Public Affairs Networking
Digitally savvy citizens are demanding new ways to communicate with government bodies

The European Union has set goals for 50% of citizens and 80% of businesses to be interacting with the government digitally by 2015. While this is welcomed, is it realistic?  Research from the Economist Intelligence Unit, commissioned by Ricoh Europe, reveals that just 27% of government executives feel under significant or extreme pressure to adapt to rapid change, compared to 39% of respondents in healthcare and 36% in education, writes Carsten Bruhn.

As the EU targets loom, factors such as rapidly evolving technology and private sector organisations advancing further on their digital journeys are continuing to redefine citizens’ expectations from digital services. The research also highlights that 70% of government respondents have experienced rapid technological change over the past three years, and this expectation shows no sign of slowing. With European governments facing resource constraints, there’s never been more urgency for change-resistant public sector departments to take advantage of new paths to improving the services they provide to citizens.

The recent release of the 10th Benchmark Measurement of European e-Government Services by the European Commission suggests that progress is being made to some extent. Use of e-Government services in Europe is at 46%, which while positive, still requires a minimum increase of four per cent within six months if the goal is to be achieved. With banks, telecomms companies and retailers in the private sector consistently raising the bar for digital experiences, the 10th Benchmark shows that citizens are far more satisfied with private e-Services, than with the services offered by their governments. With this additional pressure, governments across Europe clearly have work to do. They need to use technology in a smarter way to gain quick results, while ensuring that the underpinning business processes remain both relevant and effective.

The pressure to change faster is highly likely to increase. Today’s digitally savvy citizens continue to demand new ways to communicate with government bodies, including interactions via social and mobile, which are in line with their evolving digital habits.

Managing digital and paper workflows is one area where the public sector can make rapid enhancements to meet the needs of all citizens, by bridging the analogue and digital worlds. A clear document strategy will help public sector workers to manage the massive volumes of physical and digital data that sit within each department.  Ricoh Europe commissioned research also illustrates the benefits that European businesses can gain by tackling this ‘bigger data’ opportunity. An overwhelming 88% agree that digitising and unlocking data from physical documents improves business decision-making. Meanwhile, 70% believe that digitising hard copy documents would save between five and 20 per cent of their annual turnover.

By being able to access business critical documents on demand, while creating a central conduit for document management, organisations will have the ideal combination of optimising business critical processes and maximising their use of technology. As a mirror image to the successful commercial enterprise, the end result will see quicker access to information, increased efficiency and responsiveness to a rapidly changing world.

Carsten Bruhn is Executive Vice President of Ricoh Europe

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