Public sector IT leaders share tips on enabling a digital government

Leaders from Singapore, Denmark, Estonia and New Zealand share tips on how to counter the challenges of going digital, at GCIO Forum 2017.

By ENM Editorial Staff
Aug. 8, 2017

Panel Discussion 1 at GCIO Forum 2017
From left to right: Denmark's Yih-Jeou Wang; Sri Narayanan, Executive Editor of Executive Networks Media; New Zealand's Chris Buxton; and Estonia's Siim Sikkut at GCIO Forum 2017.

IT leaders from the government and public sector spent a full day at GCIO Forum 2017 in Singapore on 3 August to share and learn how their organisations can digitally transform to better serve citizens.

Themed "Transformation and Innovation of Government Services", the event was organised by Executive Networks Media, the publisher of online news site dedicated to the public sector GCIO Asia.

More than half (52 percent) of the delegates shared that their organisations have allocated more budget for digital initiatives this year as compared to last year. Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of them cited that their digital projects mainly aim to better meet customer and citizen demands.

Digitisation efforts could also help government agencies reduce operating costs, as exemplified in Denmark's case. In his keynote, Yih-Jeou Wang, head of International Co-operation, Agency for Digitisation, Denmark, shared that his government has made digital self-service mandatory for commonly used services such as applications for health cards, housing allowances or old age pensions. Combining this initiative with other digital efforts, Denmark has managed to free up approximately S$471 million per year.

Aside from Yih, IT leaders from the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), Statistics New Zealand, and Estonia also shared their digital projects and tips to counter the challenges of going digital.

According to David Hardoon, MAS' chief data officer, digital projects should always start with the business problem/goal, not data or technology. Only after the problems/goals are clearly defined should government agencies look at their data, find the right methodology, and experiment.

Given the growing number of cyberattacks globally, cybersecurity is usually cited as a big barrier to adopting technology. To counter this, government agencies need to "start thinking about cybersecurity from the design stage", advised Siim Sikkut, Government CIO, Estonia. "[This doesn't mean that] you lead with cybersecurity; business objectives still come first but you should be thinking about how to secure your digital project from the start."

Agreeing with him, Yih said that "trust must be in focus at all times [so government agencies need to ensure that they have] a robust digital infrastructure."

Another top challenge of digital projects is changing people's mindsets, especially when it comes to taking risks. Chris Buxton, chief digital officer of Statistics New Zealand, suggested identifying the risks that are out of your control at the start. It also helps if senior management assures IT/project teams that they will not be blamed if the experiment/project does not succeed, he added.

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