In April 2018, I had the honour to spend 3 days with social services leaders from around the world, who convened in Morocco for the 15th ISSA International Conference on Information and Communication Technology in Social Security. In this post, I share my observations and perspectives from the event and especially on what it means to drive innovation in social services.
- Change is in the air. In the past, talk about digital transformation in social services has felt mostly rhetorical. This time, I sensed a much higher level of receptivity. Social services leaders are truly ready to walk the talk, acknowledging that analytics, AI and other innovative technologies are no longer distant concepts. They are here, and social services agencies are welcoming them with open arms.
- Technologists are focusing on impact. There is a growing recognition that technology is now a commodity. Choosing a platform is the “easy” part. The heavy lift—and what matters—is how these commodity platforms and services are deployed in support of mission outcomes. ISSA brought meaningful discussion about how to implement pilots and proofs of concept to support higher productivity, operational excellence, customer engagement and mission effectiveness, and source the best solution that is ‘fit for purpose’ from the market.
- It’s all about the data. For a long time, human services agencies have gotten hung up on governance obstacles related to data quality, protection, privacy and sharing. Those obstacles still exist, but ISSA underscored this important reality: There is no option but for social services organisations to become data driven. Rather than allowing data-focused initiatives to stall, agencies need to identify solutions for information governance and management. In fact, there was a rich discussion calling on human services agencies to reshape their roles into “data management” or “data orchestration” entities.
- Make the most of machines. The notion of “Responsible AI” is something Accenture explored in Accenture Technology Vision 2018. We called for all organisations to consider how to “raise” their AIs in much the same way you would raise your children: to be responsible and trustworthy citizens. Among ISSA panelists and attendees, I saw consensus that social services entities have significant opportunities to leverage AI for mundane tasks while devoting people to more meaningful work. When “raised” right, AI empowers agencies to automate routine tasks, and even increase the consistency and effectiveness of lower-level judgment calls.
In one of my presentations at ISSA, Innovation with Purpose: Deploying Digital Technologies to Improve Outcomes in Human Services. I shared key findings of Accenture’s recent global government innovation study. I highlighted how our findings point to the need for Innovation Ecosystems, Innovation Leadership & Culture and Innovation Technologies—along with the four “enablers” of Ability to Scale, Measurement, Skills and Finance. ISSA attendees seemed to understand that these building blocks of innovation remain crucial as they continue the structural shift to become platform based, data driven and outcomes focused.
Above all, ISSA confirmed that “innovation” is no longer a buzzword. It’s the imperative for social services—whether an agency is just starting its digital transformation journey or is building on prior successes. In future posts, I will take a closer look at some of the specific findings of our study and what they mean for social services. Read our POV and let me know what you think.