Digital transformation

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Cutting Edge is a new monthly column exploring the opportunities presented by modern technology. This is the first in a three-part series about digital governance.

By Emilie Ramsahai, PhD Statistics and Sandra Sookram, PhD Economics

One of the most powerful strategies that a government can use to enhance communication internally and externally and promote the efficient delivery of services to its citizens is information technology.

Citizens today also expect governments to provide appropriate options to allow the newly skilled and knowledgeable digital citizens to participate in society. The internet culture that exists in our time provides great opportunities for improvement of government systems, therefore making it more efficient while at the same time empowering citizens.

The changing global environment is moving at a much faster pace than governments in the developing world, where new technologies, new sharing requirements and changing public expectation puts an additional strain on the old systems.

For some governments, it may be difficult to  quickly adapt to a rapidly changing global environment, as many of the existing systems carry a built-in inertia which comes into play when there is a need to adjust standard operating procedures.   

This is compounded by the fact that these operating procedures are many times closely linked to tradition and cultural values. Specifically, in the case of smaller developing countries there is also typically a lack of resources to make the required sustainable changes.  

In these circumstances there is a need to consider new and useful ways to simplify digital transformation efforts and maximise government investments.  

The internet or cyberspace allows for collaboration across physical boundaries, among independent bodies including public organisations, private business and individuals.  

Many times this is easily configured, but the issues that provide the greater challenge are the boundaries within government agencies which in several instances are configured to work independently in distinct silos.  

The configuration where each government agency has a single focus was initially needed to put new systems in place and achieve a high level of autonomy. At present, in this new environment, advancing and producing effective information sharing must occur throughout all future developmental and implementation stages. 

Intranet configurations are therefore vital to bring about the information sharing within the government agencies and knit the user experience together. Any comprehensive Digital Transformation Strategy must aim to leverage the work done in the individual government offices and provide that level of one united system to operate as a single intra-agency.  

In all cases the sustainable future of digitalisation of government services is dependent on the level of acceptance by the citizens. Statistical indicators can provide an overall assessment of a country’s readiness to embrace digital transformation, such as the  percentage of individuals using the internet at least once a week or for interacting with public authorities. 

Also measuring public perception of the services provided online should shape decisions by policy makers. These basic steps provide a strong foundation for governments to adopt a data-driven approach in policy formation and adopt Big Data Analytics (BDA), which leads to the creation of intelligent monitoring systems, decision support systems and AI prediction systems.

Governments typically maintain structured data in traditional databases, but there is a growing trend to store video and audio files together with spatial and social-media data. Smart homes, cities and environments can provide access using both intranets and internet-to-cloud base systems where a large volume and a variety of different data types are streamed in at a high velocity. Also incorporating blockchain and other distributed ledger technologies providing more transparency and efficiency in decentralised information management solutions.   

When looking at Small Island Developing States (SIDS), significant differences warrant individual approaches to digital transformation. Research has shown that these islands generally share common challenges and require e-government models that adapt to our local context in order to formulate a sustainable model. 

In the coming months we will continue to discuss and put forward some recommendation for the OECS.

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