Responsive governance is ultimately about accountability, transparency, service provision, citizen engagement, and the maintenance of order in any society, and in South Africa, with the challenges faced in progressively including more and more people into the service provision "grid", the effective and efficient use of resources by government agencies, at all levels, from national to local government, has become critical. Despite this, acquiring the latest technological tools to empower government officials to deliver on their mandates can take a backseat when it comes to the provision of the most basic of services, especially in the face of tightening budgets and finite resources. Simply put, governments need to do more with less, and in less time.
Digital transformation is a pressing issue for most governments, and the imperative to modernise workplaces and services brings with it an opportunity to empower every citizen with technology that is designed with accessibility and inclusivity in mind. As most government organisations know, citizen trust is incredibly difficult to build and, in a rapidly changing landscape, even harder to keep. The desire to build that trust is one aspect that is driving digital transformation among governments across the globe.
Technology to Enable Responsive Governance in Challenging Circumstances
Tumultuous Times are the Impetus for Digital Transformation
The Productivity of Officials in the New Responsive Governance Paradigm
ICT For Officials & Agencies
The Added Strain On Service Delivery During The Global Pandemic
Responsive Governance is Critical to Building Trust In Government Institutions
Technology & Responsive Governance For A Sustainable Society
Many governments find their financial and human resources under new and increasing pressures from changing demands and an ageing and diverse population. Some governments are experiencing unprecedented growth in urban populations as people migrate to find new and better opportunities for jobs, health, and education. These factors are drivers of the challenging requirement to deliver services to citizens who are demanding better, more accessible engagement with governments at every level, with expectations being fueled by experiences in the commercial and private sectors, as well as free and open dialogue on social media platforms.
The need to meet citizen demands is clear. In practice, this means that embracing digital transformation is crucial in the effort to optimise service delivery for all citizens, making accessibility and reliability top priorities. Some cities are already making positive changes to their citizen engagement strategies and service delivery requirements thanks to advanced technology to help public sector officials accomplish more in less time, giving them the opportunity to give attention to the multitude of issues related to the levels of service delivery and engagement that will be the defining characteristic of "smart cities" in the future.
Apart from the difficulties that came with the sudden need to radically decentralise operations at the start of the global pandemic in 2020, a positive spin-off has been that it created the necessary incentive for governments across the globe to invest in and improve upon their digital capabilities. It furthermore provided the push needed for government-wide adoption of the four key drivers of digital transformation, namely a clear vision for the fulfilment of cross-departmental mandates, enhanced collaboration between leadership, wide-scale organisational buy-in, and a modern mindset to "business as usual".
Many governments have made progress in finding ways to reduce operating costs and do more with less. While scalable, omnichannel citizen services have made great contributions to cost efficiencies and volume engagement, the government workers who help deliver those online and in-person services also need tools to help drive their productivity. With employment making up a substantial proportion of the costs of running a government, agencies have looked to find ways to increase the productivity of staff who are needed in essential skilled roles and the front line of service delivery.
While certain government employees do all or most of their work at a central location, many functions need to be carried out remotely by mobile officials who need the portability, connectivity, and durability of powerful mobile devices. Several Big Tech companies such as Microsoft, Dell, and HP have responded to these needs by producing ranges of advanced desktop and mobile computers with powerful applications and LTE-enabled connectivity to enable government officials to effectively engage with the service needs of citizens on the ground.
Government workers such as police officers, emergency response units, infrastructure maintenance teams, or social service delivery agents benefit from the advanced capabilities offered by several manufacturers of ICT devices that partner with Tarsus distribution in South Africa. These products make responsive governance a reality by enabling government employees to collaborate effectively, securely access vital and highly sensitive information, connect with each other in the field or with centralised operational headquarters and stay in the field for longer periods of time with lightweight, easily portable devices with long battery lives.
While it has been possible to restrict and prohibit certain activities during COVID-19 lockdowns, government institutions – especially those overseeing public service delivery, public healthcare, and economic activity – have been expected to fire on all cylinders.
Not only did advanced technology save lives in hospitals during the pandemic, it also provided crucial connectivity between emergency services, infrastructure maintenance teams, and public welfare agencies. Digital technology and the internet were key in spreading information and making public announcements about regulations, restrictions, and developments during lockdown conditions, which proved to be crucial in keeping the population at large up-to-date with the rapid unfoldment of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Finding the balance between security and productivity is a critical task for government agencies. Proactive security measures help protect various government departments and agencies from outside interference, data theft, or corruption of essential information that relates to high-impact systems and procedures for the public good. At the same time, easy data-sharing and efficient communications within and across agencies keep services and essential work moving forward.
Promoting more equitable access, engagement, and outcomes through tailor-made public engagement platforms and digital services enhances the quality of life of millions of people and builds public trust and confidence in government institutions – an imperative part of a democratic and free society.
Apart from the accessibility and engagement made possible by advanced digital technology, the security of these devices and the platforms and information they give access to is a non-negotiable part of the public trust in government equitation. This has prompted Big Tech companies to develop several security measures and practices, from online data storage and sharing platforms to remote connections with private networks as key features of their product lines. The security of crucial public sector information that affects the lives of millions of people is precisely what is needed by governments around the globe to foster and maintain public support, protection, welfare, and sustainability.
Improving government operations through the digital transformation of its various levels, departments, agencies, and state-owned enterprises (SOEs) are continuing to make informed, inclusive, and rapid decision-making possible under high-pressure conditions, which is critical for the effective functioning of societal sectors that fall within the domain of government, such as infrastructure, public finance, public health, and social services, as well as public safety and justice, not to mention the most basic of services such as the provision of clean water and electricity.
Knowledge transfer and the preservation of institutional knowledge require enhanced data storage capacity and security, with the additional requirement of accessibility and shareability. Skills initiatives made possible by technological advancements allow for the optimal use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and data analytics for effective people-centred solutions. Adopting the technological advancements available to government agencies today has become the only way to ensure that society at large can adapt to constantly shifting social, economic, and environmental imperatives that are necessary for the prosperity and growth of all citizens.
Flexibility, integration, trustworthiness, openness, and a citizen-centric approach all provide strong foundations for technology partnerships with governments on their road to digital transformation. The advancements in ICT prompted by the tumultuous past two years have resulted in a greater focus, among designers and manufacturers as well as users, on more personalised computing solutions, reinventing the world of work and productivity, overhauling long-held beliefs about how business should work, and building intelligent, trustworthy, and secure data storage and sharing solutions. These advancements that came about out of necessity have been of great benefit to governments across the globe in creating the basis for reliable, trustworthy, engaged, and responsive governance processes that can empower government workers and leaders to do more and achieve more for the institutions, businesses and citizens they serve, now and into the future.