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The government’s role in inclusion, diversity, and equity

Much-needed systemic change in policy making and program development is required

The government’s role in inclusion, diversity, and equity

As inclusion, diversity, and equity issues come to the forefront, governments are acknowledging the role that policymaking and program development have in perpetuating structural imbalances and disadvantages based on age, gender, sexual orientation and identity, disability, and socioeconomic status. Recognizing that these imbalances are deeply ingrained in the way that governments around the world have historically operated, inclusive, equity-centered government seeks to address the underlying causes of systemic inequities by not only questioning the fundamentals of how policies are made, implemented, and assessed, but by initiating a much-needed systemic change in how governments function moving forward.

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INCLUSION AND EQUITY-CENTRIC APPROACHES EMBRACED BY GOVERNMENTS WORLDWIDE

  1. Inclusive and equity-centered design
    This approach refers to the need for a proactive design of program structures, communication platforms, and digital algorithms which make government services more accessible to all citizens despite physical limitations, learning and language differences, and/or mental health disorders. Governments are leveraging inclusive and equity-centered design thinking to address inequities in the ways that programs are designed and implemented. For example, the Kenyan government partnered with UNICEF to design an accessible education system for children with hearing and visual impairment and intellectual disabilities, distributing easy-to-use digital devices with multimedia overlays that combine features such as audio narration, sign language videos, interactivity, and audio description of images.1
  2. Equitable access to public goods
    This approach refers to the implementation of inclusion and equity-centric approaches that aim to improve access to goods and services; it also highlights the need for public policy to address inequalities and discriminatory practices influencing disparities in access. In one example of how the U.S. government is using policy tools to influence equitable access to quasi-public and private goods and services, President Joe Biden has called for a US$20 billion investment in rural broadband infrastructure to bolster employment opportunities for those living outside of urban areas.2
  3. Data sovereignty and data equity
    This highlights the inherent risks associated with the governments’ increased reliance on new artificial intelligence systems and algorithms. Data equity seeks to ensure that the data collected and analyzed for decision-making appropriately represents the underlying population and prevents bias against marginalized communities. Data sovereignty refers to the inherent rights individuals and communities have on the collection, ownership, and use of their own data. Governments are employing new strategies to ensure that data-driven issues are effectively representative of the population; the U.K. Office for National Statistics, for example, has adapted existing surveys and created new surveys to better understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on certain population subgroups. The agency has additionally turned to existing census data to help understand how different groups are being affected by the virus.3
    Data sovereignty focuses on the issue of data ownership—who should own individual and community data. Legislation such as the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation tends to focus on an individual’s right over data and its privacy. However, there is very little focus on the right of a community, such as indigenous communities, over its data. The International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs launched the Indigenous Data Sovereignty (ID-SOV) initiative that focuses on the right of indigenous people to own, control, access, and possess data that belongs to their members, knowledge systems, customs, and territories.4
  4. Cocreation and Citizen Engagement
    These leverage the “co-creation” model in which governments are providing greater opportunities for individual citizens and communities to have a voice in creating policies and solutions that impact them. For instance, in Taiwan, the government used vTaiwan, an open-source collaboration platform, to bring together citizens, academicians, and software developers to brainstorm ways to effectively respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The platform served as an online town hall, involving citizens in policymaking and increasing civic trust. Because it was co-created with the community, the diverse perspectives of community members were reflected in the policy ideas generated.5

MOVING FORWARD

  • Elevate the human experience by taking a holistic, people-first approach to the design and delivery of government programs. Adopt universal design principles for all government programs.
  • Update outdated regulations and requirements to overcome systemic barriers to inclusion.
  • Encourage citizen participation and co-creation to tackle complex challenges where stakeholders share responsibility for a problem and together develop a process for solving it.
  • Collect and use data that represents all population groups and can be broken down to show realities within marginalized or disadvantaged subpopulation groups.
  • Democratize data, making it available to individuals and communities and enabling them to design programs and services that suit their needs.

For automated decisions, leverage tools, and techniques that can automatically detect potential algorithmic bias to avoid decisions that are unfair to certain populations.Based on these trends, the future of government will require increased accountability for the role of policy and governance in the establishment and upholding of institutionalized racism and systemic inequities. Government can show it works on behalf of all citizens by putting equity at the core of its work and being sensitive to the impacts of policies and data across groups, (e.g., addressing systemic biases in program requirements, or training datasets and AI) and making decisions accordingly.

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Kimberly Myers, PhD is a principal and Maya Obiekwe is a manager with Deloitte Government & Public Service’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) team. You can read Deloitte’s full study, “Inclusive, equity-centered government” here. If you would like to learn more about Deloitte’s Government & Public Services (GPS) practice, please visit our career opportunities page.

Sources: 1. UNICEF; 2. JoeBiden.com; 3. Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data; 4. International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs, Indigenous world 2020; 5. Bloomberg.
Deloitte refers to one or more of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited, a UK private company limited by guarantee (“DTTL”), its network of member firms, and their related entities. DTTL and each of its member firms are legally separate and independent entities. DTTL (also referred to as “Deloitte Global”) does not provide services to clients. In the United States, Deloitte refers to one or more of the U.S. member firms of DTTL, their related entities that operate using the “Deloitte” name in the United States and their respective affiliates. Certain services may not be available to attest clients under the rules and regulations of public accounting. Please see www.deloitte.com/about to learn more about our global network of member firms.
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