It’s been almost 15 years since the concept of Government as a Platform (GaaP) captured the attention of government leaders … and 15 years of eager discussion about its opportunities. Is GaaP at last ready for prime time? DXC  researchers and colleagues believe the answer is yes.

Three platform environments are common in all sectors today: business model, business capability and technical. We’re able to discover and stream our favorite films whenever we want (e.g., Netflix), reserve unique vacation rentals anywhere in the world (e.g., Airbnb) and compare prices for hard-to-get items across a global marketplace (e.g., Amazon and Alibaba). Business-capability platform environments provide videoconferencing, and enable financial and customer relationship management. And technical platforms are injecting flexibility and intelligence into operations by scaling compute-on-demand and tool support.

These platform environments are here to stay. They create new, durable value across sectors, along with broad consumer adoption, cementing them within the public fabric and technoculture.

This acceptance drives increasing expectations ever higher. It always has. The notion of platforms, fortunately, creates a profound opportunity to reorient the style of public administration around citizens, much as Amazon and others have shifted our ways of thinking. In doing so, government organizations can now move toward delivering citizen services that leverage a whole-of-government approach.

The progression path is accelerating because of governments’ extraordinary responses to multiple crises that boosted the implementation, adoption and use of technology by all. The types of disruption from these crises, with structural transformations already afoot, led to a convergence of opportunities for strategic leverage that continue to ripple out today.

GaaP for citizen services (GaaP4CS) is a meaningful version of a platform environment. This version includes an ecosystem platform providing both (1) building blocks for more intelligent, tailored citizen services, and (2) a collaborative environment for multisector participation to deliver these services in context. As legislators, regulators and operators work to responsibly harness and apply platform power and adapt in an era of uncertainty, promising examples offer themselves up for examination. The time for GaaP4CS has come.

GaaP for citizen services (GaaP4CS) is a meaningful version of a platform environment. This version includes an ecosystem platform providing both (1) building blocks for more intelligent, tailored citizen services, and (2) a collaborative environment for multisector participation to deliver these services in context. 

From convergence to “always uncertain” — and GovTech growth

Change and complexity are part of every global trend. But convergence is creating one of the most disruptive eras since the Industrial Revolution. In prior eras, structural transformation occurred over a longer arc, allowing the market, the government, the consumer and the citizen to adjust to a major change — whether it was railroads, electricity, computing technology or space travel. Now, we’re in an “always-uncertain” time.

Inherent in each structural transformation are systemic risks, many of which are manifesting today. Together, the shifts are tectonic, driving multiple structural transformations in industries, economies and society. Increasingly time-compressed, their convergence forms a profoundly disruptive crucible — the very one needed to modernize the style of public administration and drive operational change in government. As nature abhors a vacuum, so does the market — and concomitant transformations drive rising expectations. These transformations create uncertainty and often bring fear of change. They also manifest risks in ways that deliver a nearly unprecedented opportunity to change how governments interact with their citizens and businesses (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Hyper-disruption is driving operational change in public administration

Prior to 2020, GovTech initiatives and implementations were already trending upward. There was greater recognition of the significant upside potential for employing a whole-of-government approach. As platform environments gained steam, government organizations experimented and adopted. Over time, the whole-of-government and platform-as-a-service approaches converged in how the public sector uses data and digital technologies to modernize and transform, i.e., GovTech.

Examples abound of GovTech initiatives delivering on their potential and showing the increasing upside for a whole-of-government approach, which started with e-government. Examples of platform components include digital identity management (often used by the private sector), online payment portals, open government data, data analytics, reporting and case management. These are increasingly commonplace and continue to evolve. Where leaders are prioritizing GovTech, we see transformation in policy, strategy and institutions at the highest levels. 

Where leaders are prioritizing GovTech, we see transformation in policy, strategy and institutions at the highest levels. 

Yet for each success, there are cautionary tales. Ballooning technical debt (tech debt) from trying to integrate legacy IT systems often drives cost overruns, while duplication of effort turns into missed opportunities for reuse. Failure to design integrated, adaptive platforms keeps systems and data disconnected even as technical and operational capacity in other parts of the government system are underused. These are among the greatest risks.

Enter GaaP4CS

Government leaders realize that more intelligent and tailored citizen services are possible. Citizens do, too. There is a path forward to carefully guide decisions and support platform-enabled capabilities — one that develops a platform for architecting agile, anti-fragile and modular services that can be combined into robust services for citizens. The dynamics leading up to today have set the stage for GaaP4CS, building on the foundation of GovTech. The shift to GaaP4CS represents an inflection point — a change in trajectory from GovTech, which is more traditional (linear) (Figure 5). GaaP4CS facilitates value exchange and co-creation, which creates an ecosystem driven by network effects.

Figure 5. From GovTech to GaaP4CS

With GaaP4CS, relevant data, people and other resources from across the whole of government can be securely and appropriately connected on a common core infrastructure. Then GaaP4CS can add shared digital systems, technology, ways of working and practices to facilitate fast flow and rapid scaling. Each government authorizes and owns final technical strategy, policy, standards and inherently governmental reusable patterns. This enables value-creating interactions between government entities, external (multisector) producers and providers, and consumers of citizen services who rely on its stewardship. In the process, insights from the GaaP4CS ecosystem can help inform government and its citizenry to solve collective problems at multiple levels.

About the authors

Yves Vanderbeken is a strategy consultant in Belgium for DXC Technology. Yves delivers strategic technology roadmaps based on the adoption of new digital strategies, specifically in the government sector. He drives innovation programs for major accounts and has authored articles on numerous topics, such as data-driven government, enablers for digital governments and lowcode platforms for governments. Connect with Yves on LinkedIn and X.

Lynn Reyes is a strategic transformation and growth executive with more than 20 years of experience helping government customers deliver value for their constituents. With a diverse and global career spanning economic development, strategy consulting, research, and business and market development at organizations such as the World Bank and IBM, Lynn is a respected thought leader. She has led research initiatives on the intersection of industry, innovation, data and governance. Connect with Lynn on LinkedIn.