Digital Government in 2023: Strides, Challenges and Progress

Published on December 28, 2023

ChatGPT. Generative AI (in general). Tech investment. Cybersecurity attacks.

2023 was a year full of news, pushbacks, and criticism, but also innovation and achievements.

The government had to be more flexible about where and how work is done, and the shift to hybrid has had tangible consequences on the work of IT.

What’s more, cyberattack surfaces have changed, and security strategies have evolved. Modernization really moved from a longer-term goal to a more immediate one as vulnerabilities of older systems were exposed.

Now, let’s look into a bit more details as to what 2023 had in store for governments.

The year that generative AI gained more ground

ChatGPT (and its competitors) have helped leaders in both the private and public sectors in several ways. As such, it’s hard to find a state or local CIO who is dismissive of the potential and influence of generative AI.

So, it’s almost impossible to imagine a future without artificial intelligence playing a central role. Evidence for that comes from every corner of the industry.

From using AI for quicker and more accurate court filings (the redaction requirements often force judicial employees to perform manual data entry) to…

Klir’s new AI that is designed to improve water management and compliance (so utility systems are delivered via a chatbot.)

…To virtual specialized healthcare services in Saudi Arabia (including 13 remote heart surgeries). These are only some examples of the use of AI in government.

The year where ransomware continues to wreak havoc

Cybersecurity was a huge deal in 2023, as ransomware continued to hammer away at countries (big or small), cities, hospitals or even emergency services.

Budget constraints, a lack of incident response planning, limited detection capabilities, alert fatigue, and a cybersecurity talent gap are among the top cybersecurity obstacles reported by government agencies.

On November 2023, this news made headlines: “Cyber-attack closes hospital emergency rooms in three US states.” Also, the LockBit attack engulfed multiple government agencies in Canada in the same month.

In these conditions, collaboration between national, regional and local governments was key, with more funding going to local governments.

Also, it was more important than ever to harness the enthusiasm of future generations.

That’s what the UK did with its ‘Cyber Explorers Cup’, where young people from schools from all over the kingdom were encouraged to test their cyber security nous.

The year where user experience was more in focus

Flashy tech terms like “generative AI” and “cloud computing” tend to grab a lot of headlines. But behind all that, government bodies are still hard at work on what it takes to do the people’s business efficiently and effectively.

Why? Because those people are what lay at the heart of much of the work these agencies put into modernizing legacy systems.

Now, we can all agree that the predominant notion is that from the residents’ perspective, the government could be faster moving and easier to do business with. But in 2023, there were signs that things were starting to improve. The public sector is noticeably getting better at providing a good constituent experience.

A lot of that progress comes from improvements to their major systems.

In the meantime, the level of service provided by governments globally has reached a point where the average person is beginning to see working with the government as something…. bearable. Of course, there’s still a lot to do.

The year when governments understood the importance of top talent

Getting more people to work in government is an annual issue.

In 2023, it still remains very important to fill these roles (like in the UK, for example). Leaders in different countries have needed to close staffing gaps for many years now in order to better meet their most critical goals, from modernizing systems to fortifying cybersecurity postures to building new applications.

The thing is that technology jobs in the private sector are often more lucrative and/or flexible, presenting unique challenges for staffing in government. In fact, addressing staffing shortages was one of the biggest priorities for public sector IT during this year and will probably be a priority for the next few years as well.

Final thoughts

In 2023, digital governments around the world saw remarkable strides in using generative AI, improving cybersecurity measures, prioritizing user experience, and recognizing the importance of top talent.

Despite challenges like cyber threats and staffing shortages, governments globally made significant progress in modernization and service delivery.

While I agree that there’s still work to be done, the year marked an important step forward in creating more efficient, secure, and user-friendly government services for all.

Here’s to continued innovation and improvement in 2024!



About the Author

Mohammad J Sear is focused on bringing purpose to digital in government.

He has obtained his leadership training from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, USA and holds an MBA from the University of Leicester, UK.

After a successful 12+ years career in the UK government during the premiership of three Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher, John Major and Tony Blair, Mohammad moved to the private sector and has now for 20+ years been advising government organizations in the UK, Middle East, Australasia and South Asia on strategic challenges and digital transformation.

He is currently working for Ernst & Young (EY) and leading the Digital Government practice efforts across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), and is also a Digital Government and Innovation lecturer at the Paris School of International Affairs, Sciences Po, France.

As a thought-leader some of the articles he has authored include: “Digital is great but exclusion isn’t – make data work for driving better digital inclusion” published in Harvard Business Review, “Holistic Digital Government” published in the MIT Technology Review, “Want To Make Citizens Happy – Put Experience First” published in Forbes Middle East.

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