Editor’s Note: While written through the lens of a digital government architecture, the vision, concepts, and proposals in this paper may also be useful for data discovery and legal discovery professionals as they consider plans, projects, and programs relating to the design, development, and deployment of software and services that meet the whole range of eDiscovery user needs.
Next-Generation Digital Government Architecture
The following is a vision paper, a tentative document on proposals contained herein for debate, discussion, and further research and development. This paper is intended for digital government leaders, IT development teams, managers, architects, and engineers therein and other interested public servants as well as private sector partners and academia.
The core objective of this paper is to establish a common understanding of concepts and principles with the goal of these principles to become the foundational layer for next-generation government technology architecture. While this paper focuses on the digital government stack of the Republic of Estonia, the issues within this paper likely apply to any modern digital government stack in part or whole as an aspiration.
While this paper focuses primarily on software and solutions architecture layers of government technology, it also addresses data and business architecture dependencies.
Vision Paper Extract #1 – The Story
How do you expect your citizen experience to be like?
Imagine that you – as a citizen of Estonia – are visiting Finland. You and your partner are expecting a baby soon, but it is a while before the due date, so you can still walk around the early autumn Helsinki, enjoying the carefree tourist lifestyle, taking selfies and walking around with cups of hot cocoa.
But something goes wrong. Baby is coming sooner than expected.
Being in a different country is complicated. You are not aware of where the hospitals are, you don’t know what the phone number of the taxi company is or what ride-sharing services are available. You are not even sure if your health insurance can support you, or what you have to do next as you’d be barely prepared at home, but abroad it is even more difficult.
So you pick up your phone and say: “Help us, my partner is about to have a baby”. Rotating processing wheel starts spinning on the phone screen until a kind automated voice replies that everything is going to be alright and that it will get back to you soon.
Barely half a minute has passed as the kind voice continues. Your virtual assistant shows you where you are and directs you to a corner of the street barely fifty meters away. “Everything is going to be alright! I have booked a transport for you: a car with the number ABC-123 is going to take you to a hospital one kilometer from here. Hospital has been notified that you are coming. Do not worry, you are about to be a parent soon!”
Your phone will pop up a notification, asking for a consent whether you agree to forward medical data from the Estonian government to Finnish government healthcare service provider for this medical emergency, which your partner quickly accepts.
A car picks you up and drives you to the hospital. While your phone knows your payment details, you will instead get a notification from the Estonian government, saying that your trip is subsidized so that you don’t have to worry about anything other than your child.
Everything goes as expected in the hospital and soon after you have become a parent! Your phone congratulates you on becoming a parent and optionally recommends you multiple beautiful baby names, remarking that the recommended names will likely be unique among your child’s classmates in the future.
“I am also preparing government support programs and services for you at home and will contact you if we need information from you. Let me know if you need any further help!” – says the phone as it goes silent, giving you and your partner time to get to know little Eha.
Remember this story.
Vision Paper Extract #2 – Conway’s Law
A famous computer scientist Melvin Conway defined in 1967 a law that says the following:
“organizations which design systems are constrained to produce designs which are copies of the communication structures of these organizations.”
What this means is that you can take any organization in the world and ask them to design a computer system that helps them do their work in the most ideal way possible. In the end, what they will end up designing will actually map closely to that organization’s manual routines and communication patterns. As an example, if your everyday work involves taking a piece of paper to your colleague for signing, then the ideal computer system for you would automate this so that you can do it digitally.
Implications of this can be difficult to see at first, but can be critical for not just the public sector, but any organization that has a need to develop services or systems to enhance and optimize their everyday work routines. This is especially true for an organization in the size of a government.
Next Generation Digital Government Architecture 1.0
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