Can Governments Afford NOT to Automate?

government agencies public sector automation

Editor's note: this is a guest post. Views expressed in this article are the author's own views and not necessarily representative of UiPath.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a tremendous impact on public services across the globe. It not only forced national and local governments to operate under pressure in an unprecedented crisis and make swift decisions, but also increased citizen demand for digital services and led to higher expectations in terms of delivery.

In the Forrester report “Predictions 2022: Public Sector,” Forrester predicts that by 2022, “one-third of global civil servants will become permanent hybrid workers” and “10% of government administrative workload will be executed by RPA.” Furthermore, the report argues that public sector IT departments face challenges in effectively implementing COVID-19 recovery programs. According to the report, “anemic government IT will account for failure to spend 20% of stimulus funds globally” over the next year.

If governments hadn’t been focused on efficiency before the pandemic, COVID-19 has definitely made them aware that they can no longer avoid digital transformation. As a result, over 20% of "government infrastructure decision-makers" surveyed said they will "use RPA by the end of 2021," according to the Forrester report.

A recent white paper, Redesigning public services and supporting digital transformation with automation - Lessons from and for emerging Europe, looked at several examples of public sector organizations that had embarked on an “early search-for-innovation-and-digital-transformation journey or adopted a futurist mindset.” Those organizations have “gone through the pandemic more smoothly and are now reaping the benefits,” according to the paper.

The white paper also includes results from a survey run by Emerging Europe, an intelligence and analysis organization focused on Eastern Europe. According to the survey results, almost 60% of respondents (public sector executives) believed that automation “may help governments achieve efficiency in applications and processing,” while some 40% said that it could be applicable to citizen and business services.

The survey does, however, suggest that emerging Europe’s public sector executives are quite conservative. Two-thirds of respondents said that “robotic process automation [RPA] for routine tasks would be the most useful in the public sector” at the moment. Every third respondent said that the public sector still did not recognize the benefits of automation—that is despite the challenges and disruption the pandemic has brought about.

The paper also looked at the challenges and obstacles that have seen some countries lag behind. Almost half of respondents believe that “there is a lack of skills among public service workers that slows down the deployment of technological advancement.” More than 40% believed that there was a “lack of strategy and knowledge about how to get started with automation.” Every fourth respondent believed that the development and implementation of automation would entail “high costs, which may deter public institutions.”

The latter appears to be a fallacy.

Our annual Investment Promotion Report and Ranking looked at “how the region’s 23 national investment promotion agencies communicate their value proposition and how they use their digital channels to grab the attention of potential investors to the various business opportunities offered by the region’s key sectors.” Apart from Invest in Estonia, which has topped the ranking twice in a row, only three other investment promotion agencies featured in the report use elements of automation, artificial intelligence (AI), or other emerging technologies to improve potential investors’ user experience and provide a better service.

Investment agency Invest in Estonia has even implemented a unique e-consulting service—the quickest source of information for businesses wishing to invest in or expand to Estonia.

The agency estimates that automation solutions save over three% of its annual budget, with e-consulting accounting for half of the savings. As far as time savings are concerned, e-consulting alone has saved 1,152 hours and automation in general has saved 2,918 hours. These resources—time and money—translate into additional value and additional jobs, not to mention around two million euros of savings for the state budget.

Automation, however, brings more positive effects, such as standardization of deliverables, possibilities for additional proactiveness in sales, and new opportunities for marketing.

The “Redesigning public services and supporting digital transformation with automation” white paper provides multiple examples of how automation has improved efficiency in the public sector in the emerging Europe region.

One of the findings highlighted in the white paper is that “with automation, there is always a return on investment, either in processing time or cost.”

And yet if about 20% of global governments say they will implement automation by the end of 2021, almost 80% will not, at least not by the end of this year. Can public sector organizations afford to not implement automation?

Download a free copy of the “Redesigning public services and supporting digital transformation with automation - Lessons from and for emerging Europe” white paper.

I'm looking forward to being part of a panel to discuss digital transformation and automation in the public sector across Central and Eastern Europe. The UiPath webinar takes place on December 9, 2021, at 1:00 pm CET and I hope you'll join us. Register for the webinar.

Forrester, Predictions 2022: Public Sector, Rick Parrish, JP Gownder,, 3 November 2021

andrew wrobel emerging europe
Andrew Wrobel

Founding Partner, Emerging Europe

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