July 2017

Transforming the Government Digitally: Challenges and Opportunities – Rajendra Kumar

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Dr-Rajendra-KumarDr Rajendra Kumar Principal Secretary, Youth Welfare and Sports Development Department, Government of Tamil Nadu, Managing Director, Electronics Corporation of Tamil Nadu (ELCOT)

 India is witnessing a great digital transformation today in all spheres of economy and society. Digital technologies are being deployed by both the public and private sectors to increase efficiencies, transform business processes and deliver greater value to their stakeholders. The government has launched the ambitious Digital India programme with the goal of transforming the government and the economy using digital technologies, observes Dr Rajendra Kumar, Principal Secretary, Youth Welfare and Sports Development Department, Government of Tamil Nadu, Managing Director, Electronics Corporation of Tamil Nadu (ELCOT).

How are these digital technologies going to impact governance in the coming decade? How are the existing business processes and public service delivery models going to change? What are the challenges in such a transformation?

In this article, I examine these aspects with specific reference to the advent of the latest technologies such as cloud, big data, analytics, social media, mobile, automation, Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotics. Some of these technologies are rapidly becoming mainstream and are significantly impacting the industry and the way applications are being developed and deployed in various domains.

Some of these new technologies are already being used by the government to make the delivery of public services more efficient and improve the government-citizen interaction.

For example, the Mobile Seva project of the Government of India has significantly improved access to public services by bringing a large number of them on the mobile platform. The Digital India programme has also made cloud as the platform of choice for many departments for efficient use of computing resources and quick deployment of applications.

“Internet of Things has the potential to lead to a truly connected world and enable real time responses to various events and situations.”

The government is also using social media effectively to communicate with the citizens and other stakeholders. MyGov.in platform is being used by many departments to solicit views of all stakeholders on various government programmes.

Industries in several sectors have already started using these technologies to increase efficiency, reduce costs and improve their customers’ experiences. For example, automation of repetitive and rulebased tasks is causing a significant disruption in the information technology (IT) services industry causing fears of layoffs.

Government processes can be re-engineered to take advantage of automation to make the delivery of services more efficient and accessible.

Big data and analytics are being used by a number of industries to generate new insights into consumer behaviour and offer customised services. The government departments can also effectively use these technologies to analyse patterns in citizen demand for various services and tailor delivery mechanisms accordingly.

Internet of Things has the potential to lead to a truly connected world and enable real time responses to various events and situations. Missions such as smart cities can very effectively exploit IoT to deliver a truly seamless and connected urban infrastructure and improve the living experiences of citizens.

What are the enablers to such digital transformation of the government in future? There are four critical factors that can help the government in fully exploiting the emerging technologies to become more efficient and dramatically improve the quality of governance and delivery of services to citizens and businesses.

digital-transformationFirst, the government must have a clear and long-term digital strategy aimed at taking full advantage of the potential of these technologies. The digital strategy must aim at end-to-end transformation of the entire business processes and not just the service delivery interface.

Secondly, leadership is critical to such a digital transformation of the government. Presence of leaders capable of understanding the full implications of the emerging technologies of the future and driving change within the organisations accordingly to transform business processes and public interface is extremely important.

The government should also involve capable leaders from the private sector to drive this transformation.

Thirdly, achieving a government wide transformation would require massive capacity building and skilling of the government workforce. Presently, these capabilities are singularly lacking in government organisations despite recent efforts in this direction. Capacity building is required at all levels across the entire government and not just in the specialised units dealing with computerisation.

This would entail creating and sustaining an organisation wide digital culture and focus on change management to ensure that the entire organisation is committed to digitally driven transformation.

Finally, such a massive programme would need the holistic involvement of all the stakeholders, in particular the citisens and businesses and the industry partners to succeed. The citizens and businesses, who are the primary beneficiaries, would need to enhance their digital literacy to take full advantage of a government wide digital transformation.

The efforts being undertaken to make the citizens digitally literate under the Digital India programme augur well for such an endeavour in future.

What are the challenges that the government might face in making this transformation a reality? The key challenges include developing leadership and building workforce skills, finding adequate financial resources, addressing security concerns and developing a digital culture within the organisation and amongst the stakeholders.

The government would also need to put in place a suitable legal framework to drive the digital transformation. These challenges need to be adequately addressed to make this entire endeavour a success.

The emerging technologies present a great opportunity for us to transform our governance digitally to make all services truly online, end-to-end, connected and integrated in the next decade. We must overcome the challenges in achieving this vision through strategic planning, devoting adequate resources, building capabilities at all levels, developing and deploying appropriate applications and involving all the stakeholders.

We are the world leaders in IT and it is the right time that we take the lead to use these technologies for transforming the quality of governance in the country.

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