• Strategy and Transformation


  • Citizen-Centric Personalized Digital Government
  • Government


by Nortal

Real-time economy: Where policy drives growth

Traditional approaches to economic development and governance have left many nations with outdated policies, missed opportunities, and struggling to keep up with the rapid pace of technological change. On the other hand, a real-time economy (RTE) drives economic factors—including government—to better support the economy with effective policy-making and lower trade and transaction costs.

Establishing this sort of digital ecosystem involves transitioning from paper-based processes and manual administrative procedures to the automatic exchange of standardized digital data in machine-readable formats. It effectively enables instant or near-instant transactions between economic players; this can significantly improve government and private sector collaboration, foster transparent government budgeting, and provide insights for more strategic subsidy allocation.

Switching from a traditional approach saved the Nigerian government more than 21.6 billion euros (US$23.8 billion) and Oman 20.9 million euros (US$23 million). As we can see, it’s a critical step for governments around the world to take. Let’s further unpack how a real-time economy can break barriers to economic development and governance that traditional approaches never could.

Black man sitting behind computer ar office

Principles of real-time economy

Real-time economy does not describe a specific type of economy; rather it refers to an infrastructure where economic transaction data is instantly exchanged between involved parties. The results of RTE projects cut costs for businesses and governments, increase revenue, and improve international collaboration.

To effectively support this type of infrastructure, immediacy, efficiency, transparency, and integration are critical building blocks.


The RTE relies heavily on automation to process transactions without human intervention, boosting speed and reducing potential for error. Transactions are conducted and recorded instantly or near instantly, as opposed to traditional models where transactions might be batch-processed at the end of the day or even later—leading to a time lag in updating records.

Digitalization and standardization

Data formats and protocols are digitized and standardized in RTE, powering interoperability between systems and reducing friction in transactions. In contrast, traditional economic models often operate with a range of systems and standards. This hinders efficient communication and processing; in addition, paper-based methods and physical documents significantly slow down transactions and complicate record-keeping.

Transparency and integration

Siloed systems in traditional models and a lack of immediate data can obscure the current state of financial affairs and market conditions. However, in an RTE, systems and processes seamlessly integrate to allow for smooth and continuous data exchange. Real-time access to transaction data further increases transparency for all parties involved.

Compliance and reporting

Automated compliance checks and reporting in real-time ensure that businesses always operate within regulatory frameworks. In traditional models, tax liability management and reporting can be periodic and retrospective, potentially missing out on real-time issues.

Revolutionizing government operations with real-time data

Real-time data enables more accurate and timely government decision-making through the following mechanisms:

  • Economic monitoring. By continuously tracking economic indicators, governments can better manage economic policies and interventions to stabilize and stimulate the economy.
  • Transparency and accountability. Real-time data sharing can increase government transparency, fostering trust and enabling citizens and watchdog organizations to hold governments accountable.
  • Emergency response. In crises such as natural disasters or public health emergencies, real-time data is vital for a swift response that can save lives and minimize damage.
  • Customized services. Just like in the private sector, governments can use real-time data to tailor services to the needs of citizens. This can have a noteworthy impact on citizen satisfaction and engagement.
  • Cost savings. By streamlining processes and reducing the need for retroactive corrections, governments can operate more cost-effectively.
  • Public engagement. Access to real-time information keeps citizens more informed and engaged in public discourse and decision-making.
  • Immediate insights. Current information allows governments to understand and react to situations as they unfold rather than relying on outdated reports. Predictive models forecast future trends and potential issues, enabling proactive rather than reactive measures.
  • Resource allocation. Real-time insights help governments allocate resources more efficiently, ensuring that areas in need receive immediate attention and support.
  • Policy evaluation. The impact of policies can be assessed in real-time, allowing for rapid adjustments to enhance their effectiveness and prevent wasting resources.


A strategic approach to a real-time economy

Strategic digitization can transform citizen-government interaction. A digital government is citizen-centered, proactively addressing social security and tax concerns. The following are just two instances where we have assisted government entities to transform state processes with a significant impact on efficiency, cost savings, and citizen-government relations.

e-Census, Oman

Oman’s one-click 2020 census is an excellent example of digital government transformation. The nation was the first in the Arab world to count all three of its main registers on the first attempt successfully and simultaneously in a single census. It was also one of the few countries globally to conduct a census relying fully on data collection through administrative records.

The United Nations Population Fund regards Oman’s census as a global role model showcasing the shift from conventional field-survey censuses to those utilizing national administrative databases.

Nortal worked with the National Center for Statistics and Information to design a data processing strategy and develop a robust e-Census architecture. With over 100 million records processed, the fully register-based census rendered data quality of 95%. Compared to the 6,000+ staff required for the 2010 traditional census; the 2020 fully-register-based census required only 74 employees. This contributed to a savings of $23 million.

The e-Census serves as an essential initial step in digitization, equipping policymakers with critical data to comprehend demographic shifts across regions and groups and enabling informed future planning. It empowers the government to proactively engage with citizens according to their individual circumstances and life milestones.

For instance, new parents can receive automated updates on relevant benefits. Additionally, data on university students’ fields of study helps the government create targeted job preparation programs for young job seekers. By shaping and delivering these proactive services, the government enhances interaction and delivers superior benefits to its constituents.

Employment information system, Estonia

Commissioned by the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund, the Employment Information System (EMPIS) has transformed Estonia’s unemployment landscape. In 2009, 15% of the Estonian workforce claimed unemployment benefits and services. Outdated business processes, inconsistent procedures, human error, and poor data quality made Estonia’s unemployment fund an easy target for fraud.

By building a customized information system to streamline processes, Nortal helped the Fund fast-track service delivery while accurately supporting end users. The solution modernized the outdated paper-based system by automating back-office tasks, simplifying form-filling, and managing reminders and notifications. It continues to intelligently apply legal rules to ensure accurate decisions and verifies data input, significantly reducing the workload of the Fund’s specialists. For the unemployed, it offers career support, training options, and ensures timely unemployment benefit payments.

man using phone in the street

Data-driven governance: A strategic partnership

Adopting the infrastructure necessary for a real-time economy represents a transformative leap forward for a nation’s economic capabilities and competitiveness. Such an evolution requires a cultural shift towards embracing change, innovation, and a forward-thinking mindset; the journey is as much about technology as it is about people and processes.

As nations embark on this path, they can look forward to an economy that is not only more dynamic and resilient, but also more inclusive and responsive to the needs of its citizens and businesses. Ultimately, successful implementation can lead to unprecedented levels of prosperity, efficiency, and global economic participation.

Ready to embrace the benefits of a new digital government? Talk to an expert today.

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Personal government is a vision that considers the next stage of already developed digital societies to provide more human-centric public services, considering the complexities where traditional digital government approaches do not necessarily provide a straightforward solution.

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