Real Time Governance

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Introduction to Real time Governance

Real Time Governance is the most powerful and intellectual initiative, under the Obama administration in 2009- The Open Government Initiative. The Open Government Initiative (OGI) led to many subsequent policy frameworks like Open Data,,, (Citizen Petitions) and other citizen engagement initiatives within the US federal government eco-system.

This initiative was primarily aimed at engaging and including the citizens in the decision making policy and also to make sure there are no last minute hassles in implementing these policies. Last mile operations are defined as the point of contact between citizens and governments - examples like applying for a replacement driver’s license, filing for veterans benefits et al. - Where governments truly interact with the citizens.

However the big question that still stands tall is, can the Government transform their thinking to treat their citizens as their customers?

There have some similar example of real time governance in other countries like India, where having an Aadhar card (Nation ID card service) is mandatory for all the Indian citizens, in Dubai- the smart Government and also in the city of San Francisco’s connected government initiative.

Experience Measurement and Real time Governance

Peter Drucker - the founder of modern management and the father of management principles like “management by objectives”, published a famous quote that the private sector has embraced wholeheartedly. He proclaimed that - “You can only improve what you measure”.

Metrics tend to give the organizations clear directions and appropriate guidelines because they are objective, can be measured and can be compared with.Everyone who is a part of the organization can align themselves with it and help bring about accountability and clear performance guidelines.

Metrics for each sector is different and heavily depends upon the working style and the targets they need to achieve. The private sector is driven by the revenue metrics, how much profit they made in the financial year and if their stock prices increased or dropped. Their definition of a successful year is very different from a public service sector. In public service sectors metrics for example like policies and smooth implementation of those policies are more important than revenue or profitability. A mission-driven organization like NGOs have a totally different approach.

Still, in order to get an organizational alignment and to achieve excellence in the field of service delivery, the most appropriate approach is the real time governance, where more emphasis is on customer satisfaction and citizen acceptance as a proposed metrics.

With real time governance in place, even the government agencies will need to be accountable not only to make policies but also implement it and make it function in such a manner that citizens are at ease with it.

Effective Real time Governance = Policy + Implementation

It is an observation that most governments are underutilizing the intellectual resources on developing policies and strategies and this invariably leads to poor implementation of the policies for various reasons.

It is an observation that most governments are underutilizing the intellectual resources on developing policies and strategies and this invariably leads to poor implementation of the policies for various reasons.

However in a scenario where implementation and delivery of the policy are executed in a professional manner with no hiccups the overall effect that is seen after the implementation of the policy is certainly exponential.

A great example of smooth policy implementation is the online replacement of the green-card project of the USCIS- The department of the United States responsible for immigration and naturalization services. The paper-based process took roughly 6 months to replace the green cards which were thus reduced to 10 days with proper implementation of the policy. The highlight of the entire process is that the applicant is aware of the status of their application in real time.

Policy decisions that are implemented poorly or without extensive research around their implementation strategy typically fail to achieve their targeted outcome. It is vital for government agencies to be able to “listen” to their constituents in real time, as program implementation is underway so they can react to roadblocks and pitfalls before they turn into angry hostile constituents.

We believe there are two key areas for actively listening to constituents:

  1. Service Delivery Feedback - Immediately after the delivery / at the point of delivery
  2. Program Suggestions – Done post-transaction to secure ideas for improvement

Government agencies should follow the lead of tech startups in terms of implementation - where agile and lean startups constantly listen to their customers and make incremental changes to the process and the product. This model works if there is a culture and a system for listening and reacting in real time to the operational implementation of policy outcomes.

Citizen Satisfaction & Experience Handling in Real time Governance

Our proposal to improve citizen satisfaction is to define a trans-organizational satisfaction metric and align the multiple stakeholders to that. There are multiple models for measuring satisfaction - including ASCI, Net Promoter Score, 5-Star simplified rating et. al - and we will compare how each of the three case-studies; the models that they’ve used and commentary around them.

We, however, would like to emphasize that measurement model should include a completely digital solution that every citizen interaction can be measured. Our analysis is that the simple ability to measure every single service interaction is important and registers enough data points to create validity around the process.

We don’t make an attempt to define the validity or efficacy of each of the measurement models. For example, Net Promoter Score (NPS) Vs. ASCI Vs. 5-Star Rating System. Our position is that any of these measurement models conducted diligently and comprehensively will yield positive results. Our recommendation is more on the need for measurement than the specific model used for measurement.

Comparability & Leaderboards

One of the benefits of having well-defined metrics around citizen experience and measuring them on a unified scale is that of comparability. More often than not, the individual metrics values are generally not used - it is the relative comparability of metrics that govern behavior and success. Comparability comes in two forms;

  • Chronological Comparability - what were the metrics vs. last quarter/last month etc.
  • Situational Comparability - How did Region 1 do Vs. Region 2.

The fundamental human trait around competition driving performance is valid for government organizations also. After all - organizations are a collective of people. Organizations are run by humans and at the end of the day - when government organizations are compared and rewarded, it creates its own competitive environment - that drives performance.

Digital Connectivity

The fundamental structural shift in our society today is real time digital connectivity. There are more smartphones in India than people - there are approximately 1.3 smartphones for each person in India - with a population of 1.2 billion. With the proliferation of mobile phones, we can safely say that every citizen has a digital footprint and the end-point being the mobile phone. In fact, most digital natives, today do not have a landline phone at all. Their smartphone being their primary and in many cases the only digital device that connects them to their community.

To emphasize & validate this thesis as it applies to governance, we conducted primary market research - in three diverse markets - United States, India and the UAE. We believe these three markets represent different governance models and are at different stages of maturity and thought process regarding customer/governance interaction.

The conclusion we drew from the research is that governments need to make policy and procedural models based on 100% digital connectivity. The citizen’s mobile phone number being the primary digital identifier for this connectivity.

This 100% Digital Connectivity presumption has a profound impact on policymaking and decisions around implementation measurements. For the first time in humanity’s existence, we can in real time, reach out to every single citizen of a country and connect with them. The importance and impact of being connected can be seen on Facebook and WhatsApp on a peer-to-peer basis.

Passive Vs Active Vs Sample Measurement

In general, there are 3 broad measurement models that can be applied to citizen service experience and feedback:

  • Passive
  • Sample
  • Active

We will discuss the pros and cons of each of these models.

Passive Measurement

Passive experience measurement models include systems like:

  • Suggestion Box / Comment Box
  • Digital Feedback / Complaint Form
  • Feedback / Complaint Email System

We believe that passive measurement models with its optional feedback processes are not very effective. This measurement model is fundamentally useless both for broad policy-based decision making as well as an operational decision process. This is mostly because only the most vocal customers use it as a vehicle for complaints only when some service delivery crosses a negative threshold in their minds. This, by definition, is skewed towards the negative and creates a significant perceived bias towards the data’s results. Therefore, stakeholders are reluctant to make decisions based on passive feedback, since they feel (and rightly so) the data is overly skewed to the negative.

More often than not, passive feedback models are put in place by institutions for compliance reasons - to allow them to mark a checkbox that says that the agency is listening to its constituents.


  • Its cheap & Easy to implement.
  • Low Technology overhead.


  • Biased data - Unusable for policy feedback.
  • Metrics cannot be used for accountability and performance.

Sample Based Management

A sample-based measurement model would be to take a survey of a sample of all the customer/citizen transactions every so often and test for satisfaction levels and service delivery metrics. This typically involves administering an extensive survey/questionnaire to a smaller subset of the overall population and drawing inferences from it. Typically - most government agencies are mandated to measure and report on satisfaction once a year.


  • Very effective in understanding broad policy implications and policy effectiveness - because you can do an in-depth analysis and study of the impact of some your policy frameworks. Survey questions can be tailored to understand specific policy proposals and impact.
  • Easy implementation - Low technology overhead.


  • Cannot help with daily operational decisions. Since sampling model is done once a year or perhaps once every 6 months, daily operational decisions cannot be measured and enhanced. Does not close the loop - with respect to service delivery and cannot be used for continuous last-mile accountability.

Active Measurement

An active real time feedback infrastructure - that is based on digital mediums like Email, SMS, and Mobile App - allows for all interactions between government and citizens to be rated and measured. Systems that measure 100% of all interactions make it easy for citizens to rate and give continuous service feedback via SMS, mobile apps - are called active measurement systems.

This model follows the very efficient service feedback programs that companies like Uber, Airbnb, and Amazon have implemented which are described as user-based post-transaction rating systems.


  • Diverse and rich actionable intelligence along with service level meta-data.
  • Comparable objective measurement can be used for performance goals and metrics.


  • Higher technical overhead and implementation costs.

Operational Vs Strategic Feedback


Closing the loop

To be effective, listening systems must close the loop providing both feedback to employees and acknowledgment to customers. Time and again, studies have shown that immediate acknowledgment and request for feedback - both positive and negative creates a virtuous cycle and keeps the notion of customer centricity paramount. In fact, it has been documented that feedback solicitation without the ability to close the loop can actually degrade perception of the service.

Closed loop systems create passionate advocates out of detractors. A well-managed detractor recovery system can handle service and experience issues and have the correct escalation process. In order to effectively design a system that can close the loop, the internal organizational stakeholders need to map the service distribution layers.

The best person to close the loop is what we call the “local maxima” - the line level manager that has direct authority over the service. There is no point closing the feedback loop if the managers who have line level authority to fix, compensate and address the core issue are not involved.

Democratizing Insights - Real time Distribution of Data

As real time feedback systems become larger and complex, the need for advanced reporting tools become important. Line managers need access to real time data on their group's service delivery and it has to be in their preferred format.

Reporting systems should be designed with what we call “Operational Dashboards” that includes manager level insights to make the job of responding and reacting to feedback easier and effective for them. This is distinctly different than executive dashboards in most reporting systems - that are geared towards strategic not tactical and operational goals.

Multi Agency Challenges

One of the fundamental challenges for government is unifying and delivering service based on the use-cases as opposed to segmented government agencies. Having a unified feedback and service measurement model across different citizen to government interaction allows agencies to be more citizen-centric.

Dubai has created a separate agency to address all these issues - as a central clearing house for both the delivery of technology-enabled government services as well as measurement of the experience. This was originally called Dubai eGovernment and was subsequently renamed to be Dubai Smart Government.

In the United States Federal Government eco-system, a new office of US Digital Services has been created with the explicit purpose is “Building a more awesome government through technology” - this office is responsible for helping the federal US Government digitize and provide next-generation technology services. This office acts like a “Startup” within the federal government eco-system and enabled other agencies to react and improve digital citizen services.

We believe that a dual approach - unified measurement and accountability model, as well as an office with the explicit purpose of being citizen-centric, is the best way forward for governments. In the private sector, large organizations have a “Chief Customer Officer” role that represents the views and thrust behind being customer-centric. A similar model would work for governments trying to be citizen-centric also.


Case Study : Uber & The Social Trust EcoSystem Real time feedback

Ride-hailing service - disrupted the transportation business - by allowing anyone with a car to become a taxi driver and transport anyone who needed a ride. This peer-to-peer connection model unlocked tremendous possibilities - but it was all based on a fundamental social construct - Trust.

Trust between the driver and the passenger - and to manage this trust factor, Uber introduced a real time feedback system after each and every ride. The sheer volume of data, along with all the structured metadata (rider, passenger, location, ride-distance) - allowed Uber to systematically and efficiently evaluate both driver’s and passenger’s performance. It’s not well known to the general public, but just like Uber passengers can rate drivers on a 1-5 Scale - Uber drivers can also rate passenger’s performance/behavior!

This real time rating and feedback model allowed both drivers and riders to be accountable to each other and Uber’s image in the marketplace. Driver’s know that they have to provide a level of service that is not only acceptable but delights their customers - the passengers. Because of that customer-centric focus, drivers themselves have come up with an innovative solution to make the passenger experience more delightful – by doing such things as offering free water, iPhone cables for charging and in some cases even small snacks and chocolates. These enhancements to services came from the ground-up - not from the top down corporate policies - because the drivers knew that every ride will be rated by the passengers and that fact has created a level of self-accountability that could not be achieved using the traditional top-down approach.

Passengers, on the other hand, also have to behave appropriately too. Nothing destroys evaluation system more than the perception of a system built on a negative customer who unfairly grades performance. There have been many documented cases where passengers with inappropriate and bad behavior have been rated low after the Uber service ride. This allows for future drivers to be aware of the passenger’s past behavior - in the form of low passenger scores. These passengers may not receive discounts and preferred pickup times - since they had lower scores – putting pressure on them to moderate their behavior on future rides.

Case Study: Washington State Transportation Commission / Ferries

The Washington State Transportation Commission (WSTC) provides a public forum for transportation policy issues and future directions. It reviews and assesses how the entire transportation system works across the state and is critical to the development of the state’s 20-year Transportation Plan. As the State Tolling Authority, the WSTC sets tolls for state highways and bridges and fares for Washington State expansive ferry system – which is the largest Ferry system in North America.

Research Mandate

Since 2009, the Washington State legislature mandated that the WSTC conduct at least 2 or more comprehensive studies per biennium around satisfaction, toll use and pricing/cost analysis for the Washington State Ferry System.

To enable this mandate to be both cost-effective and reliable, the WSTC created and maintains a huge community (via an online panel) of Ferry Riders - called FROG - Ferry Riders Opinion Group.

This community is surveyed every few months to measure;

  • Satisfaction with the service
  • Toll / Off-On Season Pricing of Ferry Tickets
  • Areas of Improvement with Terminals, boats, and procedures

Focused Benefit & High Response Rates

Having a panel/community of ready-to-respond ferry riders allows WSTC to tap on-demand into the collective intelligence of the riders. Typically, the ferry-satisfaction and use projects are fielded and analyzed in under 2 weeks. The panel/community is constantly being updated by online sign-ups and on-boat recruiting.

Since the users are aware of the impact - that the research finds its way back to the state legislature and data from the research is used for determining ticket and toll prices, compliance and participation rate is between 30-40% on each study - which is very high and impactful.

“Our (WSTC) real time research practice helps us keep the lawmakers in the state informed about public opinions around road-use, tolls, and ferry fares. The on-demand nature of the community is very much appreciated by not only the lawmakers - but also administrators like Reema Griffith - the Executive Director of the Washington State Transportation Commission” - said Bill Young, from Research Assurance - the research agency tasked with operating and maintaining the WSTC panel/communities.


The key to the success of continuous improvement is continuous and real time governance.