Digital Public Sector: How Governments are Enabling Change and Innovation

Singapore, June 2, 2016

Across the Asia-Pacific region, government agencies are coming to the growing realisation they must transform their services and citizen engagement strategies for the digital age. While many organisations have yet to embrace the full range of digital technologies available today, a growing number have or are moving to do so.

They are doing this with the expectation of a wide variety of benefits: from solving long-standing social problems to gaining new economies of scale so they can deliver more services to more people despite tight budgets.

“Businesses and government agencies are looking less like fixed ‘systems’ and more like platforms,” Gartner Fellow and vice president Dave Aron said last October upon the release of the “2016 Gartner CIO Agenda Report”.

He added: “A platform provides the business with a foundation where resources can come together — sometimes very quickly and temporarily, sometimes in a relatively fixed way — to create value.”


Enabling efficiency with digital processes

Over the next five years, public-sector CIOs expect to see the adoption of digital processes rise from 42 per cent to 77 per cent, the Gartner survey found. Other studies foresee similar growth in government use of digital technologies, both across Asia and globally.

According to recent research from IDC Government Insights, officials across Indonesia are showing a growing interest in digital and smart-city programmes as a way to help improve both government efficiency and productivity.

Similar trends are being observed across a wide swathe of Asian countries, another IDC study found. The change is being driven by the constant pressure that governments throughout the region are feeling to “enhance end-to-end citizen service experiences, optimise resource allocation, and rethink the way their employees work.”

By 2017, IDC predicted, 60 per cent of elected officials throughout the Asia Pacific region, excluding Japan, will “focus on technology innovation as a means to support regional economic development and attract investments”.

By the following year, 70 per cent of government CIOs in the region’s developed countries are expected to create teams that will “work across siloed hierarchical structures in an effort to foster innovation and agile development”.


Benefits to citizens, communities

In Australia, several digital government initiatives were recognised last year for their potential to have large positive impacts on local communities. Among the 2015 iAward winners were the National Blood Authority’s real-time interface for tracking hospital supplies of different blood types; a Tasmanian Department of Education application that provides teachers with anywhere, anytime access to school and student data; and a disaster hub delivering real-time access to news and resources for members of the public, media professionals and government agencies.

In New Taipei City, meanwhile, the police department and other agencies have together developed a platform that integrates data from a wide range of systems: everything from an information hotline and mobile devices to video surveillance images. The platform provides a single and comprehensive view of security information so police in that part of Taiwan can respond to situations more quickly.

Other efforts across the region – including Smart Nation Singapore and Digital India – are also working to promote more joined-up, real-time and data-driven services to citizens, businesses and others. Singapore’s Smart Nation programme, kicked off in 2014, envisions using data from sensors and numerous other sources for everything from spotting littering to understanding and controlling the spread of infectious diseases better.


Seeking megatrend innovations

This March, Singapore’s Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) launched a new fellowship programme that aims to work with talented engineers, data scientists and technologists to develop innovative solutions to real-life problems. Those could include new applications similar to those already being tested through the Smart Nation effort, such as the Beeline mobile app for crowdsourced private bus services or the OneService platform for citizen comments on city issues.

We need these potential solutions to tackle megatrends which will occur; challenges such as transport crunch, urban density, healthcare, housing and more,” IDA assistant chief executive and chief data officer Khoong Hock Yun told a gathering of the Singapore Computer Society earlier this year. Smarter solutions, he added, will not only benefit the government and its citizens but will help to create new business opportunities across the country.

“As we transition to being a smart nation, more services will become intrinsically tied to future technologies such as the cloud, the Internet of Things, Big Data and more,” Khoong said. “These emerging and highly disruptive technologies will be key sources of great opportunity to leverage on new approaches and drive continued market growth.”