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The power shift to the hands of the citizen

When they write the history of this digital period I am convinced data, analytics, cognitive computing and the ability to extract deep insight out of the explosion of data to create new human experiences – will stand alongside the transistor and the Internet as “the” breakthroughs of the century.

Today’s citizens are empowered. Individuals have the computing power that used to be limited to organisations sitting in the palm of their hand. They are able to easily manage their worlds, communicate continuously using different methods, receiving information the way they want, with all the choices at their fingertips.

With this shift of power they now demand timely responses, connected experiences between agencies, simpler ways to process their information and most importantly they want to feel like who they are interacting with knows them.

Technology is enabling this disruption and to remain ahead the need to deliver highly personalised services and incredible value to customers is higher than ever before. In essence, the customer/citizen is now all powerful.

In fact, at IBM, we believe we’re only at the beginning of an era in which:

  1. data is becoming the world’s new natural resource, transforming industries and professions
  2. cloud services are transforming IT and business processes
  3. mobile and social technologies are transforming the way people engage as individuals, while raising their expectations of the security of their data.

These three shifts are pushing governments and organisations alike to work with agility, to provide quick solutions which are intelligent and predictive – and designed from a citizen perspective – not based on government need or process.

Similarly, getting citizens’ attention at a time where they are being overwhelmed by a tsunami of content requires a sophisticated response by agencies and companies. It requires a deep understanding of the citizen to cut through the noise.

The desired outcomes require a much more experimental approach, open to collaboration and partnerships and where leaders can learn from mistakes and prototypes with speed. This is an exciting proposition in the digital era – a world where you can use data to predict and act and then use digital methods to iterate, using agility and experimentations to test solutions. The opportunities for trial and error to succeed are now quicker to implement, faster to adapt and easier to roll out than ever before.

The key component to all this is data. Government and agencies hold massive amounts of data so just think about the possibilities of what can be achieved by mining into this untapped resource. To be able to predict and deliver the right services and information based on the users preference and behaviour. To be able to create one single view of the citizen, their needs and their interactions with government is a game changer in itself.

This is the case for the Singapore Land Transport Authority. In working with IBM, they are able to use data and analytics to reduce traffic congestion and provide citizens with one e-payment system across all modes of transport, making it easier to commute and relaying information from one central source.

Another example is The Hospital for Sick Children. With a first-of-its-kind, stream-computing platform they are capturing and analysing real-time data from medical monitors, alerting hospital staff to potential health problems before patients manifest clinical signs of infection or other issues. This is a real breakthrough for patients.

It is clear technology is very much the enabler of change, unleashing innovation from surprising quarters and creating opportunities to rethink problems. All aimed at delivering better outcomes for citizens. In the commercial world, tapping into the real needs of customers is a pre-requisite to remain competitive in a digital era.

Telstra had for many years talked about customer service and the need to move away from a network centric view. It was the arrival of new CEO David Thodey in 2009 who aggressively promoted the need for Telstra to embrace customer centricity deeply. It was this clear and unequivocal declaration from the top that has seen Telstra really focus on what it needed to do to respond to its users needs.

For many Government agencies there are no direct customers and so the major challenge is to build the types of strategies, capabilities, work flows, practices and metrics many commercial firms that deal with users day in day out, take for granted.

Traditionally agencies have had a one size fits all approach, however with the power shift to the citizen, a different approach is necessary. It has to be done with an obsessive view of the end-to-end customer journey – an intense passion for the end user that creates a culture that over time becomes highly responsive to the user’s needs and behaviours.

Service NSW is arguably a leading example in Australian government of an agency focused on the customer experience. Taking over 400 transactional services and bringing them into a single portal supported by a new agency whose culture and recruitment is totally focused on delighting the customer.

None of that happened by accident – Glenn King, the CEO of Service NSW, is dedicated to designing services for real users and has just released dashboards that indicate how services are being used in real time. King has employed direct reports with a similar obsession with customer service and created an advisory group of private sector leaders who have a strong customer orientation.

Imagine if we could do this across all government agencies, imagine if one could access the data and insights from another, or a citizen logs into a single portal and does not have to transact separately.

The rapid change in devices and accessibility means the user experience is constantly evolving, the landscape of suppliers and partners switching and the users themselves altering behaviours based on new technology and information – proactively seeking a response from a vast array of channels.

So competing in an ever-changing, citizen powered economy is not easy, however the rewards for success are significant. Agility and speed are necessary, experimentation expected and the discovery of new ways to deliver value to your citizens the key to engagement.

To take advantage of next generation technological innovation, and ensure that new opportunities for value creation are translated into real economic growth and job creation, public sector leaders must continue to address the ongoing challenges of the digital era. This means creating secure digital networks, safeguarding the privacy of citizens and organisations, setting appropriate standards and establishing a suitable regulatory environment.

With the exponential growth in the volumes of available data and with a population that is increasingly seeking to shape the services they receive, public sector leaders must embrace opportunities for collaboration with eco-system partners who can expand the resources, skill, and expertise necessary for success.

There is a choice – do nothing and feel the brunt of disruptive forces, or embrace the power shift and strive for a better, smarter interaction with your citizens.

Author Bio

The Mandarin

The Mandarin staff journalists.