Daniel Koski: Why Government must embrace the smartphone state

Written by Daniel Korski on 12 November 2018 in Opinion

Justin Trudeau is among the speakers at today's GovTech Summit. 

In Paris they are familiar with revolution. So it is apt that world leaders including Canadian Premier Justin Trudeau are gathered in the city today for the first GovTech Summit. Technology for public services is revolutionising the way Governments and citizens around the world interact.
Technology has revolutionised the way we work, travel, eat and socialise, making everything more convenient and more immediate. We can have an Uber outside our door in five minutes, choose from foods from around the world, watch and listen to what we want, when we want, on Netflix and Spotify. Our way of life has been transformed and there is no way back.
Yet the NHS remains the world’s biggest purchaser of fax machines. More than ten years after the first iPhone one-in-ten of the world’s remaining pagers are being used by British medics.  The German army still uses a paper-based process to recruit more than 100,000 staff when email and online tools could halve the administrative burden.
New technology therefore represents a real challenge but also an opportunity for governments. The efficiencies presented by new technology mean that a sector which has been overlooked by innovation - and accustomed to large, slow-moving corporate incumbents with little new technology to offer - is gaining increasing prominence.  People want a different kind of state – a smartphone state – and technologists are increasingly willing to provide it.  
The opportunity presented by technology to better serve and engage citizens is potentially transformative. Increasingly led by start-ups, digital transformations are occurring around the globe, changing the way nations and countless cities collect taxes, deliver services, distribute welfare, maintain security, and more. Every arm of government can be shaped by this new wave of innovators, changing areas from welfare to education, health and security. And in time, and perhaps a surprisingly short time, the whole way a state engages with its citizens will be different.
This future is not decades off; it is already beginning to arrive. Berlin-based ADA allows users to receive automated symptoms and medical reports through its AI-powered app. In the UK, Babylon is powering the NHS’s GP at Hand service, allowing patients to book appointments and talk to their doctor through their smartphone within minutes. Similarly, in Paris, DOCTOLIB provides patients with a facility to book nearby medical appointments, simplifying the booking process for both patients and doctors.
But policy-makers need to do more to grasp the enormous opportunity presented by technology. Innovators need access to talent, money and markets so they can develop tomorrow’s solutions. Today's summit at Paris City Hall is aimed at creating better, cheaper and more personalised services for all citizens. And in so doing taking a small step change towards improving the quality of our society and the lives that we all lead.



Daniel Korski is chairman of The GovTech Summit, and CEO and co-founder of PUBLIC, a GovTech venture capital firm. He is a former special adviser to David Cameron in 10 Downing Street.


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