Government Can Be A Leader In Digital Goods And Services

Back in 2002 Peter Fisher, undersecretary of the U.S. Treasury, described the U.S. federal government as “an insurance company with an army.” After all, if you look at the federal budget, benefits and military spending take the vast majority of funds. Since much of the military focuses on supply chain and distribution, you can modified Fisher’s quote to describe the federal government as an insurance company and a logistics company.

government digital goods and servicesState government can be similarly described as a school system with a paving company–education and transportation being the prime concerns of state budgets.

When you look at government this way, it’s easy to ask, why aren’t government digital goods and services more common?

The video above from Harvard Business Review summarizes a McKinsey survey on how digital tools and processes impact 27 activities across more than 20 sectors. Insurance and logistics rate far higher than government.

I think government has the opportunity to leapfrog from laggard to leader. Many government applications center on documents, payments, and professional services. These tasksĀ  are already heavily digitize in other sectors. Government also involves a lot of transportation and real estate functions, sectors that are also ahead of government digitally.

Digital Tools Transform Marketing the Social Good

How does this relate to marketing the social good?

  • Digital fundamentally changes how you design goods and services.
  • Distribution, pricing and payments in the digital realm can be much easier and faster.
  • Digital gives you additional, powerful channels for promotion.

These are core activities of marketing, regardless of sector, and digital technologies continue to alter them in profound ways.

To become a leader in government digital goods and services, bureaucrats needs to join with the private sector to learn what’s applicable to digital governance. Efforts such as the U.S Digital Service and DemocracyOS are making strides, but government is often still paper-based. That’s so last century.

Electing marketers to public office would also help. Keep that in mind the next time you vote.


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