Government as a Platform (GaaP) - Uniting the Dutch Municipalities Under a Common Vision of Digital Governance
Municipality of Haarlem
Union of Dutch Municipalities
Coach - Olina Terzi
Government as a Platform (GaaP)
The term ‘Government as a Platform’ (GaaP) was introduced in 2011 by Tom O’Reilly in his homonymous article and has since acquired a number of definitions, including notions of public service improvement, creation of efficient tools for civil servants, development of open-source digital platforms for cross-departmental collaboration, co-creation and feedback loops for policymaking, as well as public-private partnerships and multi-stakeholder collaboration.
GaaP holds out the promise of radically better services for the public. And to do so in a way that makes it simpler and faster for both civil servants and politicians, the private sector and non-profits, to meet people’s needs.
The Dutch Context
In the last decade, the Dutch central government has taken important steps towards the integration of technology in public services. On a municipal level the integration of technology is almost entirely at the discretion of each municipality. Since the Netherlands is a decentralised unitary state, local governments possess a high degree of autonomy. Over time municipalities have formed a variety of co-operative arrangements among them according to their size or shared problems (e.g., the cooperation between the 4 largest cities in North Holland, or the Association of the Dutch River municipalities). The most prominent and politically influential organisation nationwide is the Union of Dutch Municipalities (VNG).
In 2017, the VNG initiated Common Ground, an initiative for the modernisation of municipal ICT systems. Common Ground is a technical framework and major reform in how governmental data is sorted, stored and accessed, whereby a central platform of APIs (NLX) accessible to every municipality provides access to locally stored data. This drastic sharing of data is envisioned to drastically improve digital public services and operations by eliminating information silos.
Although cities such as Amsterdam, Utrecht and Nijmegen have joined the VNG and the Common Ground alliance, numerous municipalities remain resistant to a new framework. This raises concerns of the efficiency of digital government in the future. With little to no coordination among a series of newly implemented systems across the country, the transition into a digital government ecosystem will be hard.
The political organisation of the Netherlands being a decentralised unitary state, gives local governments significant autonomy over decisions relating to the use of technology in local public services. Such autonomy can inspire a constructive dialogue of different approaches to digital transformation, but in the lack of coordination might also lead to distinct solutions being developed in local silos. To address this gap in the ecosystem, we will be exploring methods to create an open invitation for municipalities to collaborate, share tools and strategies, and learn from each other while transforming services in an integrated and efficient manner.
Process and Research
How can we engage those who are unfamiliar with digital solutions in our mission of digital transformation? How can we create awareness of existing transformation efforts? What is the best way of showing the many shared problems across municipalities and the potential for collaboration?
The Transformation Hub
We designed a platform called "Transformation Hub". The hub has 3 objectives:
1. Onboarding - We developed an interactive story and visual journey to engage the people who don't understand the importance of change and transformation and make it accessible and relatable. Our prototype reaches out to all public servants and prompts them to think about innovation and transformation.
2. Transformation Map of Netherlands - After the user is onboarded in our interactive story, they move to an infographic map highlighting existing transformation projects across municipalities. Here we create an awareness of existing transformation efforts and offer the opportunity to engage, learn from, and collaborate with others.
3. Resources - In this section, people can find resources to educate themselves and read and save articles of colleagues.
The Transformation Hub - Prototype Walkthrough
The Transformation Hub - Presentation
Government as Platform - Explore More