How to support collaboration in the Government and public sector in 2024

Sara Ana Cemazar
September 26, 2023
min read

Today, we’re witnessing more collaboration than ever before. Technology has made it possible for people to collaborate on different sides of the globe on different projects. This is true not only for businesses and their distributed workforce, but also for scientists, physicians, and others that collaborate through international networks.

We also see increased collaboration in the government and public sector compared to the past. However, collaboration in this sector has historically been difficult due to numerous reasons. In this article, we explore the concept of collaborative governance, why we need to see more collaboration in the public sector, and how to support collaboration in this area with technology.

What is collaborative governance?

Collaborative governance is a term used to describe the collaboration between government, community, and private sector. They work together to achieve the best outcomes for the public, which they wouldn’t be able to achieve separately.

The biggest advantage of such an approach includes improving the overall practice and effectiveness of public administration. However, collaborative governance is also a time-consuming practice that doesn’t ensure the implementation of the agreed solutions.

Most importantly, we have to note that collaborative governance is an academic term that includes several criteria and is not synonymous with collaboration between the public and private sectors. It rather represents the ideal that public administration, communities, and the private sector should strive for in order to achieve the best outcomes for the general public.

Why must governments collaborate with the public more effectively?

On one hand, we know that collaborative effort results in higher-quality outcomes. When a decision is made collaboratively, it includes observing a problem from several perspectives, which ultimately leads to the problem being solved to the satisfaction of the majority.

According to research, 96% of people in the US believe that stronger relationships between government agencies would be beneficial. If we draw a parallel with the business world, the data shows that the following happens in companies with high collaboration index scores:

  • 41% increase in customer satisfaction ratings
  • 34% improvement in product quality
  • 27% increase in sales.
government collaboration

Moreover, public trust in governments has eroded in the last decade. In the US, around 20% of people trust the federal government to do what is right, compared to around 60% in the sixties. Including more stakeholders in the decision-making process can help to improve trust in government, especially if those stakeholders better represent communities that will be affected by the policy outcome.

Challenges to collaboration in government

There are multiple obstacles to effective collaboration in the public space. First and foremost, such collaboration could include a large number of individuals and organizations, which inherently makes the collaboration harder.

Here are some additional difficulties that prevent effective collaboration in the public sector.

1. A multitude of actors in the public space

Depending on the issue, collaborative actions require different numbers of participants. When it comes to the public sector, it’s difficult to map all the parties that should be involved in the decision-making process and keep everyone aligned during the process.

In every state, there are different government agencies, and different state and local groups and entities that could be involved in the collaborative process. It gets even more complex if governments try to include the civil sector, think tanks, or private organizations in the collaboration.

2. Technologically laggard sector

As you’re probably aware, the government sector is often technologically laggard. This means that the software used by government employees is usually outdated.

In the age of digital communication and collaboration, this presents a serious obstacle to effective collaboration in the public sector. Software that is not user-friendly is preventing both government employees from doing their jobs and citizens from accessing public services.

However, we’ve recently seen initiatives such as OZG in Germany, where public services had to be made digital by the end of 2023.

3. Government size and bureaucracy

Another reason why it’s so hard to collaborate within the government is its size. The more complex the structure, the harder it is to navigate within the system. The bureaucratic system often prevents fast collaboration between decision-makers.

4. Budgetary constraints

The government and the public sector are financed by taxes. The budget does not favor collaborative governance, since collaborative projects require expert guidance such as project managers. The digital tools needed for effective collaboration in the public sector are often out of budgetary considerations.

Supporting collaboration in the public sector with the right technology

The question remains: how can collaboration in the public sector be supported? 

The answer: first, we must lay the technological groundwork for collaboration to take place.

When asked about the most important capabilities in collaboration and community management software, employees of government agencies in the US responded the following:

  • 71% want to share documents, photos, and other files
  • 43% want administrative control of collaboration participants
  • 38% want government-level security.
government collaboration

To be able to collaborate efficiently, government agencies need to be given technological means to do so. Let’s explore how a collaboration software meant for government agencies should look like.

1. Why open source technology

Open source software has been used in the government sector due to its beneficial capabilities for the industry. Being “open” translates to being highly flexible and adaptable to fit into a complex infrastructure that can also include legacy software.

Moreover, open source software has been recognized by bodies such as the European Commission as critical in driving digital transformation. According to EC’s Open Source Strategy 2020-2023, the open source software can help

  • Drive Europe’s digital autonomy and independence 
  • In sharing and reusing information, knowledge, and software
  • Contribute to the knowledge society
  • Increase the quality of public services.
government collaboration

Open source software has another important benefit for the public sector: the transparency of its code minimizes data misuse. With the large number of citizen data in the system, compliance with regulatory requirements is an important aspect to look for in the collaboration software.

2. Highest standards of data privacy and security

The government and public sector are highly regulated. In different regions of the world, there are laws and regulations on data protection like GDPR or CCPA. 

When collaborating, government agencies use sensitive citizen data and other highly confidential information. That’s why the collaboration software needs to meet high data privacy standards in the region where the government operates.

How can these high-security criteria be met?

Many government agencies choose on-premise software to maintain high data sovereignty. This allows the organizations to control the data that gets exchanged and not leave it to third-party processors.

Other ways to secure sensitive data include end-to-end encryption, Data Loss Prevention, and other enterprise-grade security methods.

3. Secure cross-organizational collaboration

As we explained before, various organizations collaborate on different projects in the government sector. These organizations are governmental and non-governmental, and they can include expert groups, individual contributors, different local, state, and federal organizations, community members, and more.

Such a broad horizontal collaboration needs to happen in a secure environment where sensitive data isn’t exposed. For example, software with Matrix federation capabilities can allow people from different organizations, using different collaboration tools, to still work together on joint projects without switching from their primary collaboration tools.

Collaboration tools made for the government sector

Being aware of the many challenges to effective collaboration in the public sector, we developed a user-friendly software with advanced security features that successfully meets the criteria laid out by government agencies.

Here are some of the most important Rocket.Chat features:

  • Self-managed deployment 
  • E2E encryption
  • Active directory/SAML/single sign-on
  • 180+ role-based permissions
  • Unlimited conversation history
  • Citizen engagement capabilities
  • Matrix federation capabilities
  • GDPR compliance
  • ISO27001 compliance
  • US GSA Authorization
  • VPAT-Section 508 compliance
  • Iron Bank certificate
  • HIPAA compliance.

As a standalone chat service for government agencies and together with Pexip’s secure video conferencing solution, Rocket.Chat is serving public sector organizations across the EU and in the US by providing a secure collaboration platform.

➡️ Learn more about Rocket.Chat for US government agencies

➡️ Learn more about Rocket.Chat for EU government organizations

Get started with Rocket.Chat’s secure collaboration platform

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Sara is an SEO Strategist at Rocket.Chat. She is passionate about topics around digital transformation, workplace experience, open source, and data privacy and security.
Sara Ana Cemazar
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