This working party for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is made up of senior digital government officials. New Zealand’s Government Chief Digital Officer, Colin MacDonald, is the current chair.
The E-Leaders meet every year, together with people from the private sector and academia. 2017’s theme was the digital transformation of the public sector, including:
- digital skills in the public sector
- the data infrastructure that makes the transformation possible
- new forms of partnerships and procurement approaches that help develop digital governments.
In this video, Colin MacDonald, chair of the E-Leaders, talks in the 55th Session of the OECD Public Governance Committee in April 2017 about the relevance of the digital transformation and its implications for public sectors.
Bonjour, je m’appelle Colin MacDonald, je suis le directeur général du Département de l'Intérieur en Nouvelle-Zélande.
E rau rangatira ma, tena Koutou, Ko Colin MacDonald ahau, he kaiwhakahaere matua o Te Tari Taiwhenua I Aotearoa
Hello, my name is Colin MacDonald and I’m the Chief Executive of New Zealand’s Department of Internal Affairs and I’m also the Chief Information Officer of the Government of New Zealand. As a functional leader, I am responsible for ICT-enabled transformation across government agencies to deliver better services to New Zealanders.
Over the last two years I’ve had the privilege of being the Chair of the Working Party of Senior Digital Government Officials – known as the E-Leaders.
As E-Leaders we’re responsible for digital government in OECD member and partner countries.
I’ve been asked to talk about the increasingly important work the E-Leaders are doing and to highlight the need for greater investment in digital transformation.
I studied computer science at university and since graduating in 1980 I’ve worked in both the public and the private sectors. And many of my roles have involved the use of technology to solve business problems.
At this point in our history we stand on the brink of a revolution that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work and relate to one another.
In its scale, scope, speed and complexity the digital transformation is unlike anything I have experienced before.
We do not yet know how it will unfold, but one thing is clear, this must be led with citizens at the centre.
So what is digital transformation?
Technology is central to most governments’ ambitions for a just and equitable society and greater economic growth.
However, digital transformation is not really about technology. It is about a cultural change within our governments and our societies, and changing the ways in which we think and operate.
Digital transformation goes well beyond ICT. And just about every country in the world is looking to ensure they benefit from technological change.
We live in a rapidly changing world and today’s technology is changing at an unprecedented pace.
The First Industrial Revolution used water and steam power to mechanise production.
The Second used electric power to create mass production.
The Third Industrial Revolution used electronics and information technology to automate production.
And the Fourth Industrial Revolution builds on the third and is characterised by technologies becoming embedded in the physical, digital and biological spheres.
Through recent history new technologies often took a generation to take hold.
So by way of example, for one quarter of the US population to adopt new technology it took 46 years for electricity, 26 years for television, 16 years for computers and just eight years until one quarter of the US population had access to the internet.
So the speed of current breakthroughs has no historical precedence, and the changes that we are seeing today – this Fourth Industrial Revolution – are not defined by any particular technology, but rather by the transition of new ways of thinking and behaving.
Moreover, it’s disrupting almost every industry in every country.
The breadth and depth of these changes herald the transformation of entire systems of production, management and governance because the possibilities of billions of people connected by mobile devices with unprecedented processing power, storage capacity and access to knowledge are simply unlimited.
So if governments are to stay relevant we need to be willing to fundamentally re-think how we serve our citizens.
And as governments it is important to show leadership behaviour.
Last year, the World Economic Forum released its latest Global Information Technology Report. And three key messages emerged from the Report:
- Innovation is increasingly driven by digital technologies.
- A priority of governments should be to encourage businesses to embrace digital technologies.
- Both the private sector and governments need to step up efforts to invest in innovative digital solutions.
So countries and businesses that embrace technological developments, anticipate challenges and deal with them in a strategic way are more likely to prosper. And those that don’t are more likely to fall behind.
We can learn a lot from countries that are doing well. Countries like Finland, France, Israel, the Netherlands, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States are all known for being early and enthusiastic adopters of digital technologies.
Coupled with a supportive and enabling environment with sound regulation, quality infrastructure and a ready supply of skills, digital transformation can pave the way to wider benefits for citizens.
We have seen recent examples of what can happen in countries when citizens feel left behind.
Digital technology creates opportunities across all aspects of our economies and a connected and inclusive growth agenda places technology at the core of society. It also brings challenges.
With a high percentage of populations worldwide having smart phones and high connectivity, huge changes in services offered in the private sector have resulted. This increases citizen’s expectations that government services will at least keep up.
And as the digital world becomes an increasingly important piece of our modern lives, some groups may miss out on social and economic opportunities if they’re unable to access and adapt to new technologies and new ways of doing things.
Government’s use of technology can help it to operate more efficiently and effectively, make better decisions, achieve better outcomes, and deliver more responsive public services in a way that meets the changing needs of both its businesses and people.
But it can also help solve some of the most intractable problems. A number of advanced nations have seen poor, and sometimes negative, results from increased social spending in recent decades. Despite the best efforts of government, data shows groups in our society with persisting poor life outcomes. If left unchecked, the cycle of intergenerational disadvantage will continue.
If we can place an individual at the centre of this, can we turn around the intergenerational disadvantage using data-driven social investment?
From a purely policy perspective, social investment can be defined as an activity undertaken that justifies the return on investment.
But on a human level, social investment is what can turn one life around and give a person hope for a better future.
As governments we are increasingly aware of the importance of data to respond to these challenges.
In New Zealand we are still in the early days of our social investment approach. But our Ministry of Social Development is already seeing a reduction in welfare dependence by targeting activities to at-risk individuals.
Our new Ministry for Vulnerable Children Oranga Tamariki will put social investment at the heart of its operation. By using the latest data and analytics it strives to improve the outcomes of each child, while reducing the cost for the whole of New Zealand.
Leveraging data as a strategic asset is crucial for governments to develop more sustainable and inclusive policies and services.
Key to this is government agencies sharing open data and making it available to everyone so that government-held evidence is able to guide the best solutions available, regardless of whether that service is delivered by a government institution, a private sector business or a not-for-profit organisation.
Just as important as sharing open data is the need to guard citizens personal information and only share it within agreed boundaries.
At the E-Leaders meeting last year members were encouraged to consider their role as agents of change in policy making and service delivery.
Using innovative analytical approaches with government data we’re able to inform investments to achieve better outcomes for our citizens.
And if we can take a collective approach by joining up government agencies, their knowledge, people and resources will work together on the complex problems, and there are significant gains to be made.
The OECD has set up a framework for all countries to ensure that digital technology delivers maximum benefits. These include:
- Open and inclusive government processes that encourage participation.
- Good governance, secure leadership and political commitment to digital technologies across all policy areas.
- Supporting implementation and seizing digital opportunities.
This digital revolution calls for new types of leadership, governance and behaviours.
As E-Leaders we seek to improve public policy effectiveness, efficiency and responsiveness to people through the quality of citizen-centric services delivered digitally. We want technology to bring people closer to government and to foster democratic engagement and participation in our communities.
These changes are about putting the citizen in the centre, and having governments work seamlessly to provide the best service they can.
This re-orientation will challenge the way many of our governments are organised. Individual agencies providing services to customers may not be the norm in the future. But however we are organised, technology will be the key to increasing our effectiveness AND our responsiveness.
And so, in closing, E-Leaders are ambitious for the future and there is no doubt that technology is central to these ambitions, but, as I said earlier, the digital journey is not about technology. It’s about the drive to harness the enabling potential of technology to deliver better public services for our people.
The unstoppable shift from simple digitisation to innovation based on technology, data and analytics is forcing businesses and governments to reexamine the way they deliver services to citizens.
As E-Leaders we understand that this work is about a cultural shift, about transforming government and services to modern, responsive and customer-focused institutions through the use of technology, data and analytics.
Better policies for better lives, delivered by an ever-changing digital revolution.
Je vous remercie de votre attention.
Ngā mihi nui kia Koutou Katoa.
Thank you for your attention.
About the OECD E-Leaders
Officially called the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Working Party of Senior Digital Government Officials
Started in 2008
NZ joined in 2013
Chaired by Colin MacDonald since 2014