X-risks that include the risks of artificial life, engineered pandemics, and the threats posed by advanced artificial intelligence demand the development of collaborative and circumstantial strategies to minimize them. The probability spaces that arise require unusual thinking, especially when the velocity of technological change outstrips the ability of the state to bring forward primary legislation fast enough.
In the period of parenthesis between the old legislative regime and new laws, the state experiences a tangible drag, as it can only rely on subordinate legislation to fill the gap. But this reliance can create deeper risks. When coding is ahead of the legislative regime, risks are amplified, and abbreviated development is the outcome.
In such cases, legislative lag hinders the ability of the state to serve. One concrete challenge of this dilemma is to establish new parliamentary procedures to enable effective scrutiny, including increasing the ability of external bodies and the public manifestation of inclusive perspectives. This will not make the Government’s work any simpler or easier. But it will make better law. And it will augment public confidence in democratic systems in an age of transnational authoritarianism.
To de-risk, not de-couple, makes being unusual a priority. Deciding on the content, the architecture, and the goals of a “future state” becomes an act of transformation. Nothing is national. The outlook is always inclusive and international. The legal architecture must be open source, scalable, and allow the coexistence of heterogeneous structures. All of this must also take a look at the possibility of any legislative imbalance between the parliament and the executive.
Technology changes rapidly, and the state must guarantee that the rules keep pace with disruptive change. To stay relevant, legislation must be reviewed and revisited continuously, to be true to any pledge to be citizen-facing. The end game is citizen-facing services. And that is where digital transformation begins.
Public policy and legislation are never an afterthought. They are prime. Ontario’s “Simpler, Faster, Better Services Act, 2019, S.O. 2019, c. 7, Sched. 56”, does exactly this. The Preamble begins with an endgame that makes citizen-facing services prime. It reads:
“The Government of Ontario is committed to placing people at the centre of every government program, service, process and policy and to delivering simpler, faster and more easily accessible services for the people, communities and businesses of Ontario today and in the future.”
This mantelpiece of state thought is not about technology selections. It is about conviction and the citizen. Digital transformation is about trust. And building that trust requires digital transformation to meet the moment in which the citizen abides. It must address the immediate needs of each unique citizen. Only then will the citizen have confidence in the ability of the state to deal with more complex issues that impact their well-being and happiness. Citizens everywhere now expect state services to be as simple and intuitive as streaming a movie on Netflix, using Uber, or booking experiences in Bacolet Bay with Airbnb.
To be citizen facing, innovative public sector establishments may need deeply user-centred methods to drastically re-engineer the design and delivery of services. The Ontario “Simpler, Faster, Better Services Act” gives ascendency to legislative principles that represent a new set of public service “factory settings”. These default settings close the gap between data and digital. The role of the Chief Digital and Data Officer rationalizes “digital” and “data” in government digital services. The role requires the setting of new service standards for portals and digital products, digital talent attraction, and delivering extraordinary customer experience (CX).
Citizen-facing means that digital transformation begins with the user. Not the technology. It must permit people and businesses to engage the state using the power of digital tools to improve lives and digital trade. A digital government agenda puts people and commerce first and makes services simpler, faster and user experiences captivating and friction free.
This may require a transformation of data practices as they relate to delivering digital services using Personal Online Data Storage (PODS). The public sector may:
- maintain a catalogue of state datasets
- agree on the management and use of common tools and platforms
- promote the publication of open data by public sector organizations
- nurture public engagement of public services and public enterprises
This shift involves repealing old laws and drafting forward-leaning regulations, schedules and legislation using an Open Framework that permits unceasing revision and updating of legislation as technology and user needs change and the unrelated and unusual become more interlaced. Democracy is not static. Digital Service Standards must be improved continuously so that services are two clicks away, and trustworthy. This is measurable using “Usability Testing” of portals, Apps and websites.
The new mind-frame needs a simplification of rulesets in bureaucracies around the simple idea of purposeful internal governance, dissolving red tape, making the exception the rule, and dismantling institutional barriers to digital. Portals may be designed around what citizens will like to get. Not what bureaucracies want to give the citizen. Because nothing can be national in digital, global partnerships are obligatory. This is a noticeable learning from the Uruguay experience of Digital Transformation.