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EXCLUSIVE: Simon Dale, Managing Director, South East Asia at Adobe, on Public Sector Deployment of Digital Solutions to Enhance Citizen Experience – Part 1

Part 1 of a two-part series. Read Part 2.

Good citizen experience is one of the most essential components of an effective government. Unfortunately, it is still a far cry from the seamless, personalised engagements that citizens have and expect from the private sector. Hence, the public sector must shift to citizen-centric digital offerings, with an effective strategy to deliver private sector level digital services.

OpenGov Asia had the opportunity to speak exclusively to Simon Dale, Managing Director, South East Asia at Adobe. For over 30 years, Simon has worked for and with innovative tech companies across Europe and in the Asia Pacific and Japan, mostly in sales leadership roles. He specialises in launching and growing new businesses in the enterprise software space.

Having worked in the Asia Pacific markets for 20 years, with experience in all major countries, he has deep business experience in the region. He is actively involved in the startup scene in South East Asia as both an advocate for technology as well as a mentor.

In deploying technology with the government, Simon acknowledges the importance of effective policies to support and facilitate government objectives. There are three indispensable dimensions in delivering technological solutions to the public sector – people, technology and processes. The most critical aspect is people as they understand and can determine how to deploy technology to particular use cases or even come up with cases.

For a long time, government agencies were “hidden” behind counters, tickets and forms with limited direct interaction with citizens. With developments in technology, and more recently, being driven by the pandemic, government employees are being pushed to deal directly with citizens and provide real-time services, albeit digitally.

For a great digital citizen experience, Simon firmly believes that agencies need to understand a citizen’s journey as a continuum, learning to serve people effectively at whatever point they are in their life. This direct citizen engagement is a new concept. And if they are to do it successfully, government agencies need to understand citizens’ life journey and their context of citizen experience. Services have to be in line with where people are in their life stages.

While organisations in the private sector tend to have a stronger strategy for personalisation than in the public sector, it should be the other way around. Government has the responsibility of equity – to make sure everyone has access to what is needed and ensure that no one is left behind within society. Empathy and personalisation in government can address that.

In delivering digital services to citizens, Simon emphasises that internal stakeholders are vital. The mindset of key decision-makers and implementers will determine the extent and nature of the experience. As the citizen and customer experience wave is still in its early stages, the role of people to firmly push this to the next stage is essential.

With mindsets and culture addressed, agencies will need to next look into technology and processes. Technology must facilitate the goals of the digital customer experience that the government envisions, while processes need to enable digitalised customer experience instead of being the impediments. They should encourage and foster collaboration and innovation to better serve people.

Across government agencies, a lack of digital skills affects the deployment of technology and the extent of its use. Adobe works with governments to help develop the capacity of their officers and to build citizens’ skills by supporting relevant training initiatives. Adobe’s partnership with Skillsfuture has enabled Singaporeans to develop their fullest potential throughout life, regardless of their starting points.

Infrastructure can be a limitation in deploying technological solutions. Such bottlenecks are often connected to policies that centre around agency perspective – ‘buy’ versus ‘build’ or ‘own and operate’ versus ‘outsource’. While the dedicated infrastructure is necessary to an extent and in specific contexts, a cloud-based mindset is increasingly proving to be more efficient. The availability and agility of cloud services have been well proven in the commercial sector.

A great example is the Adobe Experience Manager, a comprehensive content management solution for building websites, mobile apps and forms. The platform places citizens at the centre with solutions that are responsive, relevant and social, providing lifetime value. It can deliver and manage digital experiences across government agencies that are timely and personal.

More recently Adobe deployed a data centre in Singapore with Adobe Sign and Adobe Experience Manager cloud services that are available to Adobe’s customers across the world, increasing capabilities and efficiencies especially for those in the region.

For Simon, the world has not changed much in terms of the channels of engagement, but it is evolving when it comes to the adoption of digital channels of engagement. The digitisation of the channels has accelerated far more quickly than the government’s ability to deliver the services digitally.

The access to digital services has greatly improved and, with so many cutting-edge technologies on the horizon, things can only get better. Solutions specifically designed for different communities are being created regularly and governments are looking to serve all their citizens equitably – the elderly, differently-abled, people with limited access, education or resources. Simon is optimistic that governments’ ability to digitally serve citizens, even in countries with a slower pace of transformation, will improve quickly.

Adobe is committed to partnering closely with government agencies around the world in this journey to help deliver a better and more empathetic citizen experience.

Part 1 of a two-part series. Read Part 2.

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