The COVID-19 pandemic has presented an opportunity for governments to regain credibility. While confidence in governments has been generally falling over the last decade, a recent study revealed that a record-high 65% of people from around the world now put their trust in governments to be in charge of fighting off the virus.
According to Mindaugas Glodas, CEO at NRD Cos., now is the best time to harness the power of government technology (GovTech) — an effort to digitize the public sector by employing innovative technological solutions — to strengthen the relationship between the government and the public.
“The pandemic has given more than enough room for governments to employ technology to help the people,” Glodas said. “While, prior to the crisis, governments were not as focused on employing GovTech to solve societal problems as they are now, the pandemic has emphasized the necessity of technological solutions. Governments must recognize the importance of this moment, step up, and showcase the people the benefits GovTech brings to the table.”
Essential GovTech Solutions
Glodas underlined one of the GovTech solutions that has proven to be vital during the pandemic is unique digital IDs — a stepping stone for innovation and improving public services.
“Countries with unique digital IDs have been generally better off during the pandemic,” said Glodas. “Having unique digital IDs has helped governments to enroll people in social welfare programs en masse, track and foresee potential outbreaks, spread relevant information and counter disinformation, and manage patient flow more efficiently. At the end of the day, it is the building block of a successfully operating society.”
He added that, equally important in the struggle against the virus, have been digital service delivery platforms. Barbados has been implementing GxP — an online customer-centric service delivery platform aimed at digitizing public services and helping citizens and business representatives apply for needed services online.
“Such systems help streamline service delivery and improve overall efficiency and interoperability between different governmental institutions,” said Glodas.
However, Glodas pointed out that before introducing any technological solutions, including unique digital IDs and e-service platforms, countries must employ a citizen-first approach and base the strategy on the notion that the new tools are to serve the people and not the other way around.
“If people are unaware of how the technology works, what benefits and risks are associated with it, or whether it is designed to exploit and not help, there will be doubt and reluctance to use it,” said Glodas.
He also noted one of the countries that has recognized the need to implement and refine digital solutions in the public sector to curb the coronavirus is Singapore. Since the outbreak, the second-most densely populated country in the world has had just little over 58,000 confirmed cases and the lowest fatality rate among all nations (0.05%). This is partly thanks to the government's aggressive digital strategy in employing multiple tools, like digital check-in systems, self-help temperature scanners, and virtual chatbots, to stop the spread of the virus as much as possible.
Singapore's success can also be attributed to the fact that the country's digital strategy at its core is citizen-centric. Glodas stresses that it is crucial to lay out the full picture and educate citizens and governments themselves about the myriad ways such schemes can help them transform their countries.
“Such openness and honesty is key to building up trust from the get-go,” he added.
While governments around the world have only been scratching the surface of GovTech potential, the pandemic has given a chance to accelerate the development and use of technological solutions. With the public's trust in governments at an all-time high, putting citizens first can ensure GovTech's deployment in the future.