By Robin Njiru
Public sector organisations are not immune to the forces that are reshaping organisations and industry sectors around the world. These exponential forces put pressure on public sector organisations to rethink the way they operate to meet the dynamic needs of increasingly sophisticated connected citizens. UNESCO states that 61% of the world’s population will live in cities by 2030, although World Bank figures indicate that this figure will be closer to 50% for Kenya.
Rapid urbanisation places great pressure on governments and public-sector companies to deliver the correct mix of services aimed at improving the citizen experience. According to the World Bank, financing of liveable, well-functioning cities is increasingly recognized as paramount for economic growth. However, demands on public sector spending are rising dramatically just as citizens are demanding greater convenience and improved experiences of public services.
There’s a need to develop new paradigm to frame relationships between the public sector and citizens that transforms public service delivery into a more citizen-centric process.
Connecting all corners of Kenya to intelligent public services
The challenge for Kenya’s government is connecting its various urban and rural areas in a way that enables it to achieve the ambitions set out in President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Big Four agenda, namely food security, affordable housing, manufacturing and affordable healthcare.
According to the World Bank, agriculture and associated industries contributed 31.5% of Kenya’s GDP in 2017. However, a closer look will reveal that most farmers in the country are subsistence farmers, who rely on the same techniques and processes that their parents and grandparents did. As an example, only 5% of cultivated land in Africa makes use of irrigation, compared to 38% in Asia. This results in low productivity and lower yield compared to countries with more advanced or modern farming techniques. Citizen-centric public-sector interventions in this sector could bring technology and modern farming techniques to subsistence farmers to improve their practices, open up market access, and facilitate greater economic participation.
One example is SAP Rural Sourcing Management, a cloud-based solution that tracks and collects data related to farms, farmers, cultivated plots, crops and farm gate selling processes. Farmers access the solution via their mobile phones to see critical information and best practice guidelines to improve their farming operations, and then connects them to a global marketplace for their produce, increasing farmers’ revenue and expanding the realm of possibility for subsistence farmers. A pilot phase of the solution saw more than 100 000 farmers across 9 African countries use it, improving market linkages across the value chain and increasing local production capacity and yield quality.
Access to effective, affordable healthcare can similarly be improved with innovative technology use. Better tracking of accurate data could provide insight into the real healthcare needs of the population and ensure government interventions are successfully executed. For example, cancer screening equipment meant for rural clinics will have little positive benefits to the local population if there are no available skills to successfully utilise the equipment. A citizen-centric technology-enabled public sector would have access to data that indicates whether the correct skills are locally available or whether the government needs to deploy additional resources to the area.
The rise of the Intelligent Public Sector
How does Kenya’s government start getting a clearer, more accurate picture of food production, healthcare needs and other citizen-centric services to improve delivery and better support citizens, businesses and government departments? Currently, public sector organisations around the world are investing in four strategic priorities to meet the demands of greater citizen-centricity, namely:
- Digital government management helps governments embrace digital technologies, replace aging infrastructure to transform and integrate financial, procurement, workforce, and asset management processes;
- Data-driven government equips governments with accurate data for real-time decision-making. This help government to improve business intelligence by solving policy issues and optimise the use of public funds;
- Citizen experience puts citizens at the centre of policy decisions. The use of intelligent technologies helps government to personalise citizens experiences and interactions with the communities; and
- Smart cities employ the use of IoT sensors, blockchain, machine learning, analytics, mobile and in-memory data platforms. These technologies help cities to improve service delivery including transportation, economy, environment, and resource management.
By leveraging digital technologies, public sector organisations can be transformed into Intelligent Public Enterprises that create flexible and agile business processes that are designed to adapt in real time and deliver positive outcomes. Public sector employees can also be transformed into digitally-enabled, dynamic and outcomes-based organisational teams, while public sector assets can be utilised more effectively as sensors monitor the health of assets and this data is processed by predictive analytics to pre-empt potential maintenance issues. In fact, the IDC predicts that by 2019, 15% of tax collection, welfare reimbursement and immigration control will be supported by some form of embedded analytics.
What truly activates the possibilities of the Intelligent Public Enterprise is to extend business processes and generate greater value through innovation platforms such as SAP Leonardo. Predictive maintenance and services reduce costly outages due to asset downtime by analysing sensor data in real time, predicting and preventing failures and improving availability. An asset intelligence network hosted in the cloud can create enormous opportunity for collaboration with internal teams and external business partners, allowing utilities for example to improve safety and compliance, reduce outages and improve the overall operating asset efficiency.
Transforming public sector organisations into Intelligent Public Enterprises offers immense opportunities for sustainable, positive impact. The challenge for public sector organisations is how to approach this transformation with agility and scale while minimising risk. Here, trusted global providers with a track record of success can play a key role in enabling future-fit Intelligent Public Enterprises tuned to the needs of connected citizens and associated stakeholders.
(Robin Njiru is the Director in charge of General Business at SAP East Africa).