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EXCLUSIVE- Meeting high customer expectations with limited resources - Turning a limitation into an advantage

OpenGov organised a second Breakfast Dialogue in Jakarta, Indonesia on ‘Transforming government with flexibility and transparency: Doing more with less' in Jakarta on the 27th of October, following the successful session in Malaysia on the 25th. CIOs and Directors, from around 20 public sector agencies in Indonesia, came together to discuss strategies to meet high customer expectations, while working with limited resources in terms of funding and manpower.

Damien Wong (below left), Vice-president and General Manager, ASEAN, Red Hat, highlighted how Red Hat grew during the post-2008 downturn, as organisations turned to open source for driving improvement. 

He reiterated the importance of thinking outside the box for governments, if they want to improve service delivery and enhance innovation in an environment where additional funding is always hard to come by. Agencies need to be elastic and scalable, be able to support agile processes across IT and business processes and deliver IT services in utility-like fashion, on-demand, as you go.                              

Rapid application development and deployment is a necessity now. The lower cost of open source was never an incentive for the Singapore government. But it is moving towards a greater adoption of open source now. In the past, it was good at vendor management and procurement.

Today that is not enough. Technology is changing too fast. And open source can help governments keep up with the pace.

Mr. Wong explained applications are no longer monolithic. They revolve around microservices and APIs. They are deployed through containers, cloud and mobile, not just on-premise data centres.

Mr. Wong concluded his presentation saying that all IT will become fast IT. All organisations will move to microservices architecture, hybrid cloud platforms and devops process. Because it is a matter of survival.

Guest speaker, Klaus Felsche (above right), Former Director of Analytics from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection in Australia, said that on-going digital transformation across governments is being driven, to a large extent, by use and analysis of unused big data. The best way to start analysing it is using open source.

Mr. Felsche continued that to build a culture of innovation, people have to be given the time and opportunity to think and an arena to experiment safely with the crazy ideas. Open Source could play a key role in building such arenas with minimal cost. 

The best way to innovate right now, in Mr. Felsche’s words is to start small, build a prototype, and then scale up if it works. The prototype will also help in explaining the new idea to stakeholders and getting them onboard.                              

Iwan Djuniardi (below), Director of Information Technology and Communication Transformation, Directorate General of Tax, Ministry of Finance spoke about promoting better tax compliance through digital disruption. He defined his objective as shielding taxpayers from the complexity of the tax system through a simplified, streamlined, seamless and end-to-end service delivery. Mr. Djuniardi said that digitally mature taxpayers have a high level of expectation regarding service delivery. They expect to be served rather than informed. 

To meet their demands and expectations, they need to integrate tax services into taxpayers’ natural environment i.e. software and communications platforms they use, build a broad service ecosystem, switching across all channels and platforms and manage data in a manner, so as to inspire confidence, maintain quality and protect privacy.

To achieve all this, his Directorate shifted to open source technology and adopted agile methodology. ICT infrastructure procurement was moved from Capital Expenditure (CAPEX) to Operational Expenditure (OPEX) and the infrastructure for cloud services was made cloud-based.

Questions and discussion

The first question posed to the delegates was about having a clear understanding on open source. Over 70% replied in the positive.

When asked about top barriers that impede the organisation from taking advantage of digital trends, the polling results made for interesting comparison with the Malaysian event. ‘Too many competing priorities’ attracted 38% of the votes, opposed to only 5% in Malaysia.

Some attendees said that they might start off with a strategic plan. But as implementation proceeds, new ad hoc priorities become top priorities instead of what was planned. 

Another executive, who had chosen ‘lack of an overall strategy’, also talked about the difficulty in prioritisation. He said that there is a tendency to divide funds equally. He attributed it to lack of overall strategy and lacunae in leadership. The excess focus on operations and the absence of a broad vision for growth and improvement came up.                              

Insufficient funding was cited by the highest number of delegates (41% as compared to 68% for Malaysia) as the primary barrier.

OpenGov Editor-in-chief, Mohit Sagar proposed a solution in line with what Mr. Felsche had said earlier. Go in with a small team first, if the idea is worth pursuing then get the experts to build it. Funding should not be a restraint in exploring new technologies. Mr. Felsche added that Sometimes lack of funds can be a blessing in disguise. You might not look for smart solutions if you have enough funds. You might go for the brute force approach of throwing money at the problem.

Around 97% said that their organisation views digital technologies as an opportunity, rather than a cost and 78% claimed their agencies have a clear and coherent digital strategies (the respective numbers for Malaysia were 96% and 91%), indicating that the Indonesian government is on the right path.

A question on skill-sets required to achieve IT goals generated similar responses to those from Malaysia. 36% said that they have in-house skills, 37% replied that they are upgrading skills and 27% are outsourcing. 

Not surprisingly, 67% of attending executives chose customer or citizen demands as the biggest driver of digital transformation. The corresponding number for the dialogue in Malaysia was also at a high 75%. Around the world now, the focus of digital transformation is on improving customer experience and meeting their needs.                              

This was in line with a later vote of 52% (a similar 48% in Malaysia) saying that there is a high level of customer involvement in co-creating digital services and 39% saying that there is a medium involvement.

The need for co-ordination within and between ministries and directorates was discussed. For example, the multiple directorates under the Ministry of Finance or co-ordination between the Ministry of Transportation and the Indonesian army and air force regarding unscheduled flights over Indonesian airspace. For all these kind of things, open source might provide the best platform for building applications.  

No company, no matter how big, can have as big a research and development and test capability as open source. In conclusion, Mr. Sagar reminded the audience that taking analog processes and putting them online is not digital transformation.  Real transformation is about looking at the process and asking how we can do it differently. And open source would play an essential role in that. 

Click to read the reports on the dialogues in Malaysia and Thailand.

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