We are now in a post-digital world.
Our personal lives are so intertwined with technology today that we often
don’t even think about digital as an option for engaging with the world
around us—it has simply become our default. And this trend has only
accelerated in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, with remote work, Zoom
happy hours, and touchless transactions now the norm.
The challenge is that many enterprises, including federal agencies, are
struggling to keep pace, as they are still in the early stages of their
It seems much longer ago, but it has been only eight years since the federal
government embarked upon a vision, called Digital Government: Building a
21st Century Platform to Better Serve the American People, to modernize
itself as an entity that embraces innovation, operates digitally, and fully
leverages data to enhance decision-making. While progress varies, most
agencies today are well down the path of their digital makeovers. But no
matter how much progress they make, they seem always to be playing catch-up
with the expectations of the tech-savvy citizens they serve.
The national security community is not immune from these challenges either.
Defense organizations, slowed by arcane business processes and an
accumulated technical debt, often struggle to keep pace with the rapidly
advancing state of commercial technology. This has given more nimble nation
states the potential to reap battlefield advantages by incorporating these
innovations more quickly.
To better appreciate the increasing importance and prevalence of
technology today, consider these data points from new Accenture
Given this starring role technology increasingly plays in our lives, it makes
sense that we take technology personally and expect much more from it. In
fact, we are seeing signs that our unconditional love for unlimited
technology is fading. People are reevaluating their digital relationships
with businesses and governments—and reexamining whether the value those
enterprises deliver is fully aligned with their core values.
Citizens, for example, may chafe against government digital services that
lack transparency in the decisions they make or the privacy protections they
offer. They may bristle at having to fill in the same information about
themselves with every digital interaction. They have concerns about the role
that artificial intelligence plays in government decisions that affect their
lives. Despite broadly using and benefitting from technology, people are
expressing concerns about how it is used and what it is used for—and they
are advocating for change.
Government employees—from benefits administrators and nurses to warfighters
and intelligence analysts—experience similar frustrations on a daily basis.
Too often, agencies operate based on technology constraints versus the needs
of the mission. What workers need are empowering digital tools worthy of the
often complex and critical challenges that they face.
Tech-lash or Tech-clash?
Some are referring to today’s environment as a “tech-lash,” or backlash
against technology. But that description fails to account for the fact that
we’re using technology more than ever. It would be more accurate to think of
it as a tech-clash — a collision between old technology models that are
incongruous with people’s current expectations.
The chief take-away here is that we don’t just want more technology in our
products and services; we want technology that is more human-centered and
that appreciates our personal values and desire for greater control in how
we interact digitally with our government.
This presents an important opportunity for government agencies as they
proceed along their transformation journeys. We can’t simply continue to
bolt-on digital technologies to legacy operating models. Rather, we need to
reimagine how we work and deliver services to take full advantage of our new
digital capabilities. This becomes especially important as we navigate the
expansion of AI, creating the need to rebalance the relationship between
humans and machines.
Agencies can diffuse this tech-clash and foster more trusting relationships
by making transparency, accountability, and collaboration the new litmus
tests for future engagements. They will need to empathize with the
individual using their services by incorporating human-centered design
models. In other words, success will require an innovative approach to