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Impacting the future of government services: how technology can enhance the lives of citizens

11 February 2014


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With the advent and massive adaptation of social media and new technologies, governments will have no choice but to be more engaging and be more interactive with their constituents.

This was the core message of the Government Summit parallel session featuring senior executives from four of the most prominent technology players in the world – Google, Microsoft, SAP and EMC.

Technology has indeed become one of the most important factors in the evolution of services around the world. Governments as well as private corporations are devising new ways to use technology to take services to the next level and to create public-private partnerships that generate value to citizens.

The speakers from these techno giants confirm the need for more collaboration between technology providers, governments and educational institutions to deliver the services of tomorrow - today.

People’s expectations from governments are getting higher than ever. This change in the expectation landscape is fuelled by the changing needs and the dynamics of the current and upcoming population, Danny Van Heck, General Manager Public Services EMEA, SAP, said.

Calling this generation as the “Era of Digital Government”, Van Heck said realities are changing around the world. “More than 50% of the population in the region is below 25 years old and this will put pressure on healthcare requirements. The move is towards urbanization, with more and more people moving to the cities, and the economy of the future will be knowledge-based.”

Van Heck said these facts are a big factor in driving the ‘digital natives’ – those who are mostly connected 24/7, and always on the mobile phones – to expect more. They expect to be served through mobile means and they want lifelong education, where learning does not end in universities.

The expectations are so high, that even Mohammed Amin, Senior Vice President MEA, EMC, find working in the government today quite intimidating.

“I would not like to be in the government shoes today because the expectations are so high”, he said. “Till this moment, there are millions of users and hundreds of thousands of applications. In the next few years, there will be billions of users and millions of applications.”

Data will grow by 35 times by the year 2020, Amin said, and this is driven by the way new information and infrastructures are being built.  The UAE, for one, is leading the region in IT investment with the country’s spending expected to increase by 13% in 2014.

He noted though that although technologies such as cloud computing has been developed 10 years ago, the adaptation has been much slower due to security concerns.

Technology therefore is not the ultimate goal but rather, it is the application of these few technologies to reach faster and wiser decision, said Joe Macri, Vice President for Europe, Middle East and Africa – Microsoft.

“It’s how we transform, how we engage and how we accelerate things,” Macri said.
As governments move from Government 1.0 (bureaucratic), to the current Government 2.0 (public service), to the government of the future 3.0 (entrepreneurial) the focus should be on the output from these technologies and not on the technology itself.

Macri said transformation is more important than automation. “It’s not about the information but about decision making,” he said. “There has to be engagement.

Government 3.0 is characterised by a more personalized approach. And it is about acceleration. The UAE’s Smart Learning Initiative is a good example. What they are doing is not just about the tablet or mobile devise, it is about learning and giving opportunities to students and children.”

At the end, it is not just about developing technology but also making sure that these technological developments impact and improve people’s lives.

Peter Baron, Director of Communications and Public Relations for Europe, Middle East and Africa, Google said that in their company, an innovation requires two things: that it gives incremental improvement and that the technology provides revolutionary solutions to people’s problems.

“Take driverless cars as an example,” he said. “Cars cause huge problems in congestion, fuel consumption, emission and safety. If these problems are at least halved, then we have made a great contribution in solving one of the world’s major problems.”