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Digital government transformation: A new dawn for Indonesia

MELBOURNE (The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network): Digital technologies (e.g., Internet of Things, cloud computing, blockchain and artificial intelligence) have undeniably triggered radical organisational changes, otherwise known as the digital transformation.

The pervasiveness of these technologies, supported by the benefits they entail (e.g., boosting business efficiency), has been an essential impetus to the digital transformation among businesses.

Although many parts of the private sector have embarked on their journey of digital transformation, the public sector has been reported as lagging somewhat behind the immense wave of digital transformation.

This fact is somewhat perversely counterintuitive since the government is the actor behind successful digital enterprises transformation through its extensive support and encouragement, notably during the Covid-19 pandemic. The timing is right for the government to undertake a digital government transformation.

The drastic changes in the business sector operation stemming from digital transformation necessitate the government to undertake the same transformation to keep assisting the business sector, as they may require different levels of support.

However, such support can only be provided if the government has set digital transformation into motion, placing both parties in the same technological spectrum.

Furthermore, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development notes that governments worldwide have been confronted with decreasing levels of public trust.

Embracing digital government transformation might be a viable alternative approach to regaining public trust and meeting increasing public demand, including improving transparency, accessibility, accountability, responsiveness and enacting citizen-centric approaches.

Digital technologies promise utilitarian benefits, not only for the government but also for the public.

For instance, blockchain technology might be used to promote efficiency, transparency, avoid fraud, and reduce human error in the field of public budgeting. Furthermore, in land administration, blockchains may also be used for the registration of property certificates.

The use of blockchains may reduce disputes related to property ownership as the blockchain enables authentication of the rightful property owners of a given property. The same logic can be extended to other ownerships, including patents and vehicles.

On the other hand, the government could harness artificial intelligence to respond to basic public queries using virtual assistants that are available 24/7.

Some corporations (e.g. Amazon and Google) have successfully adopted this technology to improve their customer satisfaction and reduce their operating costs. Engaging with this technology would allow the government to channel its resources to focus on other substantial work.

The government could also resort to cloud computing for web hosting instead of buying their own data centres, which could result in cost efficiencies. The adoption of cloud computing might also streamline government operations by automating some of their procedures.

Combining these digital tools will unleash combinatorial effects, and challenge the status quo, thereby yielding greater results than adopting each aspect of such technology individually.

However, as the nature of digital transformation differs with mere technology uptake, there are some caveats that need to be addressed before the government can fully capture the promise of digital government transformation.

First, the government must focus on restructuring its bureaucratic structure to facilitate the transformation. Ample evidence suggests that integrating various technologies without adjusting the underlying organisational features may affect the transformation process.

Second, the government must also focus on improving civil servants’ digital prowess otherwise the digital transformation could potentially just fizzle out without having digital-savvy civil servants.

Third, the government must have a coherent digital transformation strategy at the local and institutional levels for the short and long term. These suggestions imply that digital government transformation should be included in the political agenda to ensure its successful implementation.

As we live in the digital age, which is often characterized as “open, digital and global rather than closed, analogue and local”, the Indonesian government can leverage its Group of 20 (G20) presidency to encourage digital government transformation. This also aligns with one of the priority issues raised by Indonesia for its G20 presidency, which is to boost digital transformation.

Digital transformation has become the current buzzword in the technology industry, but the term “digital government transformation” is, in fact, rarely encountered. With the drastic changes resulting from the advancement of digital technologies, the concept of electronic government (e-gov) that was emerging in the 1990s now seems outdated as the digital government landscape is continuously changing.

Digital government transformation could be a potential solution for any government if it acts at a pace commensurate with the fast-changing technologies.

*** The writer is a trade analyst at the Trade Ministry and a PhD candidate at the Faculty of Business, Swinburne University of Technology

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