Does government understand technology? Does technology understand government? In the fourth episode of YOU, a new podcast presented by Okta, host Claire Evans explores what it takes for a government – and its people – to embrace the technological future.
Digital Citizenship Blossoms in Estonia
For people living in the United States, tales of e-Estonia, might carry a tinge of wistful fantasy. Imagine not having to wait in line for hours at the DMV, or never getting lost in a web search rathole trying to find information you need about registering to vote or renewing a passport.
e-Estonia has already made that kind of digital society a reality. e-Estonia is Estonia’s digital ecosystem that makes all government services, like taxes, drivers licenses and health insurance, accessible from a single online hub. (And if you listened to episode three, you won’t be surprised that the hub is encrypted on the blockchain.)
Claire talks with Anna Piperal, Ambassador for e-Estonia, who points out a crucial element for digital transformation of government. “e-Estonia is representing a digital lifestyle, where citizens can trust that the government is really transparent when it comes to processing information.”
Trust. Claire points out that a system like e-Estonia means more than building the software and rolling it out and getting people comfortable with it. “It requires a certain relationship between a government and its citizens. It requires trust.”
e-Estonia builds this trust by making it clear that each citizen owns their data and decides how it’s used. For example, if you apply for a loan, the bank has to request access to your paystubs. Once you grant access, they won’t be able to see anything else, not even your address if you don’t allow it. And because e-Estonia is built on blockchain, all the interactions – logging on, viewing a file, requesting access to a document – are recorded in a permanent public database.
Charting a New Relationship Between Citizens, Government and Technology
In this episode, Claire also talks with Jennifer Pahlka, Founder of Code for America, who had also started the United States Digital Service while serving as U.S. Deputy Chief Technology Officer from 2013-2014.
Code for America builds government services with the goal of being so good, it’s surprising for the people who use them, and effective for the people in government to get their desired outcomes. Jennifer talks about projects she’s excited about, such as solving the participation gap in California in CalFresh food assistance; and Clear My Record, another California project that can be applied to other states, to help people clear or change their criminal record of eligible convictions. In both cases, Code for America built digital services with a “delivery-driven government” model to make improvements feasible in these existing programs.
Claire and Jennifer dive into how adoption of new technology is an opportunity for “we the people” to redefine how the government works, and how we work with the government. Jennifer adheres to the axiom, “You cannot reinvent government if you don’t reinvent citizenship.” She says, “I would ask people to think about our role as citizens in understanding the machinery of government.” One way to navigate a new relationship to citizenship? Jennifer recommends people with tech and design skills doing a tour of duty in government. She points out, “That’s standard for lawyers, and that should become a norm in technology.”
Listen now to episode four, “The Governing of Data: YOU the People." You can get this episode here: https://www.youpodcast.co/episodes/four/
You can also learn more here about why we created YOU, go back to episode one, all about online dating, “Algorithm of My Heart: YOU +1.”