Ideas to ensure government service continuity in wake of COVID-19 pandemic

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While the world stays in lockdown mode, the IT functions of government departments are expected to keep running and deliver business as usual. The unprecedented event that we are witness to today has not even been classified as Force Majeure in Business Continuity Plan of many IT departments. This event in developing countries where “Work from Home” is yet not the order of the day has come as surprise. The world of IT shall for sure not be the same after this event, and can possibly be termed as one of the biggest triggers for transformation of IT work culture.


It is evident that event such as these can certainly not be imagined as the last one to occur. The choice left to IT departments is now how soon to buckle up their preparedness with pandemic situation like these. Now it has become imperative that IT workforce, work culture and infrastructures are geared up for such events. 

“This is the time to promote and expand the advantages of enterprise platforms, software-as-a-service, cloud services and cyber security services. These environments are more adaptable and can scale quickly if needed. With most states already consolidating IT infrastructure, data centers with secondary back up or utilizing cloud services, taking these additional steps may not be thinking too far outside the box. Challenges remain for the foreseeable future, but state CIOs are uniquely positioned to help their states get through this pandemic.

Government can keep up their systems running by adopting to new age thinking, processes and technology. Some of the ways that government can transform are identified as under:

1.       Virtual meetings: Most of the important decisions in government are taken collectively in meetings. As government look for ways to collaborate and hold meeting, digital medium such as webcast or video conferencing may be employed. There are some good solutions available that ensure necessary security, recording and collaboration features.



2.       Cloud Technology: Some of the advantage that cloud technology provides are auto-scaling, anytime-anywhere access over the internet and no hassle of employing workforce to maintain the data centre infrastructure(s). At the time of pandemic, when transaction are expected to be way lower than normal, relying on scaling options of cloud infrastructure can turn out be significant cost saver. There is lead time for infrastructure procurement and distribution, and business may suffer delay in wake of emergent situation such as COVID-19. Cloud technology may redress that problem. Another advantage is department’s technical team does not have to struggle with ensuring VPN availability at optimal performance.


3.       Virtual Helpdesk: Citizen facing government projects have vast userbase, and certainly cannot be manned in rather older ways, where IT departments employs helpdesk persons to create tickets & interact with end users. In situation of pandemics, when helpdesk employees are not available, it can be a bottleneck in delivery of services. Departments need greater reliance on omnichannel, AI driven or Self service solution. The solution may come feature rich with collaboration, SLA management, workforce management and productivity dashboards to ensure wider engagement and measurement options.


4.       Resource Guide for department: These are also the time when citizens are struggling to get authentic information from department, and market is rife with all kinds of rumours. It is a good idea to deploy a resource page to dispel rumours and provide authentic information. While not all departments are active on social channels such as facebook or twitter, it is a good idea to widely publish the resource guide and respond public queries suitably. A homepage banner or homepage carousel is a lightweight way to draw attention to appropriate crisis page. Frequent communication both in and outside the department plays critical role in keeping a tab on situation unfolding around IT system.


5.        Monitor Key Operations KPIs: Departments know key performance indices where they are evaluated. Identifying bottlenecks and resolving them on the first occurrence is key to department’s success when working remotely. Usually operation’s data and metrices which make up departments’ performance are left to Service Provider, and performance data is provided only when it is asked. To that end, it is imperative for departments to have a dashboard, where it can prioritize, forecast and monitor its near real time performance based on operations data.


6.       Telework policy: Government departments need to implement tele-work policy to protect their employees. This shall include terms for staff monitoring, time spent in disposal of their work, availability of staff on digital medium and telephones, provision of necessary hardware/ software such as laptops, VPN licenses etc. and required security measures. Some European organization have employed co-location where in employee work in shift or at safe distance in reduced strength to support operations.


7.       Stay focused on citizens: New ways have to be devised for paperless, cashless and faceless mode of engagement and delivering services. To that end, IT leaders must work with department to build new models for delivery of services.



8.       Be proactive on Security: When employees are working remotely, there may be higher chance that they may try to bypass security control to complete their job, or they are vulnerable to cyber attacks. Data and related infrastructure become prime concern for department, when IT employees are not working from secured development areas. It is important that double factor authentication is implemented. Security plans such as disaster recovery, vendor succession and technology risk backup should be tested immediately.

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