There is little doubt that all government agencies have been asked to be innovative and agile and generate efficiencies and greater effectiveness. The question is how?
This short discussion looks at some ways organisations might consider when embarking on their path to maximise the benefits of innovation. It offers suggestions around:
- capturing innovative ideas,
- deciding which ideas should be progressed,
- the importance of a test laboratory and the prototyping approach to prove the validity of new concepts and prepare the organisation for their adoption.
The use of affordable test and prototyping solutions removes much of the risk traditionally associated with the deployment of new, innovative, solutions. It supports the ‘fail fast, fail cheaply’ approach recommended by many. By the time a decision is made to move from a prototype to a fully-integrated solution, organisations know that the concept will work – a far cry from the uncertainty associated with older-style, non-agile methodologies.
Where do the great ideas come from?
There are many sources of innovative ideas. Capturing lessons from clients/customers, processes that seek contributions from other agencies, business partners or the community (through crowd-sourcing, open data strategies, etc) are proven sources of inspiration. Importantly, an organisation needs to have a well-understood and resourced process in place to allow innovative ideas to be tested and implemented.
The innovation framework needs to be capable of initiating though around a business problem/opportunity and also capture unprompted ideas from internal and external sources. In some ways this is not a new process – many will recall or be aware of ‘staff suggestion’ and ‘customer feedback’ schemes.
Open Data – the Fuel for Innovation
Australia’s capacity to remain competitive in the digital economy is contingent upon its ability to harness the value of data. Data volumes are growing exponentially and so too is the potential value of this data. Publishing, linking and sharing data can create opportunities that neither government nor business can currently envisage. Publishing appropriately anonymised government data will stimulate innovation and enableeconomic outcomes.
Public Data Policy Statement, Prime MinisterThe Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP 7th December 2015 
Sharing data allows government agencies to focus on delivering core public services. It encourages innovative solutions to our citizens' problems.
The Hon. Dominic Perrottet, MP, Minister for Finance, Services and Property
Both of these positions are driven by the realisation that, in many cases, data is the fuel required for digital innovation. And the drive to make data available is based on the realisation that this process leverages a global talent-base of innovators who would otherwise be unable to see opportunities.
Engaging in-house resources
The seeds of innovation exist at many layers within agencies. Front-line staff who see a smarter way of working to save effort or time or to become more effective are often overlooked. This is the group of people who have to deliver the business outcomes at the front line and are typically amongst the first to see problems, issues and opportunities.
Many will ‘invent’ homebrew solutions that remain largely hidden from more senior staff. How many ‘unofficial’ or ‘unauthorised’ databases using MS Excel of MS Access exist within agencies? These ‘solutions’ are clear signs that employees find the ‘official’ systems inadequate but make their work more effective.
Some agencies respond by prohibiting the use of such tools. Several Australian Government agencies removed MS Access from their standard operating environment in 2014 to prevent employees from building their own ‘unauthorised’ databases.
The response was well-intentioned. Stand-alone databases or spreadsheets are usually not documented represents major risks to an agency. When the author of the solution moves to another role, the ‘solution’ is likely to fail and attempts to ‘fix’ it will be expensive, time-consuming and expensive.
Understanding what business need is being met by the unsupported databases is, however, a primary input to innovation within an agency. Employees should be rewarded for their attempts to work smarter and the best reward for most is to see their ideas become part of the corporate operational model. When this happens, employees will be encouraged to come forward with their new ideas, creating a rich pool of innovation energy.
Too Many Good Ideas – Managing the Flood
Agencies will have limited resources available to explore concepts and ideas. A process is required to ensure that the innovation culture is supported. A potential framework is shown below:
- All ideas are considered by appropriate experts (these may be in-house or contracted resources or a combination.
- The assessment process needs to be evidence-based:
- does the idea support the business outcomes of the agency?
- Is there a chance that the idea can be realised?
- If the above criteria are satisfied, then it is worth testing the concept in a lab and test bed.
- If tests prove that the idea is technically achievable, affordable and practical, then a prototype is warranted to develop the proposal with the end-users.
- Successful prototypes can then be submitted for full deployment.
- Innovators responsible for the concept should be acknowledged and appropriately rewarded.
Figure 1: An outline innovation triaging model
Some Approaches and Tools
The innovation team needs to be able to demonstrate the viability, efficiency and effectiveness to all of the stakeholders. The following is one approach that has worked in a large Australian Government department.
Figure 2: Evidence-based innovation: concepts that do not work, or work as well as intended, are abandoned early, others move to the next stage.
All innovative ideas benefit by having these ideas and approaches tested. If an idea does not work in the ‘laboratory’ then it is unlikely to work in the real-world.
The Laboratory is a cheap, safe environment that can be used to test ideas, tools, processes, new technology and measure the outcomes. Air-gapped systems, synthetic test data, access controls and other security measures allow teams to test their ideas quickly and report on the viability of the innovation. Trial software, free open source and affordable commercial software and cloud-based solutions enable the laboratory process. The CEO, CFO, CIO and Cyber Security team should have little concern if this is appropriately established.
The laboratory tests need to answer some key questions:
- Will the technology suite work to achieve the required business benefit?
- What are the performance metrics (efficiency, workability, robustness, likely effort to build, deploy and maintain)?
- What skills are required to support the solution into deployment and through-life?
Realistic performance metrics will be needed to convince all stakeholders that the innovation is worth pursuing. Engaging IT infrastructure and security teams will provide them with early exposure to the proposed system, making it easier for these teams to contribute to the solution.
A critical role of the test laboratory is to allow for demonstration of the concept to stakeholders and gain support for the development of a prototype.
The prototyping platform needs to be agile, permitting iterative development while supporting the identified technologies. The prototype should ‘sell’ the solution to the business unit(s). By working very closely with end-users on the prototyping platform, business units will not only become familiar with the new solution but will contribute significantly to its development and final acceptance. As much as possible, the end-users should assume ‘ownership’ of the solution and drive its development.
In many cases, a mature prototype might provide substantial business benefits. It is, in many ways, a more mature version of those homebrew solutions mentioned earlier.
Once the prototype has reached maturity, the data model, user interface requirements, business processes and system impacts have been determined. Porting this to core infrastructure, while not trivial, should be fast. Moreover, provided this porting process is effective, the business benefits and user acceptance are guaranteed.
Typically, the full integration into corporate systems offers additional utility not available to prototypes ensuring that the integrated corporate solution will be welcomed in the workplace.
Bringing key stakeholders on board
The following list is not exclusive but highlights some common partners whose support is needed in digital innovation:
1. Chief Executive.The CEO typically accepts ultimate responsibility for managing all risks. The CEO is also expected to continually improve the core business functions in an agency and deliver efficient and effective outcomes. Communicating the innovative concept with the CEO needs to be conscious of these roles. This does not mean that risk is hidden or ignored but the CEO will need to know what and how much risk is associated with an innovation and will balance that against potential business benefits and consider the implementation costs.
2. Chief Finance Officer. The CFO needs to be convinced that the innovation is affordable and will typically focus on the cost-benefit analysis. It is interesting to note that, in many organisations, the Bring your own devices solutions for smartphones/tablet computers was driven with strong support from the CFOs who could easily see large reductions in costs to the agencies by having staff pay for their own devices and communication costs (some of the savings had, of course, to be channelled to mobile device management systems to enable staff to connect safely to corporate systems).
3. Chief Information Officer.The CIO (and Chief Data Officers and Chief Technical Officers) are primarily concerned with the secure management of core corporate data and the infrastructure required to support this. Any use of the corporate data or infrastructure by an innovative solution represents:
- a potential diversion of technical (staff) resources to support the new innovation;
- risk to existing structures and systems,
- potential requirement for new skills,
- down-stream support costs,
- potential challenges to existing vendor relationships, and
- potential challenges to existing budget allocations.
4. Cyber (IT) Security.Anything new requires risk assessments to ensure that it does not create unacceptable vulnerabilities. This can be very challenging for Cyber Security teams that may not have the skills required to properly assess security vulnerabilities inherent in the proposed solution.
Cyber Security advice to a CEO and/or the CIO that something new represents a high level of risk is one quick way of stalling or killing off an innovative project. The assessment may be based on the simple fact that the solution uses systems, approaches or platforms that are new and not fully understood or the first of its kind.
5. The Supported Business Unit.The business area that is intended to utilise the innovation needs to be its champion. This is not always easy to achieve unless the innovators can demonstrate clear business benefits and utility for this unit. Even then, the staff (and their leadership team) might remain unsupportive as they may not fully understand how the system works.
For example: staff in a client service area might have been using a simple rules-based profile to identify clients representing high risk. A simple set of rules is easy to understand by all workers and can be applied (either manually or coded into an IT system). The innovative idea is to use Bayesian analytics models to more accurately identify risky clients.
The data scientists can show that the system is 10 times more accurate than the rules-based approach but, as the operational staff and their managers cannot understand the new risk models, there might be little support for the new process.
Supporting a Culture of Innovation
The above process provides a fast, economical and secure pathway for data innovation in Government. Innovative ideas are encouraged and then tested. Good ideas that cannot be implemented are identified while those that can work and are likely to generate business benefits, will quickly become part of the organisational tool-kit. Importantly:
- benefits can be demonstrated to the C-suite and the end users and their managers;
- work on ideas that cannot be implemented ceases quickly without incurring large costs;
- risks are identified throughout the process and mitigated appropriately along the pathway;
- end-users and their managers are introduced to new ideas and will take ownership of the solution;
- the laboratory, test-bed and prototype work allows an accelerated development process leading to full integration;
- people who had the idea(s) are encouraged to have more since their ideas can now be tested and, if found workable, implemented;
- the laboratory-approach encourages a culture of constantly looking for and testing new tools, solutions and approaches and ensures that organisations are agile, seize opportunities and solve problems quickly; and
- organisations that use such an approach will attract and retain talented staff who will see the culture as dynamic and rewarding.
Adapting, adopting and shifting methods, models and processes are unavoidable as technology develops and advances. Manufacturing robots, artificial intelligence and machine learning are just a few examples of rapidly evolving new technologies.
These technologies have the potential to save costs while enhancing output and quality. They have a vast scope and the potential to revolutionise existing enterprises and personal lives. They can make people’s lives easier while also requiring less human engagement.
Companies have realised that such cutting-edge solutions can take over specific roles and increase operational accuracy, production and efficiency. Automation and digital improvements have improved analytical, technical, and management capacities. Even today, many large technology organisations have reached a broad economic scale without a large staff base.
As a result, the workforce and skillset needs will change. Organisations require fewer people in roles managed by tech creating a greater need for employees with specific abilities.
The impact and opportunities
In an exclusive interview with Mohit Sagar, CEO and Editor-in-Chief OpenGov Asia, Michael Baron, CEO & Director of Baron Consulting Group, Singapore, believes technology changes will be positive for most people. But technological advancement may disappoint others because they may be concerned that technologies may replace their jobs.
“There will be proactive people and that people who are reactive. It is important to understand that further development is essential for people, companies and governments, to keep the nations and businesses competitive. So, I think the future will positively impact those who want to embrace the technologies. We need to focus on development rather than on keeping everyone happy,” explains Michael.
People can embrace the new technology with better utilisation. As an example, he shared how people will have gotten used to a pass-card ticketing system. Some time ago, the technology was introduced in several countries in Southeast Asia and Australia. People had to learn to adapt to the new ticketing system if they wanted to use the public transport system. While initially challenging for many, people have gotten used to it and, indeed, prefer it.
Baron urges people to view new technology as a unique opportunity. Change happens all the time in almost all spheres – sometimes rapidly and other times gradually. Businesses need to adjust their service offerings based on technological developments. It may require performing specific technology-related tasks for the companies which are no longer relevant.
“I recall a very old Chinese saying that every crisis is an opportunity. You can say that I lost my job and I lost my business proposition many times and I don’t see it as drama. I see it as an opportunity. See it as an interesting experience, a natural transformation,” Baron offers.
From a personal perspective, the analytics engine, for instance, has helped him to become a better chess player. The tools can help him to perform better in online chess games by analysing his game, understanding his mistakes and what opportunities he misses and suggesting what he should learn and how he can do better next time.
The same idea goes for organisations or governments. The private and public sectors can do better through digital transformation and utilise technological advancement to maintain their position in the marketplace. It’s not a matter of enjoying it or not embracing the norm, it’s a matter of survival. It’s a matter of remaining relevant, of addressing the challenges by delivering better.
According to Baron, what is happening now is that traditional players are losing market share very fast and possibly don’t even understand the market anymore. So, it is vital to reshape themselves, adopt new goals and embrace new technology.
As a big fan of predictive analytics, he believes that analytics can break into the past to build a better future. Citing a Greek philosopher that said history repeats itself implies this results in variations in a range of operations. So predictive analytics will play a role in calculating the future based on what happened in the past and emulate it for future problems.
In terms of challenges, Baron believes that security, privacy and controls will still be a big problem in the future. Ethical factors are also emerging around the globe today. Organisations with international presence have to comply with all the multiple countries’ respective laws and regulations regarding data ownership and management.
Sooner or later, organisations need to ensure compliance. Even though technology tends to develop faster than legal frameworks, ultimately all countries create regulatory frameworks.
Cultural spirit and political drive
Baron is convinced that both the private and public sectors can drive the technology improvements. Whether it is public or private-driven innovation, it is essential to keep forward-facing if an organisation or a nation intends to survive.
He acknowledges several governments’ efforts to stay ahead of the digital transformation journey, such as Japan, China and Singapore. These countries demonstrate how they can be leaders through cultural spirit and technology utilisation rather than only depending on their natural resources.
After World War Two, Japan’s economy was in a very difficult situation, dealing with the devastation and a lack of natural resources. They faced these challenges head-on by utilising technology and aggressively pursuing digital solutions. Eventually, they not only became a leading economy but were a global benchmark for development.
China, too, has a robust digital and technology vision for the country and has seen remarkable success. From a largely agrarian/rural society, it is now the second-largest economy worldwide. It is a great example of how political will plays a significant role in driving technology-enabled progress.
As for Singapore, the country has become a leading exponent of technology and digital innovation. Compensating for a lack of resources with heavy investment in technological development, innovation and education. They have harnessed their multicultural heritage and been wise in how they use their existing resources. Infrastructure, policies and pathways have made the nation a preferred destination for investment and international tech workers.
LKYGBPC entrepreneurial pathway
Technology development has a massive impact on future employment, hence the entrepreneurial path is one of the solutions to answering the challenge. As a member of the International Judging Panel (IJP) for the Lee Kuan Yew Global Business Plan Competition (LKYGBPC), Baron encourages people not just to embrace the ideas of others but to work with their ideas. He believes that everybody has something to bring to the table.
Teaching about technologies and related subjects, helping people acquire the necessary skills and traits, and providing the right environment is essential to foster entrepreneurship. But a little more is needed to create a culture of entrepreneurship.
He considers the international competition a fantastic way to bring a lot of global talent together to actualize their dream, to be inspired, express their concerns,and to find solutions. The competition creates the right environment to put ideas together and tailor them to suit specific marketplaces.
The competition is a chance for people with ideas to organise themselves, present their ideas to the big wide world and have a shot at being successful. To Baron, there should be more calls for international competitions they allow ideas to travel beyond the borders to create a better future for the world.
Science, engineering, technology, and innovation give people the power to develop a country and its quality of life. Investment in these areas is vital for economic growth and social progress.
Research and development in smart tech can help build greener cities with better access to essential systems and services for all. Moreover, infrastructure development, technology transfer and public and private R&D must be supported and regulated by good policies if they are to work.
To ensure scientific progress is encouraged and embraced at all levels of government decision-making, the Academy of Sciences Malaysia (ASM) is tasked with giving strategic advice to the government and stakeholders, as well as pursuing excellence in science, engineering, and technology for the benefit of everyone.
Malaysia’s S.E.T.I. Initiatives
Hazami Habib, Chief Executive Officer of the Academy of Sciences Malaysia, believes that bringing together experts from all fields of scientific, technological and humanities endeavour to address pressing national issues relating to science, engineering, technology, and innovation as well as to provide strategic input to the whole nation, the government will provide unrivalled public service.
One of the contributions of the ASM is to incorporate interactive learning of STEM into the pedagogy of education in Malaysian schools. “To see the performance and results, inquiry-based science education (IBSE) will create an interactive learning environment in the physical classroom. Therefore, we want to have this kind of ecosystem and environment in schools.”
She is eager to see more collaboration between tertiary education and industry so that any courses and curricula provided by universities are both industry-required and future-proof. This is why their organisation is working with the government to create collaboration between industry and academia. “I believe that will help us advance more.”
ASM is currently working with the Malaysian government, in particular the central agency, to begin evaluating public decision-making universities based on data. Hence, using facts, metrics, and data to inform strategic business decisions that align with goals, objectives, and initiatives is the most effective data-driven decision-making.
Making data-driven decisions the norm within an organisation is necessary to foster a climate that values scepticism and curiosity. “Data is the starting point of conversations at every level, and people improve their data skills through practice and application,” says Hazami.
At its core, this calls for a self-service model where users can access the data they require while maintaining a balance between security and governance. Additionally, it necessitates proficiency, resulting in opportunities for training and development for workers to acquire data skills.
Additionally, ASM has developed a Responsible Conduct of Research module which acts as a benchmark to have this code of ethics in research taught to all graduates, whether they are in hard sciences or the social sciences.
“We want that because every piece of knowledge we incorporate in the future will be based on good science and value. Therefore, we must consider bioethics, biosecurity, and training modules on ethics in research,” Hazami explains.
ASM has recently directed its scientists to provide solutions in close collaboration with the ministries. Citing as an example is their committee on water, energy, health, agriculture, and biodiversity (WEHAB++). For instance, when Malaysia faces issues such as the price hike for chicken feed which causes societal dissatisfaction, solutions to food security issues such as this can be provided by the Academy’s expert network through science and technology directly to the government and stakeholders.
In addition to providing policies and strategies to decision-makers, the ASM also teaches them how to carry out those policies and strategies by applying their knowledge.
Hazami highlighted the growing movement called “Open Science” which aims to open scientific data and research to the public. In addition to democratising knowledge, the international principle of making research data findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable (FAIR) will support open scientific inquiry and integrity, facilitate improved research management, and encourage data-intensive research.
Unprecedented insights and solutions to local, regional, and global complex challenges are made possible by integrating numerous data streams and enormous datasets across numerous disciplines.
Through the Malaysia Open Science Alliance, the Ministry of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment & Climate Change (MESTECC), now known as the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovation (MOSTI) and the ASM are laying the groundwork for the realisation of the Malaysia Open Science Platform (MOSP), a strategic transformative project to strengthen Malaysia’s STI Collaborative Ecosystem.
“The Malaysia Open Science Platform or MOSP aims to connect raw research data, then collaborate and share,” Hazami explains. “By creating a reliable platform that enables accessibility and sharing of research data aligned to national priorities and international best practices, this initiative seeks to transform Malaysia’s research data into a valuable national asset.”
Hazami is passionate about science and technology because it has the power to change the nation. “I’m attempting to make a change, and one of those changes is in the area of science and technology.”
For her, the most meaningful contribution in her 26 years in the academy was when the government accepted 80% of their recommendations for transforming and creating change and an ecosystem. “For now, our current areas of focus are strengthening governance, the innovation ecosystem and the sustainability of R&D funding.”
A change in paradigm towards a growth mindset among policymakers, scientists and the younger generations is her greatest challenge and greatest passion. She believes that when decision-making is based on data, it can provide the best solution possible.
Hazami strongly believes that Malaysian women are more than capable of pursuing careers in science and technology. They hope to have a strong support network to help them succeed in those fields, whether as practitioners or scientists.
“Our goal is flexibility. We need to have an open work environment and open innovation because we can work from home as researchers and scientists. We are more adaptable now. If we can accomplish this, more and more women will contribute to the workforce more effectively,” she says emphatically.
By reaching out to the top management and demystifying technical terms, OpenGov Asia, a steadfast supporter of Malaysia’s digital transformation journey and an advocate for citizen-centric development, will continue to help bring about change. Hazami concludes by urging top leaders to practice a growth mindset for the betterment of the country.
Hazami strongly believes that over the course of the next five years, ASM will continue to serve as a catalyst for change and create the science, technology, innovation, and economy (STIE) ecosystem for the entire nation towards the full potential of digital transformation, including the Malaysian transformation and the humanisation of the economy. “Leaders’ courageous decisions pave the road to successful digital transformation.”
AI and other digital technologies could help solve some of the world’s most important social problems, like climate change, biodiversity loss, food insecurity and risks to public health, among others. Harnessing digital capabilities to promote a transformative system could be a game-changer for a sustainable and equitable global future.
Today’s consumers expect more than great products and services, and businesses are well aware of this. Clients want to feel like they are investing in a reputable, responsible brand. Consequently, the most market-dominant businesses are not merely profitable and have good products but those that have multiple alternate bottom lines – social, environmental and sustainable.
More than 90% of business executives agree that sustainability is crucial to their success. As consumer groups continue to publish reports on the increased desire for more environmentally friendly corporate practices, it is simple to see why green marketing strategies are gaining such importance.
The environment and sustainability are vital components in the strategy and operations of enterprises looking to be more conscientious. Organisations have been taking proactive steps to develop a greener future with their consumers, partners, stakeholders and workers. These efforts include environmental initiatives, community outreach efforts and business practices.
Advancing Environmental Sustainability and Resilience
In an exclusive interview with Mohit Sagar, CEO & Editor-in-Chief of OpenGov Asia, Vivek Lath, Partner at McKinsey & Company, Singapore, acknowledges that climate change concerns have accelerated progress, such as the move from fossil fuels into renewables. Climate change and related critical events have helped people realise how severely irresponsible development affects the planet. And in this digital era, people are deploying cutting-edge solutions to manage global warming.
“Everyone is becoming aware of the necessity for action to attain sustainability,” says Vivek. “There is a growing interest in corporate sustainability and how corporations can strive for it to meet the needs of stakeholders for social, economic, and environmental implications.”
Most businesses are considering ways to contribute significantly, which will need robust investment and efforts. “We see businesses quickening their momentum and considering effective climate innovations. A case in point is how electric mobility companies can be affected by the huge reductions in costs for climate technology.”
Vivek believes it is possible to adapt a company’s digital strategy to mitigate and deal with extreme climate change. Companies must include digitalisation and decarbonisation in their strategy, as industry 4.0 technologies will play a crucial role in meeting the emissions reduction goal.
Digital technologies can increase energy efficiency and decrease fuel consumption across multiple industries and sectors. Digitalisation has the potential to revolutionise the way people and technology interact by helping to analyse and calibrate necessary interventions.
By utilising digitalisation, businesses can identify the emissions sources, whether at the product level, manufacturing unit level, or equipment level. They can then determine the necessary interventions to reduce emissions, such as a change in the manufacturing or personnel settings, and then monitor whether the identified interventions are being implemented.
“Here is where I believe digitalisation and decarbonisation must go hand-in-hand, as this will ensure that industries undergo structural changes and reach their objective,” says Vivek.
Businesses need to be more conscious of the need to be prepared for the energy shift, and he has five relevant steps for how businesses should approach this:
- Develop an understanding of how energy shifts will affect your company;
- Think about a bold and ambitious target, such as considering how big of a carbon footprint reduction they intend to achieve with this energy transition;
- Consider various situations and their effects;
- Create a comprehensive plan that will serve as an overall strategy with well-defined and cascading targets;
- Think about implementation, where companies strike a balance between all the goals, e.g., carbon footprint and profitability
Right now, society is more conscious of sustainability and is calling for companies to shift their carbon footprint and be more conscious about emissions. This is causing profound changes in the corporate and government landscape.
Organisations can work toward more sustainable practices with the aid of corporate sustainability’s economic, social and environmental pillars. Businesses must alter their mindset from just profitability at the expense of the environment to a sustainable and profitable paradigm. There must be interdependence and a greater emphasis on operations and eco-innovation.
Adopting sustainable practices benefits the environment, but businesses have also demonstrated that these programmes can boost productivity, lower costs, make shareholders happy, and a host of other advantages.
“Corporate entities must take the initiative in determining pertinent technologies. Companies must implement technologies to decrease their carbon footprint. They are the ones that will bring about change. Governments can decide the legislation, but unless companies change, it will be difficult to achieve net zero,” Vivek firmly believes.
A green economy is the practice of sustainable development supported by public and private investment in creating an infrastructure that promotes social and environmental sustainability. A green economy refers to an economy in which individuals are increasingly aware of their carbon emissions and are taking steps to reduce them.
A carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide and methane, that corporations and individuals generate.
There are numerous practical and effective approaches to implementing sustainable technologies at the national level. “I believe that each country will deploy different technologies; the mix of technologies, the adoption rate, and the deployment cost will all be very different. However, each country will need to consider what sustainable technologies are relevant to them, consider implementing them, and consider the reasons for doing so.”
According to Vivek, decarbonisation entails significant economic transformation. When new business opportunities arise in Asia, companies must contemplate how they will be the first to take advantage. To do this, they must seriously consider the technologies and industries they want to innovate in or implement and the various business models they should use to take these opportunities.
There will be an acceleration of the energy transitions if individuals in the nation change their behaviour, the government considers how the empowering regulations should be made, or how businesses decide how they will operate.
Vivek has led several large-scale transformations and new business builds across the region, such as for an energy conglomerate in Indonesia. From this experience, he is convinced that a fundamentally different way of thinking about any business problem is required.
It requires thinking about what the unique value proposition is going to be and thinking about getting new talent to build a business from the ground up. Some of his most memorable moments on this journey include realising the value of having the right talent.
Another thing he learned is that customer preferences change at very different levels. So, thinking about the organisation’s unique value propositions and how customers perceive them becomes very important. For incumbents, choosing different business models can also be essential.
Both private and public organisations are aware that change needs to occur quickly. Resources are becoming harder to come by while demand is rising, necessitating a balance to build a sustainable future. “Green technologies will help the world achieve sustainable levels and make the environment cleaner and safer for everyone.”
Urban Ideas and Solutions Through LKYGBPC
Vivek is on the International Judging Panel (IJP) of the Lee Kuan Yew Global Business Plan Competition (LKYGBPC), a biennial global university start-up challenge held in Singapore.
As a member of the judging panel charged with driving, developing, and upholding the entrepreneurial spirit of the LKYGBPC participants, Vivek is focused on the innovativeness of the solutions, such as how effectively the technology solves the problem.
He also believes that feasibility and how the different technologies are correctly implemented can significantly change the world. “These two parameters will be quite useful in considering how we are selecting, or how I would select various technologies.”
He acknowledges that innovative entrepreneurship talent can be cultivated wider in the broader community through such competitions. These serve as an illustration of how they are fostering innovation and entrepreneurship across society.
The competition is also one example of instilling a culture where the next generation is thinking about how things can be done differently. Competitors explore creative ideas and have a forum where they can share their thoughts, which can be a great example of nurturing innovation.
The competition, which is run by the Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Singapore Management University (SMU), is centred on urban ideas and solutions developed by student founders and early-stage start-ups. It is positioned as a campus innovation movement that seeks to establish a global startup ecosystem with financial backers, including venture capitalists, corporate oligopolies, and governmental organisations.
“I believe many of our leading schools are doing a great job of instilling a culture where children are thinking about how things can be done differently and what are creative ideas,” Vivek opines.
There are numerous instances throughout the world where the technologies or solutions used by youth or larger communities have truly made a meaningful difference. “But it does take some significant effort to raise awareness and establish a forum where people can discuss their concerns, share their ideas, and obtain the resources needed to solve them,” Vivek concludes.
Both in normal circumstances and in times of crisis, Thai people are known to generate a lot of innovative ideas and continue to develop products that make their lives better. This encompasses and encapsulates the nation’s most recent campaign, Innovation Thailand, which promotes Thai creativity to a global audience.
The Innovation Thailand Alliance consists of partners from a variety of sectors including government agencies, private organisations, educational institutions, and civil societies. Through it, the National Innovation Agency of Thailand (NIA), is expanding the scope of its Innovation Thailand platform.
The fundamental goal is to use national/local ideas to revitalise the nation by promoting awareness of and pride in inventive Thai works. Allies will serve as ambassadors in the effort to promote Thailand as an innovative nation. They will be able to exchange knowledge and skills with one another at the same time.
All stakeholders are enthusiastic to help Thailand achieve its goal of being one of the world’s top 30 innovative nations by 2030 and turning Thailand into an innovation-driven country.
Innovation Capabilities of Thai People
The National Innovation Agency’s mission is to support and develop Thailand’s innovation system to promote economic restructuring and competitive enhancement.
In an exclusive interview with Mohit Sagar, CEO and Editor-in-Chief, Dr Pun-Arj Chairatana, Executive Director of the National Innovation Agency, Thailand shared the attest update on the Innovation Thailand platform that NIA launched for its national economic recovery.
“We began the Innovation Thailand campaign before COVID-19 because we faced a significant challenge in terms of how not only Thai people but also global clients, perceive the nation’s unique products and services,” explains Dr Pun-Arj.
Even though this may not be directly related to innovation, the NIA has attempted to communicate and brand national innovation in such a way that it can be easily connected not only with Thais but also with international customers – this is how they started the Innovation Thailand platform.
Thailand is a tourist destination and one of the top three in the world, which has caused the country to innovate their lifestyle as well as their livelihood.
Thai culture places a high value on craftsmanship and attention to detail. Thai innovation for artful living is a process created exclusively by the fusion of modern technology and knowledge passed down from one generation to the next.
“We have created ingenious solutions through this method that enhances the standard of living in terms of society, prosperity, health, safety, and the environment,” Dr Pun-Arj furthers.
They began to construct a community to exchange ideas, develop, and manage innovation that would result in delivering some information or any significant strategic movement that the government could initiate.
They are recruiting more Chief Innovation Officers from not only the private sector but also the public sector and universities, as part of their primary target group.
Dr Pun-Arj is looking to enhance the opportunities brought in by innovation, particularly at the regional level in the city. This is because they are working not only on economic development but also on the skillset of the social innovation division and platform.
“As a result, our primary focus is on regionalisations of innovation possibilities, as well as startups – innovation-based firms,” reveals Dr Pun-Arj.
He believes that every successful community is built upon a robust and well-functioning infrastructure. Hence, Thailand’s industries and infrastructure will be modernised to meet upcoming challenges.
“In the past, one of our five-year priorities included buildings which we identify as system integrators. As the system and ecosystem become more robust, we are transitioning from system integrators to full core facilitators.”
He emphasised the need to consider the impact of being a system integrator before transforming themselves into focal facilitators. Furthermore, the country wants to make better use of the enormous resource of innovation in universities to conduct research and technology in collaboration with other organisations across the world.
Through the City Innovation Index, which focuses primarily on districts and cities, the NIA promotes and monitors the constant innovation and evaluation of diverse organisations. Periodically, they performed surveys in particular industries to evaluate and propose answers for the difficulties they face.
A strong innovation strategy will evaluate the overall objectives, the target portfolio for innovation initiatives, and the process for allocating the necessary resources. The portfolio clearly defines innovation-critical benchmarks and bounds. Therefore, the nation will become democratic and transparent.
“I believe the government’s most essential innovation strategy focuses on three specific concerns. You must have highly strong and capable businesses of all sizes that will establish a very strong enterprise on its own. And secondly, you must have laws and regulations,” Dr Pun-Arj asserts. “In addition, governance is also required and identifying future risks.”
Thailand is struggling with several issues, including inequality, which includes limited access to public services, digital technology, education, and environmental problems. High manufacturing costs and new types of competition in the global supply chain became challenges for Thailand, with this, innovation has emerged as the country’s answer.
Additionally, there are many challenges in terms of digital transformation and government service and the nation is pushing for innovation that can deliver a good policy and deploy it into practice.
In the previous five-year plan, NIA primarily focused on the job of system integrator into four core facilitators. “That is why the short-term strategy is to train management in the methods, programmes, and activities that we have implemented over the last five years.”
NIA is primarily concentrated on strengthening the potential of regional innovation in several key sectors such as new technologies, assistance for startups, venture capital creation or investment for innovation, and internationalisation of Thailand’s innovation.
Dr Pun-Arj envisions a stronger Thai economy and society, with innovation playing a key role in propelling it. The Bio-Circular-Green Economy (BCG) model is a plan for the country’s growth and post-pandemic recovery. The BCG model focuses on four strategic sectors: agriculture and food, wellness and medicine, energy, materials, and biochemicals and tourism and creative economy.
It emphasises using science, technology, and innovation to turn Thailand’s comparative advantage in biological and cultural diversity into a competitive advantage. The primary aim is to support the sustainability of biological resources, develop local economies and communities and make Thai BCG industries more competitive and resilient to societal changes.
The approach is meant to make Thailand’s economy, society, and environment more sustainable and inclusive. “To achieve the 2030 goal, we must work incredibly hard to encourage innovation in this BCG economy. At the same time, the national policy needs to be improved.”
Dr Pun-Arj has been recognised as a pioneer in the domains of foresight and innovation management in the country. He counsels anyone aspiring to be a great innovator to fully comprehend the concepts of uncertainty and failure.
“Innovation will help us grow as a community or nation by making ourselves and others aware of the importance of innovation,” Dr Pun-Arj concludes.
Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) in education have the potential to enhance how education is provided, financed, and managed as well as offer easier access to the community.
A PPP system operates under the construct that market mechanisms, in conjunction with government inputs, are better for providing education. One of the rationales behind PPPs, which are supported by international organisations, development agencies and academics, is that competition between public and private education providers is a good way to improve the quality and efficiency of education.
PPP policy frameworks should therefore create real market dynamics in which education service providers continue to innovate and improve the quality of their services to attract learners, young and old, who are seen as benefit maximisers and well-informed consumers.
New Era of Partnerships, Building Talent Pipeline
In an exclusive interview with Mohit Sagar, CEO and Editor-in-Chief of OpenGov Asia, Annie Koh, Steering Committee, Lee Kuan Yew Global Business Plan Competition (LKYGBPC) elaborated on how public-private partnerships in higher education create effective degree programmes.
“The structure and framework for any university to launch degree programmes can be fairly onerous, given the emphasis on quality assurance and relevance,” says Annie who is also a Professor Emeritus of Finance (Practice), Lee Kong Chian School of Business and Senior Advisor at the Business Families Institute in Singapore Management University (SMU).
However, academic-industry partnerships play a crucial role in building the future of students and facilitating the transition of young people from school to work. Students need to be exposed to a variety of jobs and workplaces to develop interest and discover where their studies and passion may lead.
Industry partnerships with different sectors offer a variety of experiences, such as simulated job interviews, career development activities, challenge-based learning projects, curriculum-aligned activities, and work-study programmes. In addition, internships have become a vital opportunity for candidates to distinguish themselves prior to full-time employment.
A PPP is mutually beneficial, allowing industry access to fresh talent and looking at the industry’s challenges from the perspective of future consumers or employees acknowledges Annie. In fact, the private sector has indicated to all institutions that they need future talent in the area of data analytics, so SMU has recently launched a track in data analytics hosted in both their business school and computer and info systems school so universities also benefit from the insights from the industry to stay relevant in our curricula.
With the help of data analytics tools, a company may take unstructured raw data and use this information to discover patterns, draw conclusions and turned into useful insights. Therefore, data analysis aids businesses in so many ways, including making educated judgments, developing a more successful marketing plan, enhancing the customer experience and streamlining processes.
Education is not only under the charge of the Ministry of Education but also needs the support of other ministries since future jobs and capacity building are expected of the Ministries of Trade and Industry, Finance, Maritime, Health and others. Partnering with the whole of government allows for students’ skillsets to be increased and all students become more relevant, valuable and workplace ready.
Prof Annie knows that no one has a monopoly on knowledge, and no one knows the exact skills which will be needed in the future. Thus, PPPs have the most value when it forms a part of “lifelong learning.”
The exciting thing about lifelong learning, Annie believes “…is that when you get your degree, you think you’re done, but you’re just getting started. Even as you gain experience and learn on the job, you’ll need to keep reinventing yourself and the skills needed to extend your runway will keep changing.”
Passion extends beyond degrees and ongoing learning is a crucial element to keep employees engaged That’s why higher education now permits a variety of pathways to marry passion with career aspirations and is no longer a paper chase, she explains.
Two good cases to illustrate the value of PPP in the context of SMU’s innovative programmes that Prof Annie is very proud of are the partnership approach in launching the International Trading track and the Maritime Business Operations track under the Finance and Operations majors in SMU’s business school.
In accordance with the creation of a strong Singaporean core, wholesale trade and maritime businesses have been focusing on both skillset development and attracting new talent supply to ensure a pipeline of sustainable human capital. So, the trading and maritime sectors do need to build a case for making the jobs in their sectors more appealing – particularly with the assistance of government grants and scholarships.
Companies can play a crucial role by showing how an organisation can provide a feeling of purpose with support and development opportunities available to make building a career in their organisations appealing and attractive to the candidate
A part of Annie’s challenge in the early days was to set up an International Trading Institute (ITI) where students could take for-credit classes under the business school and get a certificate of completion for the non-credit practice-oriented sessions, learning from practitioners in the evenings.
“My goal at SMU is to link external relevance to internal degree requirements while upholding the quality assurance requirements of the education system. Different industry partners help us with this mission to co-create and deliver the applied learning content with us.”
SMU is therefore a strategic asset for the country and both the tracks had, over the last decade, created a pool of more than 300 alumni who are knowledgeable about wholesale trading, largely in the commodities trading space and maritime operations. Now, there is available talent who are able to speak and work with more confidence up and down the trade value chain and contribute to Singapore’s relevance as a trade and maritime hub.
Another great example of PPP was manifested during the last three years of the COVID-19 crisis which saw a spate of job cuts and many experienced PMETs were laid off. Annie worked with her teams at ITI and BFI to design a nine-month Business and Digital Transformation programme which combined in-class training modules with a capstone project for candidates who are matched to SMEs to also deliver a project for these sponsoring companies. Candidates have a chance to learn and apply the knowledge and sponsoring companies also benefit from the capstone projects delivered. In addition, 70% to 90% of the programme fees are supported by SSG grants, while WSG grants provide funding support towards the candidates’ commensurate salaries.
All these partnerships were possible because a pool of companies is available and can be accessed to match the candidates as a result of SMU’s external network of trusted companies, which was strengthened by the BFI that Annie had set up 10 years ago with the support of SMU’s senior leadership. Many of Asia’s SMEs are family owned with different sets of challenges and aspirations other than the usual business issues. In addition, many of these business families have longer horizons and they are the ones that countries depend on to build businesses sustainably as they think beyond current generations.
Therefore, business families with an entrepreneurial spirit, not only make money but also contribute to changing the world through their businesses and other new ventures, including building social enterprises and philanthropic activities.
By addressing business family-specific issues such as succession, family governance, entrepreneurship and wealth management, BFI aims to strengthen the ecosystem of entrepreneurial business families and stakeholders in their creation of sustainable impact by leveraging SMU’s core competence as a thought leader. In turn, BFI has been a strong partner to the LKYGBPC. Many of LKYGBPC’s sponsors are family-owned businesses, such as Wilmar International and Frasers.
In addition, many of these family enterprises have footprints beyond Singapore and are always on the lookout for quality start-ups to invest in or be part of their accelerator programmes. Innovation is essential for a company to improve its operations, introduce new and enhanced products and services to the market, raise its efficiency, and most crucially, boost its profitability.
Annie feels that her journey in academia is more about building entrepreneurship and Technology, Talent and Trust (3Ts) are important drivers in helping companies in their transformation journeys. As such, public-private-people partnerships are even more relevant in today’s challenging and uncertain times to build back better and broader for everyone.
According to Annie, the road to digital and business transformation success is paved with courageous actions by caring and forward-looking leaders. The right leaders will build a firm sustainably and attract the right people, the right leaders will inspire and motivate the right people to learn, improve and grow.
“Developing people is my calling but learning to develop people is everyone’s responsibility. And because the world is bigger than yourself, you need to be big-hearted, purpose-oriented, and have an open mind to be successful on any path you choose,” Annie concludes.
A digital government operates in a manner that is digital by design, focusing on the requirements of users and maximising data. Fundamentally altering the way the Australian government operates now, it offers enhanced social, policy and economic outcomes.
The Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) of Australia believes that a digital government better prioritises the requirements of individuals and businesses. It entails investing in cutting-edge technology to deliver a personalised experience that is stable, safe and dependable and ultimately anticipates the demands of each user.
Australia’s Resilience and Growth Rely on Digital Government
In an exclusive interview with OpenGov Asia, Lucy Poole, General Manager, Digital Strategy, Architecture, and Discovery Division, Digital Transformation Agency, Australia shares her journey and some success factors for deploying digital solutions in the public sector. She strongly believes that the next frontier in digital transformation is the de-duplication of how citizens and businesses access and engage with the solutions.
“We cannot underestimate the impact of programmes and concepts such as ‘Tell us Once’ – not requiring customers to continue to re-tell their story as they access government services,” Lucy emphasises.
They are beginning to see both this de-duplication in service delivery and a side effect of more efficient investment through what they have dubbed the “Australian Government Architecture” (AGA).
The AGA is a vision to reduce the time agencies need to navigate the complexities of government in building digital and ICT-enabled solutions. It is designed to be a catalogue of applicable policies and standards combined with an index of repeatable patterns and capabilities for re-use.
Because of the increased speed-to-market, the Government can respond to priority needs using modern, best-of-breed approaches gaining “overall efficiency in how we digitally connect government services”.
“Silos of excellence” are a significant challenge. While Australia has some policies in place to reduce investment in duplicated capability, this is a difficult barrier. While some core functions of a platform may be the same, the needs of the service that uses that platform may be very different. “It’s always a struggle to strike a good balance.”
Unfortunately, when it comes to transforming government services, there are often legacy, disconnected systems that must be addressed and eventually decommissioned. This requires time, effort, and, most importantly, commitment. When compared to the release of a new system, it is more difficult to create a good-news story about turning off a system.
“Our people are at the heart of so much of what we do in the Public Service. This heart is often the dedication that the government requires of people who are passionate about serving citizens and businesses,” Lucy acknowledges.
The money available to the public sector, particularly in the digital streams of work, can make it difficult to compete with the private sector. This means that their best and brightest often leave for greater returns and better opportunities. “Our big challenge will be crafting our employee value proposition – across the Australian Public Service and all agencies.”
One of the most important technological advancements ever made, digital identification has enormous advantages for businesses, consumers, and governments. Australia is a pioneering nation in the field of digital identity. The Trusted Digital Identity Framework that supports the Australian Government Digital Identity System isn’t simply based on industry best practices from throughout the world; it’s also regarded as best practices in many other nations.
Underscoring her belief in the Trusted Digital Identity Framework (TDIF), Lucy says, “At the DTA, we’ve been building policy for Digital Identity – the Trusted Digital Identity Framework (TDIF) – for several years.”
The DTA is responsible for the Whole-of-Government Digital and ICT Investment Oversight Framework – a six-stage, end-to-end framework that provides Government Agencies with direction for managing their digital and ICT investments across the full project lifecycle. Government Departments and Agencies are obligated to consult with the DTA on all digital and ICT investment plans throughout the framework’s numerous stages, per the Framework.
Moreover, the TDIF serves as the guiding principle for the Australian Government Digital Identity System. It is based on worldwide and industry best practices and standards and it establishes strict guidelines for privacy, security, transparency and trust.
The TDIF is regarded as a world-leading accreditation framework for digital identity providers. It has supported the implementation of best-practice digital identity policies in Australia’s government and corporate sectors.
The TDIF has evolved and continues to adapt in response to changes in the service delivery landscape and consumer expectations as digital identification technology quickly evolves. It has gone through four major revisions, with a fifth now in the works.
In addition to incorporating accrediting programme findings, the next version (release 5) aims to prepare the TDIF for the future of digital identity as verifiable credentials and digital wallets become more popular and technology continues to grow at a rapid pace.
More than 9 million Australians, on the other hand, have decided to create a Digital Identity (using myGovID to build a Basic, Standard, or Strong identity) to access over 125 government services online, with 26 services supplied by states and territories. Over the past year, 1.3 million people used their Digital Identity more than once while 12,000 people have used their Digital Identity more than 65 times.
“We also have more than 1.4 million businesses that use Digital Identity to access business services, like our tax agency. This makes it easier for them to do business by reducing the amount of paperwork they have to do,” Lucy reveals.
Identification fraud can be reduced using a digital identity. In Australia, Digital Identity is predicted to save the economy AU$3 billion per year from identity theft and online fraud. The Australian Government Digital Identity System also provides extra privacy and security safeguards, such as no central database where papers are held, the inability to trace or sell a person’s behaviour, and all information being securely encrypted.
On the surface, this looks to be a simple issue. But, a response must include service standards, service design, accountability systems, collaborative service delivery with other jurisdictions, feedback mechanisms, open data and open government.
The design of performance metrics to monitor end-user experience begins with the service design. That is, gathering baseline data, investigating what data is accessible and, most crucially, finding the questions that yield performance data to enable continual improvement.
Monitoring the performance of a service or product is frequently done through a lens other than digital. The annual Report on Government Services (RoGS), for example, provides an annual study of government services in terms of equity, efficiency, and effectiveness.
The RoGs must incorporate state and territory government services as well as those of the Australian Government because other similar service experiences can influence user satisfaction ratings.
All government services must pause and assess how well they are satisfying the requirements of their users. myGov, the largest platform for providing government services to citizens, is currently subject to an independent user audit. The audit’s recommendations are expected to have significant implications for government service delivery across the board.
The Australian Public Sector (APS), like many other organisations and institutions around the world, is reorienting and evolving to embrace digital transformation and harness the power of data. “Realising that these are critical to our ability to continue to effectively serve the interests of Australia and the Australian people in a world defined by increasing speed and complexity,” says Lucy.
She agrees that it’s hard to keep the momentum and focus needed for long-term digital transformation with all the other priorities and crises that the public sector has to deal with at the same time. A key part of this is recognising and emphasising the link between digital transformation and trust and satisfaction in government on the part of citizens.
Even though the pandemic forced people to rely on their governments more, the overall trend is obvious. Against this backdrop, the Australian Government has made it a top priority and a requirement for the APS to do its job to win back the trust of the people.
“In the DTA, we make it clear how the ongoing digital transformation and the whole-of-government reform agenda are linked and depend on each other,” Lucy asserts.
The agency continues to stress the importance of services that focus on people and are easy to use. They are also building strategies that support the transformation that is sustainable, efficient, and centred on people. She points out that Australians who are happy with government services are twice as likely to trust their government.
Paving the Way for the Future of Digital Transformation
Australia is experiencing the effects of the rapid rate at which the digital world is evolving. Its APS Reform, which has a 2030 perspective, provides the government with a clear vision for the transformation of the public sector. The main objective of this agenda is to revolutionise how digital is done by making the APS more effective and efficient.
Ensuring that people and businesses are at the centre of policy and services is a core tenet of APS Reform. To ensure that transformation meets and surpasses user expectations, early and meaningful interaction and co-design are given a lot of attention in the digital space.
Trust is an issue for governments everywhere and is closely related to citizen expectations. In Australia, as in many other nations, public trust in the government had been dwindling before the outbreak. Although COVID had a brief uptick, regaining the public’s trust remains a major problem facing the government and its institutions.
To ensure that the government puts its constituents at its centre, the digitisation of government is key to the endeavour to reestablish confidence. The Independent Review of the APS in 2019 recognised this priority, and the nation is already moving in the right direction.
The key will be to define who is responsible for delivering initiatives and to raise the transparency of the progress by publicising how well key metrics are performing. However, confidence is not just dependent on how well-run and open the government’s operations are. It includes safeguarding data as well.
Criminal and state-based actors are rapidly developing their offensive capabilities, which is causing the cyber threat landscape to change all the time. These more sophisticated cyber-attacks are aimed against Australia.
A big compromise of Australian Government networks is a matter of “when,” not “if,” without massive reorganisation and cyber upgrading. “In light of this, we are hardening the government’s own IT, through a centralised model of cyber security services, called Cyber Hubs. We’re currently testing the feasibility of the Cyber Hubs model through a pilot. So far the pilot has shown the centralisation of the provision of services can help improve cyber security,” Lucy explains.
The government and institutions have vast amounts of information about Australians. This data is the fuel that drives the progress of artificial intelligence. Over the next 5 to 10 years, there is a chance to harness this data and use AI to innovate and improve public service delivery, resulting in better efficiency and transformation. But AI’s use of this data comes with risks and challenges for everyone, including the public sector. These risks and challenges need to be handled morally and responsibly.
Quantum computing is still in its infancy, but its application could represent the next step in the digital revolution of service delivery. AI is only as good as the data it’s trained on. Large datasets are currently being used by governments and institutions to train AI models and make them more useful.
However, when these datasets become scarce, governments and industries will be forced to find new ways to improve AI programmes. Quantum computing is one such method. Quantum computing refers to a class of supercomputers based on quantum mechanics.
To process information, these quantum computers employ the laws of quantum mechanics. That is, they can detect patterns in data that are nearly impossible to detect using traditional computers. They are substantially different from today’s computers in this regard.
Lucy believes if these powerful AI capabilities are utilised responsibly and data is saved and maintained safely, confidence and trust in government and institutions will grow. “More will need to be done in the next 5 to 10 years to integrate human values like transparency and fairness with AI’s goals of efficiency.”
Lucy is optimistic about the future and the role the DTA will play in guiding the government on developments in digital and ICT. She sees great potential for the agency to act as a government advisory body for its tech-enabled initiatives going forward as well as to serve the country in its digital ambitions. In summary, that is what she believes the agency exists for – to aid the public sector to offer the best citizen experience possible and help the nation thrive.
Information and communication technology (ICT) is used in a smart city to improve government efficiency, public engagement and the standard of living for its residents.
Advanced technologies and data analytics are at the heart of the concept of a “smart city,” whose primary goals are the enhancement of city services, the promotion of economic growth, and the betterment of residents’ quality of life.
The recent pandemic and other critical events have forced the citizens of the Philippines, as it has in other countries, to rely on their government for a wide range of services to be offered innovatively.
Agencies moved rapidly to digitalise services and set standards for data storage, security and workflow. Central and local governments have implemented a wide range of ICT strategies to lessen the impact of these catastrophes.
For instance, Makati City, the business capital of the Philippines, launched the Makatizen Card and the Makatizen App to offer financial help and services, such as online legal assistance, teleconsultations, and online learning, to its residents.
Challenges Turn Inspiration: Embarking on Smart City Projects
Charles David Ramos, the Head of Information Technology for Makati City in the Philippines, is firmly convinced that innovation helps governments and public sector organisations deliver services faster, better and cheaper. Moreover, it can also help with long-term problems caused by social, economic, demographic, environmental and technological change.
“We will be able to increase our revenue and service efficiency through innovation,” Charles asserts, citing the recently launched “MakaTurismo” website to underscore his point, which was made to help the local tourism sector.
The website is Metro Manila’s first travel website focused on attracting tourists into a post-pandemic environment. Apart from the lifestyle centres, eateries, and hotels, the City of Makati is home to numerous undiscovered treasures, such as special historical sites.
Since it includes details about the city’s tourist attractions, lodging options and free walking tours, the project could significantly assist businesses in attracting clients and customers.
While discussions of digital transformation typically centre on improvements to remote working capabilities, Makati City has instead begun investing in infrastructure upgrades. As a result, they are modernising their server infrastructure by switching from a physical to a software-defined network (SDN) and merging various data centres.
Charles noted that Makati City is concerned with project implementation and database consolidation. In addition, they integrate analytics into all projects and increase automation to improve their functional services.
Makati City opened the Makatizen Hub in 2021, to further assist its citizens in their transactions during the ongoing pandemic. The local government has set up satellite offices so that everything can be done online.
Charles emphasises that, as they integrate technology in a variety of ways, they are centralising a strategic approach to planning and managing the direction of the city government’s use of technology.
To accommodate its diverse population, Makati provides a wide range of publicly available services. In addition, there are services designed exclusively for residents, catering to their unique requirements based on factors such as age, health, education and overall satisfaction with life.
The city has been able to successfully manage these programmes, but officials are always looking for ways to improve efficiency. This is made possible in large part by technological advancements. As the population of Makati expands, so do the city’s needs and the hopes and dreams of its residents.
The responsibility of the administration lies in anticipating the wants and needs of the people. By bolstering them with cutting-edge tech, agencies can reimagine service delivery and foresee what people will need in the future.
As an example of a programme designed for the future but implemented today, the Makatizen Card is a useful tool. The Makatizen Card is an innovative programme that provides residents of Makati with access to a variety of new social, informational, identifying and financial services.
For more than half a million people living in Makati, this single government-issued ID card unifies access to a wide range of economic and social services.
Charles is one of the authors of IT Security – the Security 3.0 book, published by Mithra Publishing in London. It discusses the infrastructure framework’s fundamentals that underpin the city’s primary data centre and the local government information system that has recently undergone upgrades.
“The data centre’s IT capabilities can only be improved through upgrades. By upgrading ageing or inefficient IT assets, they improve reliability, performance, efficiency, cost, security, and uptime -which resulted in serving the public efficiently,” Charles explains, further elaborating on the steps taken by the municipal government to improve flood and earthquake early warning systems.
Makati was named the first-ever Resilience Hub in the Philippines and the Southeast Asian Region by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) in the third quarter of this year.
According to the UNDRR, a resilience hub is a city, municipality, or local authority with the political will and expertise to take action to reduce vulnerability to disasters and climate change. With the help of the Making Cities Resilient Campaign (MCR), which Makati joined in 2010, the city has successfully integrated disaster risk reduction into all its strategic plans and programmes. The region’s cities have joined several international networks to learn from and implement its DRR best practices.
Additionally, in collaboration with the Department of Trade and Industry – Board of Investments (DTI-BOI), Digital Pilipinas officially launched its Innovative Cities initiative to technologically advance one city at a time. It does this by bringing together local government agencies, academic institutions and the private sector to establish numerous centres of excellence.
In association with the Resiliency Innovation Sustainability & Entrepreneurship (RISE) Certification Programme, the City of Makati was selected as the programme’s pilot location. With a focus on making the Philippines relevant in digitalisation and Web 3.0 conversation, the Innovative Cities initiative seeks to increase the Philippines’ innovation and technology quotient to support local economies and expand their industries.
The city’s digital transformation journey in local government has been completed at minimal or no cost. Public-private partnerships (PPPs) have been used to implement larger-scale projects and some solutions have been provided for free in exchange for Makati serving as a model for the adoption of these technologies by other LGUs and institutions. Even when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out in 2020, Makati was still able to serve its citizens efficiently without endangering their health.
A true and effective digitalisation strategy entails a fundamental rethinking of the traditional organisational structures of industrial activities and business models to make them significantly better.
With the help of Makati Mayor Abby Binay, who is very encouraging of digital transformation, these initiatives were able to come to fruition. Charles believes that the use of technology and innovations is merely a tool to accomplish this goal, so it’s critical to pick the approaches that can most effectively help an application achieve its objectives.
“Digital transformation is, at its core, a mindset. It is a long-term, ongoing journey rather than a single undertaking or endpoint. As the business changes and appropriate technologies become available, iteration is necessary.”