Often overlooked, GaaS platforms and solutions have been around for some time, and with new technologies entering into the fray it could very well be time for GaaS to receive an upgrade from the big disruptive technologies of the fourth industrial revolution (4IR).
In our digital era, the “as-a-service" term appears to be increasingly applied across industries and sectors in a myriad of forms. These systems, services, platforms, products, and solutions are built in the digital realm, hosted on the internet, on cloud servers, and even blockchain networks.
For example, we have Microsoft Azure, which is a cloud-based Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) service. The purpose of using an IaaS is to avoid investing and implementing your own physical servers, data center, etc., instead each resource is offered in a modular fashion, requiring users to only pay for what they use. Azure manages the infrastructure, the user manages the operation of their software, operating systems, and so on.
We also have Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), another cloud-based solution that allows users to purchase solutions on a pay-as-you-go or subscription basis. Adobe Creative Cloud and Microsoft Office 365 are prime examples of this.
Essentially, “as-a-service" platforms take digitization to another level, offering products and services over a network. Typically, these products are offered on more of a rental basis, you never truly own the product yourself. “As-a-service" products are not limited to the above examples and are even extending themselves into the realms of medicine and even video games.
But Government-as-a-Service? The distinct lack of high-tech terminology may deter interest, but it is a huge part of our lives at present, and many nations are beginning to embrace newer technologies to bring services, that govern our society, even closer to its citizens.
Foot on the GaaS.
A humble example comes from Europe, when the UK government decided to evoke genuine digital transformation at the “as-a-service" level, using the model as a foundation to build upon and if anything, has since proven that almost every aspect government service can be improved digitally.
The aim of the service was to create a system “so good that people prefer to carry out the transaction online rather than by phone, post or in person”.
In the instance of the UK, they opted to remove paper-based forms of procedures, and instead moved to the greener automated pastures of websites, applications, and e-forms. Instead, they aimed for the “Digital by Default Service Standard”. This is held to 26 conditions, that after April 2014, all government services were required to meet before achieving the desired standards.
Through the UK’s government portal, a multitude of departments, tax calculators, services, and other offerings are available 24/7, with absolute ease of access.
Taking this a step further is Estonia, a country that has taken technological statecraft to a whole different level. The project, titled E-Estonia, which began in 2007, has been a resounding success. The normal services linked with government such as legislation, voting, education, healthcare, justice, paying taxes, and so on, have all been packaged into one digital platform, linking the entire nation.
Medical data, loan applications, anything outside of physical property transfers such as buying a home, can be done through the E-Estonia platform. According to the E-Estonia website, 99% of state services are online, and 2,773 can be used via their X-road platform.
In an even more bizarre twist, foreign nationals can sign up for an Estonian e-Residency. Allowing them to receive a government-issued smart ID and manage a business in the country, even if you don’t live there. For example. This means that an entrepreneur from Dubai could establish a company in Estonia, that he operates from China, to serve clients in France, hassle-free.
Estonia has been on the cutting edge of Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and GaaS for some years, ahead of the rest of the world.
4IR and GaaS.
Fourth industrial revolution (4IR) technologies, software-based advances such as blockchain, artificial intelligence, big data, 5G, cloud computing, and the Internet of Things (IoT), are going to play a gigantic role in shaping the future of our governments and how we interact with them.
In fact, Estonia was the first Nation-State in the entire world to deploy blockchain technology into its systems, which occurred in 2012. The reason that Estonia tapped this technology, to begin with, is because blockchain can provide immutability for data at high speeds. According to a report from PwC, the lesson learned is that speed is absolutely essential for “citizen experience”.
In Dubai, blockchain, AI, and IoT are major pillars in the ‘Smart Dubai’ vision, where industry creation, international leadership, and government efficiency will be bolstered by these new technologies.
Reportedly, Dubai intends to be the first city fully powered by blockchain in 2021, as per The Dubai Blockchain 2020 Mandate. So, whilst also allowing for greater access to government services, the Smart Dubai initiatives also intend to utilize IoT and create the smartest city in the world – as covered in our IoT and Smart City sections.
GaaS is something that will evolve alongside the technologies that it requires to support or evolve it, and it’s particularly hard to pinpoint when this transformation will take place, or even how and where. All that is known for sure is that the digitization of government services is something that will be challenging and transforming societies around the world for the foreseeable future.