Throughout history, governments have used a mix of public and private endeavours and a public-private partnership (PPP) is a cooperative arrangement between one or more public and private sectors, usually of a long-term nature. Traditionally, for long-term and costly infrastructural projects, it may not be practical for the government to bear the entire cost of these projects and thus involving the private sector would provide a more sensible financing model as well as be able to tap on the expertise and knowledge of the private companies involved.
On a conceptual level, while it may be hard for public and private sectors to understand how each other work since their financing models and motives can be rather different: the former is non-profit and the latter is for profit. In recent times, technological disruptions have shaken up industries, both created and eliminated jobs and ultimately altered the ways economies work.
In that regard, governments are not spared either- they are expected to keep up with these disruptions and offer citizens more accessible and convenient e-services through utilising ICT technologies. This provision of services, naturally, cannot be done by governments and government agencies alone and it is only beneficial if they can facilitate collaboration with the private sector on the delivery of such services in the long run, since the private sector is most familiar with the technologies and requirements involved for such projects.
Public-private partnerships are of course not restricted to the provision of e-services alone- other examples include infrastructural projects, signing of Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) agreements, working with institutes of higher learning and so on. The bigger picture is that governments can no longer think it is enough to be doing what they think is easy or convenient for themselves but consider how they can be facilitators in processes and changes caused by technological disruptions. For instance, they have to make sure that existing regulations or statutes do not impede or hinder innovation and entrepreneurial efforts.
With that in mind, let us consider some examples of PPPs in the Asia-Pacific region which OpenGov has covered in the last couple of months:
Changi Airport Living Lab
Singapore Polytechnics and Singapore Fintech Association MOU
National University of Singapore (NUS), EZ-Link & Alibaba Cloud MOU
Economic Development Board (EDB) – Schneider Electric Partnership
Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA) MOU with Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP) and Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT)
Although the above-mentioned list is not an exhaustive one, the implications are that governments can no longer be passive or reactive in a technologically-driven economy. It is imperative that governments embrace change and disruption through deliberate collaboration and partnerships with private sectors, in order to stay relevant and continue to facilitate processes that would make a positive impact on the economy and keep their citizens engaged. What would be interesting to observe are the changing dynamics between the interactions and levels of collaboration between public and private sectors in the future – traditional definitions of what public and private sectors are and do may no longer be relevant.