According to the Accenture Technology Vision 2017 survey, 68 percent of public service executives surveyed believe digital ecosystems are already having a noticeable impact on, or will dramatically transform, the industry.1 The most effective platforms are designed around specific goals, situational needs and current capabilities—and agencies have options. Agencies are more readily working with others in the ecosystem. The Accenture Technology Vision 2018 data reveals that 36 percent of public service executives globally report that the number of partners their organisation works with has doubled or more compared to two years ago.2
Here are four platform models with varying communication channels and ecosystems for delivering public services.
The public sector is the primary driver fostering an environment that supports collaboration among all stakeholders. The Whole-of-Government platform is best suited for countries that have created a clear, centralised responsibility for digital and public services transformation at the federal level. This type of platform provides a central point of access to cross-government information and services. Citizens want such one-door services. In fact, six in 10 United Kingdom citizens favour a consolidated online portal for their online public services.3
For instance, this approach has proven successful at the Government Digital Service in the United Kingdom and Australian Taxation Office. Norway is exploring ways of using the Altinn platform for increased collaboration with businesses and civil society (e.g., crowdsourcing activities). Evolving beyond an online portal to streamline business reporting, Altinn now provides the tools and technology platform on which government agencies and businesses can create new services. Third parties can integrate with the platform and develop value-added services, sharing some common data with platform partners to drive innovation. Stakeholders are exploring evolving Altinn further as the trusted data source—think secure citizen data gatekeeper—for the Norwegian digital economy.
Peer platforms are a service-centric and vertically integrated platform established by two or more government entities. These platforms reduce the volume of information and number of service providers to facilitate more extensive data sharing. Data sharing is increasingly important—85 percent of public service executives globally agree their organisations are using data at unprecedented scale for critical and automated decision making.4 Peer platforms also enable bolder initiatives focused on a particular public service area.
This platform approach is best for countries that lack a common platform for public digital services and are looking for improved delivery in certain policy fields (e.g., small business support, licensing) that involve several public agencies, often on both federal and state/local levels.
Government regulatory and licensing organisations would benefit from adopting a peer platform. These organisations must become more proactive partners focused on the success of their business community—while still protecting public welfare. They are trying, but many are still looking digital, not being digital.
Government acts like an orchestrator or hub in an ecosystem platform—an open and outcome-focused platform in which government collaborates or offers services jointly with non-governmental actors. This co-creation model fosters natural partnerships and encourages unconventional ones to cultivate new value and innovation. Nearly all (91 percent) of public service executives surveyed globally believe it is critical to adopt a platform-based business model and engage in ecosystems with digital partners.5
Public service executives are already preparing for greater ecosystem collaboration. Most public service executives (94 percent) believe the volume of data exchanged with partners will increase.6 It may be the right approach to address complicated policy issues that cannot be handled by a single service provider (e.g., youth unemployment and training).
Pôle Emploi, the French public employment services agency, is a successful ecosystem platform. It launched the “L’Emploi Store,” an open portal where people can download employment-related apps developed by Pôle Emploi and third parties. The agency collaborated with an online education provider, allowing jobseekers access to more than 1,000 online courses. The agency also created “Le Lab,” an internal innovation center that sponsors opportunities for jobseekers, employers, counselors and start-ups to design new digital services.
The crowdsourcing platform is a collaborative and innovation-focused approach in which governments openly collaborate with citizens, companies, other government organisations or NGOs. In this approach, government serves as an orchestrator or hub for ecosystem collaboration, but with largely undefined roles for participants. This platform is best suited for countries in which new policy issues demand innovative problem solving with civil society.
Examples include crowdsourcing platforms that invite ideas and expertise on highly complex issues, such as the USAID Grand Challenge for fighting the Ebola epidemic or UNHCR's open platform, "UNHCR Ideas," which invites ideas for improving the lives of refugees.
Also, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) provides free online tax assistance and e-file options to taxpayers under a defined income threshold. Rather than taking the time and resources to develop these apps itself, the IRS has certified existing apps developed by several private companies, and makes the tools accessible through IRS.gov. Qualified individuals can use free fillable online forms, download commercial tax preparation software and connect with authorised e-file tax preparers from the IRS managed platform.7
A platform for good