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The Next Frontier for Innovation and Productivity in the Public Sector, as presented by Mohit Sagar at INTAN Digital Exploration 2015

This past week, the INTAN Digital Exploration 2015 event was hosted by the Public Services Department of Malaysia (JPA) the Malaysian National Institute for Public Administration (INTAN) on the INTAN campus located in Kuala Lumpur. This event celebrated the government’s journey towards digital transformation, while reminding the public servants of the opportunities provided by advanced technology.

On 19 November, the event featured a series of talks which focused on technology solutions in a variety of areas including cyber security, social media, online learning, and data analytics. The delegates included public servants working in IT departments within their respective agency.

The following day, 20 November, Mr. Mohit Sagar, Managing Director of OpenGov Asia, took to the main stage of the event to discuss ‘The Next Frontier for Innovation and Productivity in the Public Sector’.

He begun by pointing out a recent study showing that the public sector could see as much as $4.6 trillion in Internet of Things related savings and revenue globally, over the next ten years. Mr. Sagar emphasised that the magnitude at which we are creating Information is far greater than any time in history.

What is startling is the estimation of data that will be created by the Internet of Everything (IoE). As Mr. Sagar states, this encompasses information coming in from People, Processes, Data, and Things.

Wearable technology, commonly known as the Internet of Things (IoT) is creating a lot of data. Our Digital Universe (DU) was thought to reach an estimated 40 zettabytes by 2020. This has since changed to now 44 zettabytes. Wearable devices will grow to an estimated 32 billion connected devices by 2020, contributing 10 percent of the DU.

By 2018, data will reach 403ZB. This is 47 times the estimated total data centre traffic and 267 times the estimated amount flowing between data centres and users.

From this, we can now understand why service providers and mobile operators are taking IoT seriously, Mr. Sagar emphasised. He calls this ever-growing stream of data and connected devices, the connection of everything, or CoE. It is important for the public sector to emphasise on this growing capacity of data, and teach public servants about the broader range of connectivity.

“We are going to have to change the way we learn, because technology is intimidating,” Mohit Sagar said, “The systems inside are being taken for granted, because people are assuming if they know, the employee will know.”

From this, Mr. Sagar presents the 5 Main Drivers of Potential value, which includes:

1.      The ability to Increase Employee Productivity

2.      The ability to Improve Military Connectivity

3.      The reduction of Operating Costs

4.      The Enhancement of citizen experiences

5.      Revenue Boost

These factors drive governments to integrate ICT and frontier technology. CoE enables opportunities for governments to raise the quality of life for citizens. Capitalising on these concepts allows for greater service delivery.

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Mr. Sagar elaborated on five examples from the region, in which digital transformation strategies are represented. First, the MDEC and MAMPU Fast Track Program which is a government incubator to provide 12 months of programming and support. Second, the Victorian Government Technology Innovation Fund, which provides project-based grant funding for innovative ICT projects that improve Victorian government service delivery.

Third, Singapore’s Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) scheme, initiated in 1998, allows for ease of transportation and payment for citizens. No need to slow down and pull over to a toll window to make your payment. Fourth, the Canberra Chief Digital Officer Jon Cumming, whom has worked in both public and private sectors, will work to transform the digital economy. Lastly, Mr. Sagar spoke on NICTA which was reinstated by Australian Prime Minister Turnbull, to support technology innovation startups.

All of these examples demonstrate that there was a drive for digital transformation and government efforts have been made a reality. Mr. Sagar stated that there are four things that agencies need to be sure of before implementing such a project.

“First, projects must address a genuine public sector challenge. This means that the proposed project should clearly target an area of current or emerging need for the public sector.  Projects must be innovative, they should not be ‘business as usual’, but instead should demonstrate innovation,” Mr. Sagar exclaimed.

“Projects must generate public sector value, including a quantifiable benefit, preferably in the short term. They must be actionable and must have a clear path to implementation. Keeping in mind that a Public Private People Partnership will help with risk mitigation.”

The three parts for successful digital transformation, Mr. Sagar stated are:

  • Cultural Transformation
  • Skills Transformation
  • Technology Transformation

He prompted the audience to guess which part was most obstructing towards the advancement of digital transformation. With most of the audience members whispering things along the lines of, “Well, technology of course,” Mr. Sagar’s answer shocked the audience. He revealed that Cultural Transformation accounts for 65 percent of the digital transformation process, while Technology accounts for only 10 percent.

“Technology on its own is there, that is made available already. It is all about culture. If we can’t change culture, shift mindsets, and bring in trust... we cannot change how we are acting,” said Mr. Sagar, “In India, an employee cannot work from home. If you are at home, your boss will assume you are on vacation, this is the culture. For Indians outside of their native country, they are able to work at home, like myself working in Singapore.”

To spur cultural transformation, Mr. Sagar urges government to think differently, develop another dimension to cultural understanding, start from the end result to explain the benefits, look for the quickest and most efficient path to transformation, and work off of lessons from the past.

Digital Transformation is on the horizon, governments must be prepared to embrace the digital world as it will help advance their service delivery.

“We need to be smarter in the way we work to address the many challenges ahead. That change is only getting faster, the more we stop to take stock the further back we get. The gap between here and now becomes even bigger to address. We need to find a better way to transform our government,” Mr. Sagar said, ending his presentation.

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