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Future of government as a platform: foresight event insights

10 Jul 2024

Future of government as a platform: foresight event insights

On 30 May, PPMI, in collaboration with TNO and the European Commission, organised the event ‘NextGen Online Platforms: Foresight Session on the Future of Government as a Platform’ in Brussels, Belgium. The event brought together policymakers, leading experts and academics to discuss the challenges and opportunities of (digital) public governance towards 2035.

Why is the future of digital government important?

Government as a Platform (GaaP) is a transformational approach to shaping public governance and services based on co-creation, easy and holistic access, and the adoption of advanced digital technology.

The shift to GaaP is often presented as a transition from ‘vending machine government,’ a transactional exchange of a limited selection of services for taxes, to ‘marketplace government’. The latter is open and collaborative, inviting contributors to co-create and optimise services together. Digital transformation of the public sector with a ‘platform’ logic in mind can unlock many new opportunities for all types of stakeholders, from public servants, individuals and SMEs to research institutions, startups and freelance developers.

Opportunities of GaaP

Seamless government services and authentication systems become particularly relevant in light of the EU’s Digital Decade targets and upcoming Digital Identity Wallet rollout. Moreover, fostering data interoperability and emerging technologies to build high-quality cross-border services is on the European Counsil’s Strategic Agenda for 2024-2029.

However, our previous participatory sessions indicate several uncertainties that surround the future of shaping government as a platform:

Foresight session approach

During the session, participants were tasked with identifying the key risks and opportunities associated with how government interaction with non-state actors might look like in 2035. To do so, experts were invited to use ‘futures’, a narrative foresight tool describing possible worlds in 2035.

The four GaaP futures used during the session were:

  • Grassroots Government: a future where public service provision is highly decentralised, and various non-state actors at a local level are extensively collaborating and tailoring digital tools to communities’ needs.
  • Invisible Administration: a future where central government collects and analyses vast amounts of data to build anticipatory services and minimise the need for citizens’ input and time.
  • Future Automation: a highly automated future where bots and AI assistants are managing most of the routine bureaucratic tasks, and policymakers primarily act as moderators and referees.   
  • Public-Private Platforms: a future where most public services are outsourced to private tech companies and big platforms, which now manage all citizen data and digital infrastructure.

Foresight session results

As a result of this session, participants outlined the following challenges associated with the future of GaaP:

  • Tackling regional and sectoral disparities in access to advanced digital infrastructure and education
  • Fostering interoperability and integration of data, software and digital platforms
  • Securing the necessary level of resilience and security for digital systems and registries
  • Safeguarding digital rights of individuals and enforcing limits of automation and algorithmic decision-making
  • Providing the inclusivity and accessibility of services and tools
  • Meeting the demand for digital skills and talent
  • Ensuring that all public services are taken care of and properly managed in case of changing ownership and increased outsourcing

However, several opportunities also emerged in the discussions, including:

  • More efficient use of public resources and less time that individuals and companies need to spend on public services
  • Larger volumes of open data to be used by researchers, academia and businesses
  • Interoperable digital tools, data spaces and testing environments, enabling faster and cheaper upscaling for new products and services
  • Digitally enabled empowerment of non-state actors with enhanced capabilities for leaving feedback and suggestions
  • User-centrism and better navigation between and within apps and portals
  • New opportunities for EU-based solution providers and developers 

Learn more about the study

The event was part of a study carried out by PPMI and TNO for the European Commission, which examines the development of online platforms and their impact on European society and economy. You can find out more about the study here. 

Throughout the study, the team is engaging a wide range of stakeholders in co-creation and co-assessment exercises to uncover different future scenarios and their implications. This event is part of a series of participatory sessions with different stakeholders, including policymakers, industry, academia and youth. 

The results of this foresight session will feed into a paper on the future of government as a platform to be published later this year. It will be one of ten foresight papers developed during the study. 

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