By Habib Mahakian
In the last 12 months, technology has been pivotal in connecting people with business sectors, whilst enabling the provision of essential services to local communities. As eCommerce accelerated and manufacturing altered supply chain processes – technology flourished and transformed the way people shopped, worked and received goods. These digital migrations also reached public services, with healthcare and schools going virtual, resulting in an increasing number of people making the shift to digital across many facets of everyday life. We’re now used to ordering groceries online, getting video calls from our doctors, and socialising and engaging on digital platforms.
With these changes come shifts in citizen expectations. As the private sector continues to rapidly progress and meet customer needs via a digital-first approach, it’s crucial that the public sector innovates in tandem, and delivers service provision which utilises the full potential of digitalised infrastructure. We now stand at an exciting juncture, with the technology to turbocharge a trust-centred public service experience, and in turn, drive innovations in how we process data, deliver communications, and create efficiencies across the board.
Building interactivity into the public sector
Across Emerging Africa, both the public and private sectors are making significant investments in digital transformation, with a view to integrate digital technology into local economies, specifically in sectors such as engineering, healthcare, telecommunications and education. This highlights the appetite for digital, interactive, and collaborative services even before the onset of the pandemic.
By digitising services and making them available to users online, around the clock, governments can not only increase digitalisation to give citizens the services they need but it can do so while decreasing costs and increasing productivity, with reduced administrative burdens for providers. Beyond resources, the implementation of the public user experience is vitally important, as it impacts the uptake. This is evidenced in the growing demand of digital services across Emerging Africa in segments such as eCommerce, telehealth, digital banking and more.
Digital transformation is a journey, not a destination
As the world forges a pathway towards economic recovery and governments look to build back better, unlocking the next normal of public services will depend on technology and the will to truly transform. The benefits of digitising public services are clear for both governments and their citizens. However, digitising surface-level services is not enough – this must be supported by deeper and infrastructural digital transformations to be sustainable. This means removing unnecessary processes with the design of a digital strategy that considers citizen, and workforce experience, as well as cost savings.
From challenges in regulatory policies to lack of infrastructure and access to connectivity – there are still cities and countries in Emerging Africa that are more complex that we usually imagine.
For instance, access to reliable and high-quality bandwidth is a critical factor in bringing the benefits of technology to businesses and therefore investment in telecommunications infrastructure is key to becoming a digitally enabled economy. The continent’s growing populations and lack of legacy technology infrastructure can be turned to an advantage if countries adopt new technologies straight away and use them to leapfrog into the 21st century. According to the International Monetary Fund, the digital economy already accounts for more than 5% of gross domestic product (GDP) in some African nations. This could be more than doubled to 12-20% if countries harness the economic potential of digital technology.
Therefore, what organizations and governments need to understand is that digital transformation is not a destination, but a never-ending journey. With the right infrastructure, policies and connectivity in place, businesses can expand, jobs can be created, and economic diversification will accelerate - promoting growth, inclusion and improving citizen experiences.
Collaborating for success
Collaboration is reliant on equity when it comes to connectivity – which must be addressed as a key part of any digital transformation. By partnering with IT and Telecom companies, governments can boost connectivity, and extend the availability of services for all.
There is much to be gained through the digitisation of government services and we are at a unique crossroads, with ample opportunity for transformation. Governments now can build back better services, boost resilience, and enhance relations with citizens, with technology the all-important bridge. Prioritising the digitisation of government services is akin to prioritising the citizens they serve and enabling the next era of technology led, human progress.
Habib Mahakian is the Vice-President – Emerging Africa, Dell Technologies