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The Invisible Hands meets the Hand of Government

Over 20 years ago, I started my career in Washington, D.C. as a foreign affairs analyst on Capitol Hill covering, interestingly enough, arms control.  However, it was the era of Glasnost and I understood that interest rates would soon supplement “throw weight” as a critical component of foreign affairs.

Today, as we enter the post-recession era, we see Public Sector organizations assuming larger and more active responsibility for the recovery. Indeed, governments must simultaneously maintain existing services and offer new services that help citizens manage through extremely challenging economic times. 

In the past two decades, governments have used technology to create online service transactions, often called “e-government.” For many citizens and government employees, this represented an enormous leap in accessibility, convenience and efficiency. 

eGovernment, however, was just the beginning. Now a second wave of government-enabling technologies redefines how citizen services — and the work to support them – occur at all levels. By understanding constituent demographics and providing multi-channel approaches to services, governments are innovating with technology.

Currently, up to 75% of constituents choose to contact governments using the phone.  Many times, citizens face a confusingly large number of departments and they often encounter call transfers, busy signals, voicemail or government employees who are only qualified to address one part of a complex issues. Transparent and connected democracy –use of social networking (Facebook, YouTube, Twitter) to open government to citizens –fuels citizen expectations for consistent, real-time automated self-service. 

The City of Maastricht, Netherlands realized it could no longer serve the needs of the citizens with the old world philosophy that work is always done behind a desk. They implemented mobile workspaces with mobile devices; workers carry their office with them wherever they go. With this model workers are available anywhere and anytime the citizens and 50 million annual visitors need them.

In Dayton Ohio, the Department of Veteran Affairs Medical Facility (VAMC) serves thousands of veterans annually. Dayton VAMC workers use Cisco Unified Communications systems to access the people and resources that they need the first time, which enables doctors to provide patients more timely, accurate, and progressive medical care. Dayton VAMC also uses Cisco technology in their call center that evenly distributes calls to the best-suited agents.

The OneCleveland wireless network project enables the Social Security Department for the City of Cleveland to use handheld devices to report broken sidewalks, burned-out streetlights, abandoned cars, or other problems while they go about their regular business in urban neighborhoods. The problems are quickly fixed, improving the quality of life in these neighborhoods and showing citizens that their government cares and is responsive to their needs.

To share experiences like these on a broad scale, Cisco developed The Cisco Connected Insight Series which delivers thought-provoking discussions on common issues facing public sector agencies today, particularly for education, healthcare, and safety and security.

To learn more about how government is changing, how it affects you, and how Cisco can help, dig into our new “Connected Insights” – and see how technology helps government succeed in its new mission.

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38 Comments.


  1. I think that the government using more technology can be both good and bad. For example as a recent college grad who was looking for work last year, I seemed to get lost in the massive web of government hiring sites. While it may make things easier on them, it certainly limits the number of qualified applicants who make it past the computers that filter out resumes based soley on keywords they find. I applied to the FBI branch in D.C., and after a week they sent out an e-mail stating that they would no longer be accepting applications, as more than 250,000 resumes had been recieved in the last 8 days. You tell me, is that a better or worse hiring process using technology?

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  2. I can verify that because I live in Dayton! The paper business section of the Dayton Daily News had a nice piece with interviews etc…Dayton likes Cisco!

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  3. That’s a hard challenge for all our governements : they have to rationalize their processes and lower their costs without lowering the quality of the services.

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  4. I think the country would be a better place without so much direct government involvement. Not to say that they are governing too much, but the red tape involved in operating a government operation is too much.It would be far cheaper for everyone to have a private industry handle such things as Postal Service, DMV, and others.The government has to be politically correct on everything and there is way too much waste. With a private sector things can be handled efficiently and with just as much privacy.

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  5. Government has to keep a pace with new technology.

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  6. Invisible hand was replaced in early 20th century too by the state. This change lead to socialist govt. I hope govt will check its role and just stay like a facilitator and not a player.

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  7. I truly believe nothing good can come from the government using more and more online communication. Think for a minute about what might happen if there is a mistake in your file.Can you even imagine how hard it would be to change something in your own file once it has been passed around? I think the error would be in there permanently.We need to be very very careful about letting the government gain access to private info. I’m sorryfor being a luddite, but I like the old way!

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  8. I support a full fledge e government where every single service to public should be automatic and very instant. Softwares and websites are the best way you can automate this field making the service available online for free will help people save money and time in government works. And also makes it faster to work and access any data. soccer fitness training.”

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  9. Well some experts were wondering why in society these days, people seem to be very absent, when you wave your hand in front of their face, they seem not to notice it, as if it’s invisible.

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  10. “e-government” strategy is great! We welcome it!! Lets hope for the best!

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  11. I agree with Tech Guy.Gov shouldn’t use Tech for hiring employees… Tech is for doing things faster.

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  12. It is only now that I can feel that somehow the government is helping its citizens manage through this extremely challenging economic times.

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  13. Great post. Agree that technology is a double-edged sword, however the goverment does need to embrace change and lower costs.

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  14. Without the rise of technology an unknown like Obama wouldn’t have risen to become prez. Politicians are doing more twittering than baby kissing so its natural that bureaucracy becomes virtual. But lets hope that the invisible hand of government doesn’t become too invisible.

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  15. As the government transitions to web-based interactions with the citizenry, expectations for better customer service”” will increase. We’re all used to getting lost in a phone queue, but social media has made communication between parties instantaneous. People know that you can see their messages and expect a response in kind. If the government can’t or won’t keep up with the level of service that comes with using such media, the people will only come to resent it even more.Hopefully your Connected Insight Series will educate the powers that be . . . good luck!”

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  16. I wouldn’t exactly say this is a post-recession era,”” but it’s still more important than ever that we use technology to identify and solve financial problems as quickly as possible.”

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  17. Nice post! very interesting topic. That’s a hard challenge for all our governments : they have to rationalize their processes and lower their costs without lowering the quality of the services.Distance Learning University

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  18. It is good that we can now communicate to government through internet but the ugly side of it is that many of government site are being hack of some hackers and change the content of it. I just wonder if there are any ways this hacking can be prevented?

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  19. After my experiences from traveling abroad, it seem our government is a little behind the times in technology. We need Cisco to go in and revolutionize our Federal and Local governments and help streamline information and services.

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  20. In the past two decades, governments have used technology to create online service transactions, often called “e-government.” I absolutely agree with this statement because it is now what we practice and use. And for some reasons, it enormously lift people’s accessibility, convenience and efficiency.”

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  21. I haven’t had much experience phoning governments, but when dealing with other situations I always find it easier and less stressful to sort things out online. It is really annoying waiting for ages on the phone only to be told to ring another number. Or to be put through to somebody with a strong accent that can be difficult to understand over the phone.

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  22. I find it a little disturbing that there is a government website for everything. For example: flu.gov and serve.gov — why do we need all that? Can’t the private sector do a better job of informing the public of the dangers of H1N1 and encourage volunteerism?It just seems to me like a growing trend of government control.

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  23. I’m was really surprised to read that 75% of constituents choose to contact governments using the phone. I guess I’m in the minority. I’d much rather be offered a web-based option that I can take care of on my own time.Thanks for sharing.

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  24. Great article! I firmly believe that the government should take more consideration with new technology if they want to enrich their countries. Also the government should always look new technology in a very positive way and during the financial budget they should vote a good sum in this area.

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  25. i think invinsible hands”” is real. it acts on system of economy otomatically. for example: the relation between “”Supply”” and “”Demand”” of products or services. it creates value (prices) which is fluctuative. supply > demand creates cheap price, supply < demand creates expensive price, demand = supply creates equilibrium. “”Hand of Government”” is to rule it so that the wealth of country would be achieved.thanks”

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  26. Softwares and websites are the best way you can automate this field making the service available online for free will help people save money and time in government works

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  27. The Government has to be involved in country’s crucial trade and development. The Government should decide the direction in which country should progress.Taking advantage of Information Technology is advisable to grow faster.

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  28. New look in technology? Finally…I think it is a good way to improve the life quality of citiziens, but the government must find other ways to increase the growth.It shoud invest in sustainable energies, for example.

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  29. Thank you for this article. Looking for more information on e-government. The article is amazing!

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  30. It’s a great content, i like this! Thanks

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  31. I imagine that eventually it will just be a matter of time before the government takes control of our solar energy capabilites, atmospheric water generating capabilites and more. Just like they tried in Bolivia a while back. The government doesn’t seem to be of the people, for the people, by the people, but rather control the people, run over the people, and get there hands on all people. Any good or service the frees people from government controls I think is perceived as a threat to the agenda of controlling the people.

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  32. Unfortunately, we aren’t post recession as the Big Gov would have us to believe…it is still just as bad as it was a year ago. We may get to see some economic growth since we are no longer funneling billions in the Bush War, and may get some results now that the war on terror is finally being directed at terrorists. The U.S is always last to embrace certain technologies and going green with both energy and sustainable water resources would jump start the economy overnight. Let the government embrace these technologies and give people access to services that promote them for a better tomorrow!

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  33. In Dayton Ohio, the Department of Veteran Affairs Medical Facility (VAMC) serves thousands of veterans annually. yes i know!

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  34. High quality watches

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  35. The goverment should decide

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  36. Very good article, a lot of information, good information. Thank you for the article.

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  37. I agree with most of what you’re saying. I just posted something
    similar to what you’re talking about on my blog.

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  38. I was working on eGovernment in 1999 for New York. It’s crazy how little seems like it’s been accomplished thus far on this front, and how far our goverments have to go.

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