The future of Smart Governance


9 July 2015
Don Pressley of Booz Allen Hamilton

With people living increasingly digital lives - mastering new digital technologies, becoming more engaged with smart services through the Internet of Things and apps, and generating troves of big data - the way to evolve smart government and generate more value is to further integrate the smart pieces that are already in place. This means moving beyond government and public–private partnerships to tap the full potential of digital life and combine all the pieces in an innovation ecosystem.

For example, in the future, a private hospital may access open data collected from medical centres across the country to gain real-time insights into a medical condition that has spiked. Patients provide instant location-based information and updates on their condition from their smart phones. These insights are fed into a national dashboard that informs the government about the latest developments, enabling it to take action to assist citizens and better manage medical facilities.

This is what we see as the future of smart government, based on our experience implementing strategies for a wide range of smart digital initiatives. We have developed a model for navigating these changes and a framework that guides governments from insight to action, starting with an assessment of the current situation and developing a path forward.

See where you are (and how you are progressing)

Change is not possible without first assessing the current state. Our Digital Government Maturity Model provides several classification levels, from the Lead state with basic government services and limited e-delivery or automation, to the Platinum state with adaptive delivery of services, wide use of data analytics, and a seamless information and communications technology ecosystem. At the Platinum level, government and industry collaborate in economic innovation, and the diffusion of knowledge powers social innovation.

The Maturity Model includes specific metrics that governments can use to quantify their status and progress. These indicators help governments determine where they fall in this continuum, how they can solidify their efforts within that level, and the areas they need to focus on to advance to the next level. Human capital is a key factor, particularly the number and quality of infocomm professionals and supporting civil servants. Other indicators include the presence of a reliable infrastructure, a governance framework that facilitates ease of commerce, and an environment that enables innovation, measured by the number of IT patents registered.

Many cities in Southeast Asia are approaching or sit comfortably at the Gold level. Powered by a dynamic, cloud-based IT environment, services are delivered in intelligent clusters and may include predictive analysis of sensor-collected data or customised government-citizen experiences. Some cities are moving from Copper (electronic services and centralised IT) to Silver (end-to-end delivery with multiple channels, including mobile).

Plan the path forward

Once a nation knows where it stands on the Maturity Model, it can take one of two actions: Shore up current efforts or plan an ascent to the next level. Both paths follow a similar roadmap requiring:

  • Investment in the next generation of infrastructure, research and development, and innovation platforms that support community development,
  • Development, in collaboration with industry partners, of human capital and innovation initiatives to stimulate next-gen ICT,
  • Engagement of industry, citizens, and priority stakeholders via digital mega-communities, and
  • Adaptation of private-sector ICT innovations to government initiatives.

What is needed to raise a nation from the Gold to Platinum level? One key factor is active commitment to, and an integrated perspective of digital government. Singapore, for instance, is applying technologies such as big data, social media, and the Internet of Things to address national priorities such as rapid urbanisation, an aging population, and environmental sustainability. An examination of human capital, digital infrastructure, and enabling regulations helps the nation focus on the next steps to a sustainable future. Improvements are made to day-to-day life, whether it is a more efficient commute, better access to health care, or a more connected community that shares ideas. On a larger scale, nations begin to accelerate economic growth with the creation of innovative start-ups, the digital economy opens up new markets and society as a whole reaches new levels of development.

Don Pressley is senior vice president and general manager of Booz Allen Hamilton’s ASEAN office in Singapore.