: a mobile workstation installed in each patrol car and a positioning system that shows headquarters each officers’ location and status. Since the introduction of e-Police, the Estonian police have handled 70% more offense reports per day, decreased road fatalities by over 400% and performed look-ups on 1000% more vehicles per month.

Open Data has a huge potential for the future. The Internet of Things and the development of Smart Cities are two growing fields that benefit from Open Data. In Smart Cities, digital technologies translate into better local public services for citizens, better use of resources and less impact on the environment. Those smarter cities may lead to broader social innovations and sustainability, protecting the urban environment. Some examples of applications used in cities are maps that show the urban development of a city from medieval times until now or real-time information of free parking spots. To be able to benefit from those advantages, it is important to start right as soon as possible and make sure that a good sustainable Open Data programme is in place.

Lessons learned

The Creating Value through Open Data study conducted for the European Commission forecasted the accumulated public sector cost savings for the EU28 and EFTA countries in 2020 to equal 1.7 bn EUR. The high economic potential is known, but governments need to keep three important recommendations in mind.

  • First of all, start with using Open Data to improve smarter decision making, new products and services and improved interaction with citizens and businesses, as those are the fields that already demonstrated value creation.
  • Secondly, start on a small scale by initiating a small project using Open Data to be able to work fast, get proof of the benefits it generates and learn from the first phase.
  • Finally, use the data that is already available right now. The amount of data will rapidly grow, but a lot of data is already out there.

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