Smart Technologies can help Government Connect Better with Citizens

Public sector agencies and companies are not immune to the forces that are reshaping organisations and industry sectors around the world.

These exponential forces put pressure on public sector organisations to rethink the way they operate to meet the dynamic needs of increasingly sophisticated connected citizens.

Unesco states that 61 per cent of the world’s population will live in cities by 2030, although World Bank figures indicate that this figure will be closer to 50 per cent for Kenya.

Rapid urbanisation places great pressure on governments and public-sector companies to deliver the correct mix of services aimed at improving the citizen experience. In fact, the World Bank now says financing of liveable, well-functioning cities has increasingly become paramount for economic growth.

However, demands on public sector spending continue rising dramatically just as citizens are demanding greater convenience and improved experiences of public services.

There’s a need to develop new paradigm to frame relationships between the public sector and citizens that transforms public service delivery into a more citizen-centric process.

The challenge for the Kenyan government is connecting its various urban and rural areas in a way that enables it to achieve the ambitions set out in President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Big Four agenda, namely food security, affordable housing, manufacturing and affordable healthcare.

Official statistics show that agriculture and associated industries contributed 31.5 per cent of Kenya’s GDP in 2017. But a closer look will reveal that most farmers in are subsistence farmers, who rely on the same techniques and processes that their parents and grandparents did.

For example, only five per cent of cultivated land in Africa makes use of irrigation, compared to 38 per cent in Asia. This results in low productivity and lower yield compared to countries with more advanced or modern farming techniques. Citizen-centric public-sector interventions in this sector could bring technology and modern farming techniques to subsistence farmers to improve their practices, open up market access, and facilitate greater economic participation.

One example is SAP Rural Sourcing Management, a cloud-based solution that tracks and collects data related to farms, farmers, cultivated plots, crops and farm gate selling processes.

Farmers access the solution via their mobile phones to see critical information and best practice guidelines to improve their farming operations, and then connects them to a global marketplace for their produce, increasing farmers’ revenue and expanding the realm of possibility for subsistence farmers.

A pilot phase of the solution saw more than 100,000 farmers across 9 African countries use it, improving market linkages across the value chain and increasing local production capacity and yield quality.

Access to effective, affordable healthcare can similarly be improved with innovative technology use. Better tracking of accurate data could provide insight into the real healthcare needs of the population and ensure government interventions are successfully executed.

For example, cancer screening equipment meant for rural clinics will have little positive benefits to the local population if there are no available skills to successfully utilise the equipment. A citizen-centric technology-enabled public sector would have access to data that indicates whether the correct skills are locally available or whether the government needs to deploy additional resources to the area.

The question is how the Kenyan government can start getting a clearer, more accurate picture of food production, healthcare needs and other citizen-centric services to improve delivery and better support citizens, businesses and government departments. Currently, public sector organisations around the world are investing in four strategic priorities to meet the demands of greater citizen-centricity.

First, there is digital government management which helps governments to embrace digital technologies, replace aging infrastructure to transform and integrate financial, procurement, workforce, and asset management processes.

Then there is data-driven government that equips governments with accurate data for real-time decision-making and with the aim of improving business intelligence by solving policy issues and optimise the use of public funds.

Besides, governments are using intelligent technologies to personalise citizens experiences and interactions with the communities with the aim of putting ordinary people at the centre of policy decisions.

Most importantly, IoT sensors, blockchain, machine learning, analytics, mobile and in-memory data platforms are being deployed to create smart cities with improved service delivery including transportation, economy, environment, and resource management.

By leveraging digital technologies, public sector organisations can be transformed into intelligent public enterprises that create flexible and agile business processes that are designed to adapt in real time and deliver positive outcomes.