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Disrupting Public Sector Services Disrupting Public Sector Services


Disrupting Public Sector Services

 4 min read / 

Watching the World Cup, a striking image hit screens around the world after the Japan versus Colombia match. The match had ended, folks were leaving the stadium, but a handful of Japanese fans remained, cleaning up the fan section, picking up trash, separating plastic from paper, cleaning their seating area despite the fact stadiums have cleaning crews contracted for just that.

Respect and Civic Engagement

It was an image of respect and good citizenry, and at its core what every public-sector entity strives to engender and have in a population base. Prior to the digital era, many public-sector organisations went through a lean, efficiency stage. Siloed approaches were commonplace, large entities divided into smaller units with increased levels of competition and quite a bit of outsourcing to third parties. The approach was rooted in doing things correctly and efficiently, but many times the outsourced entities did not share the same “good will” that the government or municipality desired. Things might have been done more efficiently, but were they the right things?

Getting back to the Japanese cleaning spree, a good citizen is what all seek. Responsible people, who in turn value their community, will naturally drive growth, development and further prosperity. But thinking that this can be created overnight is foolish. In the era of digitalisation, governments are rushing to support technology to drive this next social and economic paradigm shifts, however, the private sector’s capacity and ability to work with IT is much more advanced than that of governments. Salaries and opportunities in the private sector will continue to draw talent, and the gap between the two worlds is likely to widen as technology becomes more advanced.

Irrelevant Governments?

With that said, are governments inadvertently laying the groundwork for their own irrelevance? In a nutshell, yes, but they are also uniquely positioned to be able to empower their own citizenry instead of relying on the previously mentioned third party outsourcing models.
Take an innovative example from Belgium, the e-portemonnee electronic discount voucher system run by an inter-municipal waste disposal company. The system allows locals to obtain discounts at municipal facilities in exchange for reducing their waste and other environmental actions. In total there are ten Belgian municipalities participating, and each municipality determines a list of “activities” through which users can earn and spend points. Typical activities include switching to a green energy provider, donating old clothes to a local thrift shop, bringing domestic waste to the local recycling centre, or reporting a local problem.
The points earned can be spent to “buy” entrance tickets at the local swimming pool, power-efficient light bulbs, composters or even rechargeable batteries. According to 2012 figures, up to 16% of households in each of the participating municipalities were actively participating in.
Another example can be found in Fairfield, Iowa, which experimented with “Hero Rewards” or “merits.” This is where residents earned vouchers for working with local charities which could then be redeemed in the form of discounts at local merchants.

Digital Engagement, Real World Effects

Location-based apps such as are experimenting with functionality that will allow a person in a local community to carry out a public-sector job, for example, picking up trash, removing a tree from the road, or aiding in a range of activities that result in a tangible, communal benefit. If people in their local communities are incentivised in a smart, efficient manner (discounts, tax reductions, cryptocurrency payouts) to collaborate with the public sector instead of simply receive services, the public sector will finally be engaged in something that they do not need private sector tech experts to manage. The app, in’s case, will fuel the collaborative spirit on its own.

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