EXCLUSIVE – Government Leadership Forum on digital transformation in the public sector
On 10 April 2018, over 50 leaders and senior executives from government agencies gathered for a discussion on digital transformation in the public sector organised by OpenGov and VMware. Participants represented governments of nine countries across the region - Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and South Korea.
Mr Mohit Sagar, Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief of OpenGov kicked off the Forum talking about the imperative of digital transformation in the public sector. He highlighted the importance of understanding citizens’ needs and incorporating design thinking into the provision of public services.
Mr Sagar was then joined by Mr Pat Gelsinger, CEO of VMware, for a fireside chat. The two discussed the potential of technology in improving lives.
Mr Gelsinger shared his experience of being part of governments’ digital transformation journeys, including VMware’s support to Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s initiative for establishing common data infrastructure across 34 government departments in New York City. The project saw the establishment of a common private cloud that helps agencies solve issues in data interchange, security and interoperability.
“The role of the government is to do those things that can’t be done by citizens or private markets,” Mr Gelsinger said, as he gave the example of India’s national identity system as an impressive government-driven initiative that transforms and modernises the country.
The two also talked about the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which will soon take effect in Europe. Mr Gelsinger said it might be the most important piece of legislation in the technology domain in a long time, as it will set a standard for data privacy requirements around the globe. In his prediction about data privacy legislations in other regions, Mr Gelsinger commented that governments should “make new mistakes” by learning from other countries’ experience and solve new problems.
On how government can drive smart city or smart nation initiatives, Mr Gelsinger said governments should start small and gain momentum by leveraging on existing infrastructure. Governments can start with identifying pilot projects and/or cities as use cases for targeted technologies and let the snowball effect kick in with demonstrated success. He also highlighted the importance of nurturing talent through education and research.
The fireside chat was followed by a sharing by Mr Bruce Davie, CTO (APJ) of VMware, on a case study of how the company helped to transform a federal government agency by modernising and delivering mission-aligned IT.
In this case, the federal government agency was pursuing a self-service model in its service provision to the public through a mobile app and a website. It was also faced with other challenges in compliance and risk, contestability of infrastructure, and fluctuations in consumer demands.
The VMware solution to this case was the establishment of a hybrid cloud ecosystem which: (1) improves agility through continuous delivery and DevOps, (2) supports the creation of contemporary services, (3) allows for contestability of infrastructure providers thus greater vendor value, (4) supports pay-as-you-go billing through utility computing, and (5) supports the Government’s Cloud-First policy.
Mr Gabor George Burt, author of the book Slingshot, shared his insights on innovation, creativity and strategy.
He emphasised how digital transformation in the government can drive emotional transformation and satisfaction among citizens. According to Mr Burt, the goal of innovation is “to turn pain points into points of delight and infatuation”.
In achieving this, he also shared the analytical tool of his Slingshot Framework, the Infatuation Interval Index (I³), to measure such emotional transformation.
The I³ uses algorithmic analysis of social media and big data to provide a simplified measure of Infatuability, which is defined by how deeply, how broadly, and how long a product or service takes to create a state of infatuation for customers.
After industry experts shared their insights on digital transformation and how it applies to the public sector, the Forum then explored the human aspect of it through the lens of citizens and government leaders.
Five residents of Singapore were invited to be on the Citizen Panel to discuss what government digital transformation and smart nation mean to them and how the government can transform its services to make their lives better. The five panellists represented an expat, a student, a working mother, an entrepreneur, and a senior citizen.
When asked about the type of digital public service they use in everyday life, the panel gave diverse answers:
Jin Qiang, a second-year student at the Singapore Management University, shared that he and his peers in the programme of Information Systems often develop applications using the data is made available on the Data.gov.sg platform. He also uses the National Library Board’s (NLB) mobile app to locate and reserve library items.
Working mother Stephanie has two young kids and is always on the road. Like most working adults, the major government service relevant to Stephanie is tax payment. She also uses healthcare services to make appointments for her children and aging mother. Most of the time, she accesses government services through her mobile.
Working father and entrepreneur Issac runs an accounting and advisory agency as well as a family-owned food business. In his profession, he frequently uses government apps to assist clients’ corporate processes, such as to register companies, pay taxes and settle Central Provident Fund (CPF) payment.
Senior citizen Jennifer is self-employed and exploring various digital services through both government apps as well as other online banking apps. She commented that digital public services are convenient but the elderly might need some help to learn how to use them efficiently.
Ashok is an expat who moved to Singapore over three years ago. In getting his pet to Singapore, Ashok commented that the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) website is easy to navigate and helped him in the customs clearance and quarantine process.
Panellists said smart nation should help improve their lives as well as to make access to public services easier. They also discussed that smart nation is not just about the technology, but also citizen engagement and education to “get everybody smarter together”.
Moving on, four government technology leaders from Singapore, Korea, Indonesia, and the Philippines shared how they drive a digital-by-design government towards public service excellence.
On how governments engage citizens as well as measure the success of service delivery, the panellists mentioned that they collect feedback from public users, make use of social media and other valuable touch points, such as public libraries and community centres to reach out to citizens.
In designing personalised public services, governments adopt a data-driven approach in the design of public service delivery. On top of that, Singapore also adopts a customer-oriented approach to personalised public services based on moments of life and the relevant type of agencies individuals will need to approach. At the same time, digital inclusiveness is also a concern for governments. As such, NLB of Singapore, for example, is rolling out digital readiness programme to educate senior citizens and other members of the society.
The exclusive gamification developed in collaboration with VMware is designed to be interactive, scenarios were presented with analysis and meant to facilitate discussions on the issues affecting government’s public-sector digital landscape, as well as cutting-edge capabilities and technologies. Participants were divided into five teams. All teams were presented with three scenarios and given the choice of actions to take to respond to digital challenges.
For example, in scenario 1, the teams were tasked to develop a 5-year blueprint for the city by lowering operational IT costs, redesigning IT infrastructure and data centers, ensure smooth and efficient public service delivery, and secure government IT services. The teams then discussed their options and picked their top 5 priorities to achieve the above-mentioned objectives. Answers were revealed after each round with explanations and analysis. Teams were given scores to keep track on their performance in all three rounds.
Throughout the process, participants actively worked with their teams to discuss the most appropriate response to the given real life-inspired IT challenge. The engaging and interactive session was intended to facilitate discussion and give attendees real ammunition to take back to the office.