Governments are institutions that some love to hate. Ridiculed for their inefficiencies and often unrecognized for their accomplishments, they remain a permanent object of public scorn. The larger an institution, the more potential for waste and inefficiency and the more difficult change becomes to push through because more levels of approval exist. Governments’ strict IT policies and procurement methods have led to legacy systems that hinder public sector employees’ ability to effectively carry out their duties.
Public sector software has long lagged behind private sector solutions because public sector institutions lack “customers” in the traditional sense. In the private sector, consumers can simply switch products if a company fails to provide the type of value they expect, but the government is a necessary institution that people must deal with regardless of its efficiency. Public sector software has the potential to improve government productivity and change the way in which the public deals with the government.
What is public sector software?
Public sector software, or govtech, refers to any solution that is designed for use by a government institution. The software acts as a data management system with analytics tools, but its use cases span everything from waste management reporting to accounting.
Governments carry out a wide range of functions and use a huge amount of diverse software as a result. Governments are large institutions with many moving parts, so having a tool that allows employees to step back and look at the organization as a whole is extremely valuable.
Public sector software also helps connect governments with the citizenry they govern and allow for participation and collaboration between the two parties. Solutions can be focused on anything and everything in the public sector. From waste management to tax collection tools to citizen access portals, public sector solutions provide a wide spectrum of capabilities.
Benefits of public sector software
Software tailored for government use is widely beneficial because it gives civil servants the tools necessary to do their jobs more effectively. Governments are administrators, and public sector tools are designed to promote efficient administration.
- Increased collaboration between government and citizenry
- Leverage data to produce actionable insights
- Increased transparency and accountability
One of the major gripes that the public generally has with the government is its perceived lack of transparency. Some public sector solutions are designed specifically to increase transparency for citizens by creating digestible bits of information on the progress being made on government plans. Other solutions are customer-service focused and provide places where citizens can input complaints and stay up to date with municipal issues.
Why we added the public sector category
Public sector software is a massive industry with huge potential dividends for software companies looking to dive in and get a slice of the $400 billion global govtech pie. Until recently, large legacy vendors were the only players in the government software space. Now, as governments’ approaches to procurement are changing and the public sector begins to fully embrace the Fourth Industrial Revolution, there are more and more openings for smaller vendors to enter the space. We expect the amount of public sector software to explode, and want to ensure that the category is properly represented so as to accurately capture the changes in the software landscape.
Government procurement methods, which previously acted as a barrier to smaller vendors, are changing and making it possible for smaller players to enter the market. The California government recently adopted a different procurement approach when soliciting bids for a Child Welfare Services (CWS) project. Instead of the usual lengthy procurement process, the government asked for prototypes to be developed during a two-week sprint. The larger, more established tech vendors complained, the smaller and more agile competitors were happy to oblige, and the solution was built and delivered. More state and local governments are following suit and implementing agile procurement methods in their own software solicitations.
Potential applications of public sector software
Public sector software presents nearly limitless opportunities for governments to make an impact on social issues. According to Ben Miller at Govtech.com, “Technology, especially with potential disruptors like machine learning and blockchain, offers government the potential to navigate such tangled forests as opioid addiction, infant mortality and homelessness.”
Governments are tasked with solving public crises such as the opioid epidemic and homelessness, but have been woefully ill-equipped to do so until recently. The technology dedicated to solving these social issues has not developed at the same rate as the evolution of the social state until now. Today, the combination of available government IT dollars and advances in technology is spurring the creation of applications dedicated to solving these complex problems.
As an example, local governments and public health organizations are now working together with software vendors to engineer solutions geared toward predicting the path of a user, preventing overprescription, equipping citizens with the ability to monitor potential overdose victims so they can administer naloxone to them, and more. Eventually, IT solutions designed around combating opioid abuse could include “analytics, communitywide information-sharing networks and uses of big data to spot problems occurring across public health safety nets.”
Image courtesy of NYC Department of Homeless Services
Another exciting development in the public issues realm of govtech has been the rollout of New York City’s StreetSmart app, which gives outreach workers the ability to log data in the field to track the city’s estimated 62,000 rough sleepers. The current number of public issue-focused applications is small compared to the glut of other software, but the StreetSmart program is indicative of the increasingly large pool of solutions designed to make public service easier.
Public sector software outlook
The public sector software industry is changing rapidly, wiping away broken legacy systems and breathing digital life into tech-deficient departments. The number of options for governments is only increasing, and private sector companies are jumping at the chance to provide innovative solutions to meet the needs of the 22 million government employees within the U.S. Check out how the public and private sectors are leveraging new technology to create smart cities and be on the lookout for how advances in public sector software are shaping the world we live in.
Looking for Public Sector software? Check out the best public sector software according to G2 Crowd’s real-user reviews.
* Please note: Reviews have been edited for spelling and grammar.