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Empowered citizens and the government challenge

Tom Burton: Welcome to the Mandarin and today we’re going to talk about the issue of public leadership in the digital era. And we’re discussing that topic with Kerry Purcell, the Managing Director for IBM Australia and New Zealand.

With Kerry we are going to be exploring these challenges and what it means for leaders in the public sector — secretaries, director generals, senior executives — having to really think through the management of the digital change process and the opportunities that come with it.

Welcome Kerry.

Kerry, you have written recently about the concept of citizen centricity, customer centricity, why is it so important in this era of digital?

Kerry Purcell: So firstly, thanks for the opportunity to talk Tom. It’s great to be here. The data explosion which we all talk about so much is really I think driving the need from the consumer side, from the citizen side, to search for more information and have it in one place. And that data explosion is I think at the heart of what is driving this citizen centricity. Just as it is for you as a consumer and the private sector, as a citizen you are demanding much more information, and it’s much more accessible than it ever was before. But sorting through that is still the ongoing challenge for every federal and state government agency around the world.
Australia, I think, is at the forefront of a lot of this and is really pushing the boundaries, but I think that’s the key driver.

Tom: The concept of citizens in government often means that we have agencies like policy agencies, regulators, and then we have service agencies that are looking quite at customers. Different approaches?

Kerry: Absolutely. So I think it’s just that with our business we have a strategy group, we have a compliance and regulatory group but then we have a go-to market team, the ones who engage with citizens and clients directly. It’s the same analogy really. And it is all about building a capability. Whether you’re in a regulatory driven agency or the one that’s, you know, compliance and strategy, whether you are at the sharp end dealing with citizens on a daily basis, it’s about building a common set of principles and capabilities and guidelines that say “Actually this is how we want to build the single citizen experience.”

Tom: And it’s that sort of experience that then drives the rest of the change program is it?

Kerry: Yes, absolutely. So we view it as quite simply as there are systems of engagements, so how government agencies engage with the citizens. There are systems record, how you capture that data, and then there are systems of insight and they are the three major components that we all need to look at when we’re deciding on strategy or the regulatory environment or whether how technically we engage with those citizens. So everyone is now much more focused on these systems of engagements.
What are the systems of insight? What analytically can we draw to better improve that citizen experience? Just as it is for a consumer, for you and I in our day to day life, whether with our bank or insurance company, we want to have a personalised experience when we go. We often don’t go to our bank anymore but when we’re online or offline you want to personalize the engagement, we want them to understand all the different touchpoints that we have within as a bank, an insurance company, an airline and we want that to extend to our families and to other stakeholder groups, that ecosystem.

Tom: And this empowered citizen concept, what do you mean by that?

Kerry: Well that really, just as the empowered consumer and the empowered citizen, as a business and as a government agency or as IBM or as any other institute, we all have to figure out how do we provide them with the right tools to make the right decisions at the right time? And of course technology plays a much bigger part in that equation than it ever has before. It’s amazing to see what technology is enabling. And it’s not just obviously just IBM technology, it’s the whole industry that is doing some amazing things to really empower a citizen to say actually “When I make a choice of…” for example I’m receiving housing benefits or social welfare benefits, when I want to buy something in that ecosystem, I have options. And I can go to one spot and I can compare accurately and quickly the best option that suits me.
Probably even 2-3-4 years ago, that wasn’t there.

Tom: Right and it’s that experience in, if you like the more commercial area that people are expecting with government these days.

Kerry: Yeah. And they should, I think on a federal and a state level, Australia is really pushing that to really catch up to that significant transformation. We see it in all industries, whether it be in the banking insurance or industrial, but more and more we see increasing pressure coming into all the government agencies.

Watch the full video series.

Author Bio

Tom Burton

Tom Burton is publisher of The Mandarin based in Melbourne. He has served in various public administration roles, specialising in the media and communications sector. He was a Walkley Award-winning journalist and executive editor of The Sydney Morning Herald. He worked as Canberra bureau chief for the Australian Financial Review and as managing editor of smh.com.au. He most recently worked at the Australian Communications and Media Authority.