According to a recent report, there is an aspect of technology that receives considerably less attention and that is its transformative impact on improving the effectiveness of the government.
On a scale of 0 to 100 in terms of government effectiveness, according to the World Governance Indicators compiled by the World Bank, India scores 57, Indonesia 55, the Philippines 52, and Thailand 67.
Advanced Asian economies such as Japan and Singapore have scores of 93 and 100, respectively.
New technologies hold great promise for improving government effectiveness. It is a multi-faceted concept that includes control of corruption and efficient delivery of public goods such as education, health, social security, and transport.
Five examples are given as to how governments in developing countries have begun harnessing technology for a better government.
The first would be the use of National ID systems to improve tax compliance and provision of public services.
Asia is home to nearly a quarter of the population in the world, having no official proof of identity.
India’s Aadhaar digital ID program has now registered approximately 1.2 billion Indians, covering 99% of the adult population. It is being used to deliver government subsidies, benefits, and services.
Success of India’s Aaadhar ID system has spurred interest across Asia. On the back of this national ID program, India is improving governance in other areas such as tax enforcement and compliance.
In July 2017 it rolled out the Goods and Services Tax (GST), with all filings required to be done electronically through the GST Network.
It is a web-based one-stop shop for all of India’s indirect tax requirements. The GST Network is linked with the national ID system, which is in turn linked to the bank accounts of individuals.
Unlinked accounts are to be frozen by banks. The mandatory electronic tax filing minimises taxpayers’ physical interaction with tax officials.
The success of India’s national ID system has spurred interest in putting in place similar systems in other countries in Asia.
As of today, other large-scale digital ID initiatives in the region include Indonesia’s e-KTP card, Malaysia’s MyKad, and Pakistan’s NADRA system.
The second example is using blockchain for the reduction of corruption in land management systems.
In a study by Transparency International, an estimated US$ 700 million is being paid in bribes at land registration administrators across India.
The government of Andhra Pradesh state is utilising blockchain technology to address issues of fraud and corruption in the state.
A blockchain-based platform is being implemented, which encrypts land ownership data records, thereby making them incorruptible and transparent.
Third example would be quality education and training, which can prepare for skills for the future.
In the theme chapter of the 2018 Asian Development Outlook called How Technology Affects Jobs, quality education is the key in preparing the workforce of the future.
Workers with better foundational skills such as basic reading, writing, numeracy as wells as social and emotional skills and digital literacy are better placed to learn new skills.
They will also be able to adapt to working with new technologies.
Quality formal education is the foundation of skills development.
In leveraging the widespread use of social media in the Philippines, for instance, the CheckMySchool (CMS) initiative is a community monitoring tool that improves on the quality of public education by using crowdsourcing technology.
Developed in partnership with the Department of Education, CMS monitors and produces reports on various aspects of public education services, from specific government education programs to the quality of education infrastructure.
Its use has resulted in faster response times from government on a range of issues, from the lack of textbooks to classroom repairs to misreported enrolment rates.
Moreover, new technologies have the potential to transform public education through new approaches such as adaptive learning, which is powered by machine learning, and massive online open courses (MOOC).
The fourth example is the better provision of healthcare services.
Driven by its desire to become Asia’s healthcare hub, Thailand is pursuing ambitious plans in healthcare delivery.
The government created a Ministry for Digital Economy and Society in 2016 and has developed a National Digital Economy Masterplan with a four phase 20-year schedule.
The first masterplan (2017-2022) includes a digital ID system, with plans to establish government Big Data with a Data Analytics Centre, which “will create preparedness for utilising artificial intelligence.”
It will integrate the Thai Public Health System and Personal Health Records (PHR), allowing both professionals and patients to access information to monitor progress, seek advice and make doctor appointments online.
The PHR system will issue smart health ID numbers to access healthcare services.
The fifth example is transport and urban management.
There is no need to wait until automated vehicles arrive in mega cities in developing Asia to see that new technology promises to transform public transportation and urban development.
A number of cities in Indonesia are actively using technology to improve services.
The Jakarta Transport Authority, for example, collaborated with several application providers to evaluate alternative traffic schemes.
This eventually reduced the travel times of Transjakarta buses by 20% and increasing ridership by 30%.
The Jakarta Smart City Unit has developed apps for public crime reporting, school placement, and traffic reporting. It also has a Citizen Relation Management platform to improve response times.
Surabaya has developed an e-Health service system that allows citizens to schedule appointments in public health centres or government-owned hospitals without the need to stand in line.