Terms such as citizen-centric services, citizen engagement, once-only, government as a platform have become ubiquitous in discourse. But how to move from theory to practice?
OpenGov Editor-in-chief Mohit Sagar with Speakers from the Malaysia OpenGov Leadership Forum 2017
The Malaysia OpenGov Leadership Forum 2017 in Kuala Lumpur on March 16 brought together over 200 delegates from national and state government agencies and departments and the healthcare and education sectors to exchange ideas and experiences. It was a day of stimulating, free-wheeling round-table discussions, engaging panels and insightful talks by local and international leaders in public sector ICT.
OpenGov Asia Editor-in-chief, Mohit Sagar, started proceedings with a call to action for ICT executives to start small, pilot fast, iterate and scale up. Pockets of experimentation can be created within organisations, snapping them out of inertia. You start small, and gradually, initiatives become bolder, and change agents seek support for new resources and technology. As insights are shared and the power of collaboration is recognised, dedicated digital transformation teams form to guide strategy and operations based on business and customer-centric goals. Finally, digital transformation becomes a way of business. A new ecosystem is established to identify and act upon technology and market trends in pilot and, eventually, at scale.
Digital First, Citizen Focused Government Services
Dato’ Dr. Mazlan Yusoff (above), Director General of the Malaysian Administrative Modernisation And Management Planning Unit (MAMPU) delivered the keynote address on the theme of ‘Riding the Transformation Wave: Digital First, Citizen Focused’. He sketched out the evolution of Malaysia’s digital government, from static information delivery in eGov 1.0 during the 90s to fluid transactions in eGov 2.0 to the next ongoing step of shifting to dynamic information and using online services to create opportunities for public participation.
Dato’ dr. Mazlan highlighted four key ongoing initiatives at MAMPU, 1) GAMMA (Gallery of Malaysian Government Mobile Applications), 2) 1MOCC or the Malaysia One Call Centre, 3) Government Online Services (GOS) Gateway , which is being implemented in four clusters, Business, Education, Health and Welfare and 4) the Government Information Exchange Hub.
Dato’ Dr. Mazlan talked about targets the Malaysian government is setting for itself, to move into the top 15 ranking in the Online Services Index (OSI) under the United Nations E-Government Survey to 15 by the year 2020 from its current ranking of 40 in 2015 and of being in the top 30 in the Open Data Barometer (ODB) by 2020, up from its 2015 ranking of 51.
‘Digitisation in and as of itself is not transformative’
Edwin Lau (above), Head of Reform of the Public Sector Division, Public Governance and Territorial Development at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) said that Digitisation in and as of itself is not transformative. There is a fork in the path, one leading to utopia, with improved well-being and productivity, citizens needs being anticipated and enhanced citizen engagement. The other leading to a dystopia, where there is loss of jobs, loss of privacy and risks of insecurity and fraud, with no discernible offsetting benefits. It is up to government to ensure that we end up at the right destination.
OECD members are the most advanced, developed countries in the world. With advances in digital technology the richest countries in the world no longer have a monopoly on best practices. An exchange of ideas with nations in different stages of development would be mutually beneficial for everyone. Echoing Dato’ Dr. Mazlan, Mr. Lau said that citizens’ expectations are much greater than ever before, not only in terms of real-time service delivery but also in terms of their ability to participate in the conversation.
Mr. Lau went on to discuss the three pillars of the OECD Recommendation on Digital Government Strategies, namely building openness and engagement into the way ICT is built, governance and coordination to create the ability for government to come together as a platform, externally and internally (improved collaboration can help solve wicked problems such as obesity, which is no longer the responsibility of the Ministries of Health but also of Taxation) and capacities to support implementation.
Like many other speakers through the day, Mr. Lau underlined the importance of citizen engagement. But simply opening a Twitter account or waiting for a new generation of digital natives to come of age is not enough. Governments need to find out who uses new channels and how and prepare engagement strategies accordingly. He gave the example of 89% of young Germans using social media but less than 20% using it for discussing political or civic issues.
He also posed the important question that governments are becoming more open but for what purpose? Are they linking it up to the other strategic objectives of the government. Not enough governments, including those in the the OECD are thinking about how openness can make their governments and their private sector more efficient.
OECD has published an index called the Open-Useful-Re-Usable Government Data Index (OURData Index) which evaluates countries on the criteria of Data availability, accessibility and government support to re-use.
Mr. Lau concluded his presentation listing initiatives undertaken by the OECD for supporting governments, including the Observatory of Public Sector Innovation and Digital Government Toolkit. The OECD is also in the process of preparing a report on South-east Asian government and citizen-centric services, in collaboration with the Asian Development Bank. It will be published by end 2017.
‘We will keep sharing what we have built, and learning from best practice in other countries’
Olivia Neal (above), Deputy Director, Government Digital Service (GDS), UK talked about ‘Transforming the relationship between citizen and state’. She said, “It is about putting users at the heart of services. It has been fundamental to the approach we take in the UK.” Saying that we will do it is easy but doing it is difficult. Because you have to find actual users who are using the services, understanding what their needs are and then continually testing your services, getting your developers and the whole team on board the process.
There are nearly 400,000 civil servants in the UK and it is not impossible for the GDS to do everything at the centre. So the GDS set Digital Services Standards, a set of 18 criteria to help government create and run good digital services. Describing how GDS ensured that the standards are actually adopted, Ms. Neal said, “Too often standards are written, put in a drawer and forgotten.” GDS would not give a domain for a new digital service, until they will sure that it met the high standards.
To track performance and boost transparency, all new digital services were required to track and publish four metric: cost per transaction, completion rate, digital take-up and user satisfaction.
Similarly, standards have been set up for digital technology procurement. Traditionally, government IT needs in the UK have been outsourced in the form of long-term monolithic contracts with a handful of London-based large suppliers. Sometimes smaller, innovative businesses might offer better solutions. To enable civil servants to go on to a platform for procuring IT and for suppliers to register, GDS created the Digital Martketplace. The Australian government developed its own version and now the UK and Australian teams now have a shared backdoor so that both benefit from future improvements in the service. This is an exemplar of how governments can share and collaborate.
Ms. Neal said that the focus for the next few years will be on creating common components which can be used across government. Examples, would be Verify and Notify. The latter sends emails and text message alerts to users from across departments. The former plays a critical role as there is no single citizen identifier in the UK. But for delivering good services, authenticating user identity is essential. So a federated identity assurance model has been developed. Identity is assured by a number of providers and users can choose which ones they want. The government does not hold any information identifying the individuals.
GDS published the Government Transformation Strategy 2017-2020 in February 2017. Ms. Neal highlighted an important point from it: ‘We will keep sharing what we have built, and learning from best practice in other countries, to make our services better’. She explained, “We certainly don’t have all the answers. But we hope that by sharing some of the knowledge we have, we can arrive at better solutions.”
‘Digitising within silos is not digital government’
Toshiyuki Zamma (above), Chair of the International Council for IT in Government Administration (ICA) and Executive Advisor to Government CIO, Chief Architect, Cabinet Secretariat, Japan went straight to the point about a common misconception about digital transformation in government. Digitising and automating processes within silos is not digital government.
Mr. Zamma also talked about a shift from eGovernment to Digital Government. While the traditional approach focused on One-stop services, Paperless, Standardisation and Static data and Amount of data, the future is going to be about Once only (government doesn’t ask citizens twice for the same information), Digital by default, Interoperability and Dynamic/Real time data.
He presented use cases of real-time data from the Vehicle Information and Communications System (VICS) in Japan, which collects, edits and transmits real-time traffic information to facilitate rescue and recovery in the event of natural disasters and reduce accidents.
Wrapping up his talk, Mr. Zamma stressed on the need to accurately identify customers before jumping to solutions. A user could be an office worker or a mother or an old person, and they would have diverse needs and expectations. While designing, and delivering government services, it would be critical to observe their activities, analyse issues, collect facts and focus on improving satisfaction.
‘How many services are you offering?’
Janek Rozov (above), Head of Department of the Informational Society Services Development, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communication of Estonia spoke about the importance of assigning responsibility for service quality. And the first step towards it would be answering the basic question of how many services are actually being offered by a department. And then moving on to how much the services cost to the government, what is the level of user satisfaction and how much time it takes to use them.
So, Estonia is mapping and describing public services and connecting them with life and business events and tracking service quality across different channels through KPIs. This is helping the government in trimming the number of services, reducing costs, cutting down on time spent by customers on interacting with government and raising customer satisfaction.
Where to next?
There appears to be a consensus about the next step in government’s digital transformation.
Terms such as citizen-centric services, citizen engagement, once-only, government as a platform have become ubiquitous in discourse. But how to move from theory to practice? There are variations within and between governments over the level of ICT capabilities. The barriers range from legacy infrastructure to legacy culture, from cybersecurity and data privacy to the fundamental issue of clearly defining requirements.
Not all answers can be found over the course of one day, but the conversation moved forward. Going forwards, through OpenGov will continue to provide a platform for all stakeholders to learn from each other and collaboratively come up with innovative solutions.
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