360° Public Services and Security in the Age of Digitalization – online and offline

Published May 16, 2024

  • Government & International Institutions

In principle, you would think that digital transformation is in full swing everywhere. This includes the public services organizations of the European countries, i.e. state administration, authorities and offices, municipal, state and semi-public companies, as well as the utilities and security companies. However, according to studies from 20221,2,3, German-speaking countries are not among the top ten European countries who have digitized their administrations.

The top spots are taken by the Scandinavian countries Finland, Denmark and Sweden and also Estonia and Malta.

Daily life without a mobile phone, laptop, internet, eSignature, countless apps and software as well as cashless payment is now inconceivable for citizens and companies in the western world. It is thus high time for the German-speaking authorities to focus more on customer orientation and efficient, cross-authority solutions to exploit synergies. What’s more, with the media constantly reporting on hackers and data leaks from public authorities, citizens are left feeling less safe.

Public authorities cannot possibly meet future requirements without exploiting the advantages of digitalization. These are quite obvious: Process optimization saves time, new technologies enhance the customer experience and boost efficiency while their systematic use massively simplifies workflows. Yet, without radical change, the customer experience in public administration will continue to diverge greatly from customer expectation, ultimately jeopardizing everyone’s safety. So what are we waiting for?

Future lever 1

From computerization to digitalization

Getting the most from processes and data

Currently: The first steps towards digitalization have been taken: several paper processes have been converted to digital processes. While this has yet to arouse much enthusiasm among the general public, it nevertheless provides the technical and organizational cornerstone for digital transformation. With no joint or coordinated approaches in sight, more significant progress remains elusive. What remains are numerous non-digitalized processes that hinder workflows, complicate operations and thus lead to frustration. Local use – keyword: own data centers and on-prem solutions may have been phased out, but they still dominate thinking. These data silos and applications make the customer experience different from one authority to the next. This is perceived as complicated, inconsistent and not customer-friendly. Digitization has been going on for decades, but digitalization projects only appear in the media as expensive and negative. This is often due to the burden on business and IT caused by complex and long-term projects. It has a direct impact on the attractiveness of the workplace. So how can we bolster enthusiasm in digitalization?

Tomorrow: Customers of the future will no longer get the runaround from the authorities or state-owned companies. It is the dawning of a new era with a one-stop shop with visibility of the latest data and information, accessible to citizens and companies via an ergonomic portal. This could be made possible by institutions setting up joint, inter-agency platforms. A common core, plus highly sensitive modules could be developed, capable of transcending the boundaries of authority to ensure quantifiable implementation risks. This approach and consistency creates new end-to-end optimization options, developed with agility in mind (i.e. according to current priorities as opposed to outdated requirement lists).

Getting an early start is crucial to success. Adopt a bold approach and initiate discussions from the very beginning of the procurement stage with potential suppliers in order to reach a common understanding. In short: move away from the list of requirements and towards an honest conversation. The transparency of the platform allows users to see who is using their data, for what purpose and how it is secured. This creates the necessary trust for using the platform and vis-à-vis the authorities.

Opt-in or opt-out of solutions, where citizens decide for themselves what personal data can be used for, are becoming increasingly important for citizens. Workflow efficiency is thus constantly enhanced through standardized process mining. Calculations are price-optimized with dynamically allocated computing power from the cloud as well as with data sovereignty. The forms and models of work are adapted to the digitalized future: ‘New Work’ has increasingly found its way into public administration in recent years. In some cases, the place and time of work are even much more flexible than in the private sector.

Major opportunities

  • Using existing solutions: Digitalization has made great strides in industry and basic services can be used directly if security requirements of public services organizations are supplemented.
  • Triggering an avalanche effect: End-to-end digitalization makes work more exciting for people and creates scope for further improvements and innovations, while significantly increasing the attractiveness of the workplace.
  • Opening up to new horizons: Cultural change in an organization is a critical catalyst for digitalization and its use. Diversity and Gen Z – also in state-owned companies – are accelerating the transition to an agile organization and the promotion of ‘New Work’ and project-based work.


Major risks

  • Keep doing the same thing: An overarching, comprehensive approach to future solutions must always be taken while involving all stakeholders.
  • Where trust is lacking, acceptance is scarce: Security is now standard, further development is driven by the customer and complete transparency of data usage is mandatory – a platform without acceptance that goes unused is ultimately worthless.
  • Only partial implementation of New Work: Much more than just mobile working, digital collaboration and leadership is the core competence of the future.

Future lever 2

Raising awareness and building trust in every situation

Everyone is part of the safety measures

Currently: Public Services make the headlines time and again: The media regularly report on hacked authorities, such as the hacker attack on Xplain in Switzerland in March 20244 or a ransomware attack on a municipal IT service provider in Germany in November 20235. France also experienced a devastating cyberattack on two payment service providers in the healthcare sector in spring 2024, which was the largest data leak in French history to that point 6. The final one to note is the hacker group who attacked the U.K., U.S. and Canada in March 20247.

The press also reports on local and national crises that are poorly executed with only sketchy descriptions of the actual circumstances. Meanwhile, an ever-increasing amount of data generated for crisis management fails to produce any relevant information or added value. Citizens and companies do not have an overview of the state of information, current security situation or prevention options, and are thus not prepared to deal with a crisis. They can’t be blamed for this, as relevant information is spread across different sites and locations, and independent research is difficult and time-consuming. There is also a fundamental lack of trust in data security. No wonder! Ultimately, people pose the greatest security risk. Thus, it’s important to start by raising awareness and building trust to ensure sustainable security. But how do we do that?

Tomorrow: Public services organizations are early movers in cyber security, e.g. through regular audits and bug bounties, because security is an absolute prerequisite and quite simply standard. System hardening ensures that even human error do not trigger any hazards. Redundancy concepts, ITSCM and BCM overcome system failures without damage. Residual risks are insured. AI and joint validation systems condense the flood of data into qualified information and are used as decision support systems to manage the situation. Citizens and companies are part of the crisis organization, as they are continuously trained regarding the current situation, security risks and prevention options and can obtain information quickly and easily. Content management systems offer linguistically and culturally prepared content via multichannel, barrier-free. Chatbots personalize even further. Active participation is supported with the help of gamification, thus keeping personal awareness of safety and prevention measures up to date.

Major opportunities

  • Take advantage of the market situation: Cyber security services are a commodity and internal knowledge gaps can be compensated for with “Experts as a Service”.
  • Reduce to the Max: Comprehensive security concepts for systems, business and people enable cost-optimized security which means that you protect yourself where it makes sense.
  • Using the human play instinct and gamification: What does the world look like when people are confronted with security issues in a playful way?
  • Introducing Change Management: Creating trust in security is a lengthy process. However, the current threat situation is creating precisely the sense of urgency that is needed to initiate change.


Major risks

  • Failure to take the human factor into account: Everyone clicks on that one wrong link – such attacks, for example by phishing, must be prevented by hardening.
  • Neglecting demographic change: The content must correspond to the age, gender and cultural background
  • Content and chatbot maintenance: Implementing the systems is easy. The big challenge lies in constantly updating the content and the chatbots. Time and resources must be budgeted for this – otherwise usage will drop off.

Future lever 3

Radical change driven by innovative technologies

Technological progress has made public spaces extremely safe

Currently: Are emerging smart technologies really an alien concept to public services organizations? You might think so. A lack of common ground, know-how, fear of changes to the legal basis or simply a lack of time makes the public service a latecomer when it comes to new technologies. Experts and specialists carry out meticulous, time-consuming work that could, in principle, already be technologically digitized and automated today. What’s more, the manual checking of critical content involves a high level of mental stress. The time invested in tedious administrative tasks could be much better invested in innovative initiatives, for example in AI-supported systems. In addition, police forces rely primarily on gut instinct in investigations and to ensure public safety. This is the norm, because experience has to be acquired. Until now, data has remained unstructured and underused. It is still widely underused for systematic evaluation of situations, for data-based security concepts or for digitalized chains of evidence.

Tomorrow: Innovation has established itself as a continuous process in government institutions and utilizes the potential of employees’ know-how, which has often remained untapped until now. With the use of apps, add-ons and intelligent process automation, there are no more digitalization gaps, thus guaranteeing the highest standard of security. Together with industry, the public institutions test the new technologies for their own use in Innolabs and develop prototypes in extended workbenches. Artificial intelligence facilitates data mining in the interest of public safety. Only a small fraction of the data needs to be checked by humans. With the broad range of IoT sensor technology available, there are data protection-compliant solutions for detecting flows of people, unusual patterns or even events. Automated monitoring of the digital space and digital chains of evidence on blockchain offer maximum security in the public space, while data-based security concepts provide protection in the cyber area.

Major opportunities

  • Employees are the essence of the innovation process and have the greatest innovative power. Yet they must also be able to wield this power freely. This makes work in the public sector meaningful and worthwhile.
  • It is essential that public services organizations experience new business models: Investigation success, detection of relevant information or the monetization of the prevention of incidents.
  • Data can be used to corroborate your own experience and visualizations can be used to pass it on.


Major risks

  • Innovation is not a point in time, but a process: Further development is absolutely essential – from annual creative workshops to continuous innovation processes.
  • Further development results only through response experience: Innovation is part of the strategy and must be proactively taken into account in budget planning.
  • Missing the connection: With short deep dives in the form of, for example, Innolabs, hackathons and keynote speeches, you can stay on top of new technologies and assess their relevance for your own organization.

Click by click on the way to 360° security  

Our vision for public services and security organizations of the future: An all-round experience from a single source, with maximum security and efficiency, online and offline. No more grueling work for employees, no more endless administrative procedures for citizens and companies. Innovation and the targeted use of the latest technologies are part of everyday life. How do we achieve this? Step-by-Step. Or Click-by-Click. Each authority sets the focus individually. Five key elements point the way forward.

Every step, every process, every service is customer-focused. Their needs – seamless and multi-agency experiences, uncompromising security and complete transparency – are met with the One-Stop-Shop. The employees are the first, because internal customers are the engine and driver of continuous development.


  • Marcel Flügel

    Senior Manager – Switzerland , Zurich