Many governments are grappling with urgent pandemic challenges, from insufficient supplies, to evolving public health guidance, to disseminating timely and accurate information—all while making herculean efforts to “flatten the curve” to save lives. The tireless efforts of public servants at all levels during this unprecedented time have our deep gratitude and support.
While so many urgent actions are required, there also are important forward-looking steps that need attention to improve the success of long-term recovery efforts. One of these steps is to assess and prioritize technology investments that are necessary to aid the response and recovery efforts. In times of crisis, however, taking the time to develop a technology roadmap is not always realistic.
This is the scenario facing many governments. Leaders simultaneously are trying to respond to evolving constituent needs while anticipating the needs that lie ahead. This balancing act presents a difficult challenge. How leaders proceed will have a major impact on recovery efforts, such as disbursing federal funds.
The good news is that determining these technology needs does not have to be time-consuming or complex. In looking at several U.S. states that successfully navigated past crisis response and recovery efforts, we see several common principles for identifying technologies to meet business needs and programmatic requirements. These include:
Clearly define the outcomes the technology must enable
The underlying premise should be that technology is an enabler of business needs, not a driver of them. There is no shortage of powerful technology available—that is the least of the challenges governments face. Taking the time to collaborate with stakeholders to develop the critical use cases will ensure business needs are met, rather than having to accept what a given technology will “allow.” Defining these use cases also will lessen the likelihood of re-work at the end of the effort. I’ve seen this work really well with a platform we developed (CGI CommunityCare360) to streamline healthcare efforts by connecting patients, clinicians, first responders and administrators. The use case was simple and straightforward: put the citizen at the center so they can take more responsibility for their care.
Prioritize projects that deliver insights for crisis decision-making
Governments should seek technology that enables information-driven decision-making, placing a premium on data integrity. At a minimum, a secure technical platform is needed to support basic crisis-related workflow and reporting needs. This includes the ability to triage physical and human resources effectively, make it easy for users to provide data inputs remotely, push timely and accurate information to leaders and decision-makers, and provide critical information to those working in the field.
Collaborate with community stakeholders to provide vital, timely information to citizens
Enabling broad collaboration across stakeholders—including citizens, non-profits, commercial businesses, the healthcare community and elected officials—can be invaluable during crisis response. Leveraging that support, however, requires having a simple and comprehensive information-sharing mechanism in place. Governments with transparency portals to provide current information on everything from case counts to grant expenditures have experienced significant success, not only to engage their community networks, but also to give citizens a centralized source of authorized information. Such a system helps alleviate concerns, frustrations and often times panic within the public at-large. For an example of this, read about our collaboration with British Columbia health sector leaders, where a patient advocacy group provided testing to help train a COVID-19 chat bot to answer constituent’s questions and link them to critical resources.
Look to existing and proven systems to minimize the risk and cost of recovery
Using proven solutions and reusing existing systems where possible mitigates risk. It also enables a nimble implementation and allows a government to take full advantage of a trusted system. Taking a conservative approach to implementing new technologies also frees up resources to focus on critical projects. Looking at an example for U.S. state governments, a proven solution to integrate data from the state’s existing child welfare system with the disease tracking system could allow caseworkers to identify homes with COVID-19 positive residents.
Take a modular approach
In order to mitigate risk and streamline implementation, technology solutions should be as modular as possible, allowing for ease of integration with existing systems. In some cases, this could mean integrating a new module into an existing system.
Invest in technology that enables rapid distribution of recovery funds
During the response phase, time spent planning for technology requirements can significantly improve a government’s ability to support citizens early in the recovery phase. U.S. states, for example, will need support infrastructure to develop action plans and manage disbursement of federal funds from several federal agencies, all with different eligibility, disbursement and reporting rules. Here, the implementation of an enabling information management and financial reporting system is imperative as developing the mandatory policies, procedures and business rules can be costly, and cause delays in getting funds to citizens and businesses in desperate need. After Hurricane Sandy, the State of New Jersey implemented such a platform to disburse more than $1.8 billion in recovery funds to residents. This platform is available for reuse by other states.
As we continue to assist our government clients in navigating the pandemic, we seek to help them move with agility to meet the needs of affected constituents—from responding to urgent challenges, to preparing for the recovery and rebound, to reinventing processes and systems to support new demands.