According to Forrester, governments around the world lag their private sector counterparts in digital transformation, especially when it comes to delivering positive customer experience (CX). In a new report, Forrester shares insights to help governments accelerate their digital transformation, improve CX and ensure mission success. Looking locally, pockets of excellence are cause for optimism with some early signs of government agencies embracing digital transformation for the benefit of all.
Customer obsession is key
The Forrester report, To Digitally Transform Government Agencies Must Start By Becoming Customer-Obsessed, was based on an independent review of the Australian public service. However, Forrester says the findings apply well beyond just the Australian government.
The authors believe that to accelerate successful digital transformation, global governments must prioritise customer outcomes. Positively engaged customers (citizens, tourists, international investors and business owners) are more likely to comply, trust and forgive.
This is something South African Revenue Service commissioner Edward Kieswetter understood when he said: “Today we take a conscious step towards building a smart, modern Sars, with unquestionable integrity, that is trusted and admired.”
The country’s tax authority has a global reputation for its successful adoption of digital strategies. Continuing in that tradition, in February Sars announced that in future, its work will be informed by data-driven insights, self-learning computers, artificial intelligence, and interconnectivity of people and devices. It is now also embarking on a recruitment drive to get skilled personnel that will help it fulfil what it calls its “tech revolution goals”.
Forrester principal analyst Sam Higgins, one of the authors of the report, points out that government organisations that improve digital service delivery in the form of elevated CX also strengthen the foundations of the political system as a whole. He says even small CX gains will boost: pride in the country; optimism about the country’s future; and belief that the government functions well. He goes on to point out that “in an age when trust in government and other institutions is at an all-time low, agencies’ ability to shift perceptions is critical.”
Incremental approaches won’t work
The authors advise that if a government hopes to transform, its agencies must work as a single entity to evolve a digital transformation strategy based on citizens’ changing behaviours and expectations and the emergence of new technologies.
The report also points out that automation will be at the heart of the centre of work. As digital transformation progresses, government CIOs will be challenged to understand how to encourage their workforce to propel future-of-work capabilities while maintaining a customer-obsessed strategy.
South Africa’s digital agenda gains momentum
Like its global counterparts, the South African government is looking to technology to help it deliver services to its citizens. The Presidential Commission on 4IR appointed last year recently released its report on the country’s digital future, calling on South Africa to not just be users but to also be builders of 4IR technology.
A good example of tech-enabled delivery is the South African national citizen engagement platform. GovChat is a centralised hub, linking government and civic services through conversational artificial intelligence accessible via WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, SMS and USSD channels.
GovChat has over four million active users in South Africa, and as of August 2020 processed over 170 million messages, making it one of Africa’s largest citizen government engagement platforms. According to GovChat, in the first month of use, the platform has handled 413 032 individual queries, amounting to an average of over 13 500 individual queries handled daily via the machine-learning chatbot technology. What’s more, GovChat claims to have saved the South African Social Security Agency R7.5-million by managing its FAQ and automated contact centre.
Digital transformation that reaches everyone
Forrester’s research shows that agencies delivering positive experiences also lower operational costs and run more smoothly.
At a municipal level, both the cities of Johannesburg and Cape Town have turned to technology to help them reach their goals.
South Africa’s financial centre, Johannesburg has made significant progress in its efforts to deliver access to information with its solar-powered Wi-Fi zones. All of the 84 active, free Wi-Fi hotspots run on solar power and are managed by the city’s broadband network entity, the Metropolitan Trading Company. More than 1 000km of fibre optics has also been laid out across all quadrants of Johannesburg.
Further south, the City of Cape Town has enthusiastically embraced technology. With a view to collaborating with the private sector as well as nurturing the ideal of becoming Africa’s IT hub, Cape Town’s open data portal gives access to all the data Cape Town captures from its citizens. Currently, the city offers 86 datasets for downloading.
IBM has launched a Fire Management Portal, taking fire incident data from the Cape Town open data platform and overlaying it with historical weather maps from IBM’s weather portal. The system can predict fire incidents of high and extreme risk, allowing officials to prepare for emergency responses.
The city has also effectively used Internet of things technology to eliminate manual data-capture errors and help reduce water usage and energy consumption by 10%.
Five pillars for success
“Don’t just deploy digital technologies to incrementally improve existing capabilities. Instead, determine your current digital maturity level and then develop five key digital competencies: strategy, structure, culture, talent and technology,” Higgins says.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has said digital transformation has to be harnessed “to change the way we live, learn, work and govern… South Africa must be a more technologically driven country that finds solutions that move us forward, with 4IR as a pivot for economic recovery.”
Forrester can help.
Forrester delivers deep insights into how people interact with technology, how their behaviours and expectations change, and how both companies and the public sector should adapt and respond. Our business technology recommendations are based on data from our annual ground up research surveys of more than 650 000 consumers and 75 000 business leaders. To join the Forrester community of global thought leaders, please contact Joan Osterloh, regional manager for South and East Africa.
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