Social Impact of Technology – Part 2: Governments Leading the Way in a Changing Social Landscape

Exploring the Social Impact of Technology
What’s encouraging is how innovative the public sector and its supply chain are becoming in response to new demands.

You may recall that in Part 1, I examined the effect of technology on the changing social landscape. In this blog post, I’ll spotlight government organizations who are not only responding to change, but leading the way in social services, justice, transportation, utilities, and healthcare. What’s encouraging is how innovative the public sector and its supply chain are becoming in response to new demands. Here are five examples I had the benefit of hearing firsthand at Pegaworld 2016, Pega’s annual user conference attended by approximately 4,000 industry and government participants.

1. Sweden helps the unemployed bounce back

Losing your job is a frightening, stressful situation. It’s critical that eligible unemployment benefits are paid in a timely fashion so that families are fed, housed and able to pay their bills on time.

The Swedish Federation of Unemployment Insurance Funds (SO) supports 28 different unemployment insurance funds, which are now unified in a single system where core processes use common functionality and add customization where needed, such as fund homepage branding.

This means that unemployed people receive their benefits within four days of submitting weekly proof that they're actively seeking employment. The submission process itself takes seconds instead of weeks and can be done on any type of device – mobile, desktop, notebook, and tablet.

“Automation, digitalization, and self-service. We stress shorter case resolution time because that's very important for our unemployed members,” according to Joakim Kruse, CIO at SO. Watch this short video explaining the benefits of the new process.

2. New Jersey Courts revamps pre-trial process

With the introduction of new legislation to improve lives and reduce unnecessary costs, New Jersey Courts (NJC) in the United States have introduced an innovative way of dealing with defendants before trial.

In the past, defendants who couldn't afford bail were jailed while awaiting trial, regardless of the risk they posed to society. With the new legislation, whether or not defendants are released before trial is dependent on the potential risk they pose.

NJC’s new system uses a risk-based model with nine different inputs such as type of offense, previous record, and others, combined with a revised set of processes supported by the system to present real-time decision support for court staff and judges.

Jack McCarthy, CIO at NJC, explained how it works: “We provide the judge a finalized report and score. That report is just a tool for the judge to then make an informed decision about whether a person should be in or out of jail. This score also recommends what level of monitoring should be required to ensure the individual appears in court and does not commit crime while out of jail.”

To learn more, watch this short video from NJC’s presentation at Pegaworld 2016.

3. In Australia, NSW uses Internet of Things to manage traffic

The Australian state of New South Wales (NSW), like many other jurisdictions, is a place where high volumes of traffic can cause serious transportation delays. To address and manage the problem, NSW Transport Management Centre built a seamless, decision-based incident management solution, designed to track, manage, and respond more efficiently to a wide range of traffic events.

The Fault Management Service (FMS) enables the agency to dynamically route and resolve faults reported from more than 20,000 remote devices, including variable message and speed limit signs, traffic signals, and monitoring devices. This is an excellent example of Internet of Things (IoT), with business rules used to automate prioritization and escalation, along with dynamic procedures that manage the process flow to technicians. The agency helps make sure that staff can work as quickly as possible to resolve incidents.

“What's unique about the transport management system,” remarked Jason Cross-Martin of the New South Wales Transport Management Centre, “is the way it’s integrated with spatial software. Not only can it actually provide a list view within the Pega application, it can also display the same information on a map.”

“You can see where the traffic is building up. You can see whether there's an instance on the network. You can also see what the device or the sign is saying at the same time.”

See more about IoT and the NSW story from Pegaworld 2016.

4. Australia’s Melbourne Water adopts customer-centric approach

In the past, Melbourne Water has focused its engineers and scientists on a single goal: to ensure water is safe to drink. Recently, it expanded this goal by adding improved customer service and moving toward becoming a customer-centric organization.

Still on its transformation journey, Melbourne Water is already seeing results by targeting the “low hanging fruit” first and going forward in increments. Contributing greatly to these results is the process of involving customers directly in mapping their journeys with Melbourne Water, so that the organization's new systems truly reflect customer needs.

Fran Duiker, Manager, Customer Strategy, at Melbourne Water, described the results at Pegaworld: “We decided to use the Pega Customer Service platform – a very quick, agile, stand-up delivery – and we did it in only twelve weeks.”

Hear more about customer journey mapping and the Melbourne Water story.

5. Global shifts in healthcare monitoring and management

In a Pegaworld 2016 keynote presentation, Jeroen Tas, CEO of Connected Care and Health Informatics at global giant Philips, put forward a compelling concept: He predicted that in five years, hundreds of millions of people will be using wearable devices to manage their health.

These devices will collect data remotely and feed it back to medical professionals who will interpret the data and adjust medications in real time, so that patients' conditions may be improved as quickly as possible.

“The GP will scan your heart, and a real-time cardiologist can do a diagnosis and set up a treatment plan in real time,” said Tas.

I think this example carries perhaps the most obvious and significant social impact as well as reducing burden and cost on over-stretched healthcare providers. To find out more, watch his short video or view Tas’ full compelling keynote.

Next steps

What should you be thinking about as a government technology leader?

You can start developing an answer to this question by looking at some of the technologies and trends I think will increase the pace of change to improve service to society. These include:

  • Reuse – both at micro (within an agency) and macro (pan-government) levels. Enterprise solutions that have the ability to inherit common features instead of replicating them will accelerate time to value, reduce cost of configuration, and promote consistency.
  • Adopt change incrementally – Start small, prove the solution, and then expand. This allows results to be delivered early and with minimal risk.
  • Agile methodology – in procurement, planning, and implementation.
  • Omni-channel and social media integration – The ability to move from one channel to another while retaining the history, context, and status.
  • Open data – to present real-time information and provide a personalized service to citizens and businesses.
  • Internet of Things – Using IoT technology to allow remote monitoring and interventions for better outcomes
  • Predictive analytics and decision engines – for proactive informed choices about service options.
  • Intelligent business process and case management – to make sure the work gets done in the most efficient way possible.

To learn more, visit

P.S. Remember my dad from Part 1? At the end of our discussion, my father agreed that “computers” were probably useful in some way or another but they should make the buttons bigger on these new phones, as he had terrible trouble dialing the right number. Another whisky please, Son!

Peter Ford is the Public Sector Industry Principal for EMEA at Pega.