Editor : Martin Simamora, S.IP |Martin Simamora Press

Rabu, 25 Januari 2012

Public sector ICT in ASEAN: a tale of five cities

The FutureGov team has spent much of the last few months on the road. My colleagues have been busy travelling to Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, Korea, Hong Kong and mainland China - and I’ve had the good fortune to catch up with over 120 government officials in Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, The Philippines and most recently Thailand.

Part of this time was invested in recruiting journalists and researchers, to beef up FutureGov’s Country Intelligence Reports. This is an emerging area of focus for FutureGov as we look to distil the hundreds of conversations we have with senior officials in Asia Pacific in to monthly market assessments.

We now have specialists covering Indonesia, The Philippines, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, Hong Kong, mainland China - and are about to put the last piece of the jigsaw puzzle in place with the recruitment of an analyst covering Malaysia.
This has helped us really increase our bandwidth to cooperate with governments in the region - an example of which is the work we’re now doing with the Department of Communications and Informatics, the State Ministry of Research & Technology, and the National ICT Council in Indonesia, as part of our fourth annual FutureGov event in Indonesia, as well as on their data centre consolidation plans in a number of agencies.

The work of Ministry of Finance, as well as the Immigration Department is particularly noteworthy - and underlines that the country’s highly decentralised bureaucracy is still capable of delivering major transformation programmes.

Despite progress on the recruitment front, the primary reason for my travels was simply to sit down and directly discuss the plans of senior officials. I’m lucky enough, after eight years with FutureGov, to have ended up with a role that satisfies my twin passions: coffee & curiosity. And as always, if you ask enough questions, patterns emerge.

I’ll be sharing more detailed assessments of individual agencies in the coming months in FutureGov’s country-by-country reports, but here’s a few observations from six weeks living out of a suitcase:

Politics is local, but…
One of the reasons I’ve stayed in the region for the last 14 years is that I fell in love with the cultural diversity of Asia in general, and ASEAN in particular. So it follows that searching for commonalities between differing bureaucratic cultures would be a fool’s errand. And yet if you scratch the surface - the key countries of ASEAN are looking to create greater value from their interactions, through a mixture of information leverage and automation, with the emphasis on the former. The language of implementation reflects domestic political priorities - but what’s being done is essentially the same. Thailand may be focused on applying technology to education, flood prevention, and disaster management - whereas Indonesia is pushing ahead with consolidating government data centres and providing a common accounting platform for government. But look closer - Indonesia’s data centre consolidation is partially driven by a requirement to have disaster recovery centres established for all key agencies. Meanwhile Indonesia’s US$250 million move to a common accounting platform is intended to improve the productivity of central government spending in rural areas - which is the same driver as Thailand’s ambitious plans to overhaul education.

Central government is centralised, but…
From the outside government looks so big, but it never feels that way when you’re inside the corridors of power looking out. It is hard to underestimate the tension between departments when they are called to collaborate - which explains why collaboration remains so infrequent. I asked a Director-General of one Finance department whether he’d compared notes with his counterparts from other agencies in government, as I knew that they were approaching the same issue from a different angle. His response was that he didn’t care what other departments were doing, didn’t care what the central IT agency had recommended, and was happy to build his own team to oversee the project with minimal inputs from elsewhere. The same approach can be seen, sadly, with the growing turf war between India’s Planning Commission and the Ministry of Home Affairs over the status of the Unique ID Authority’s Aadhar card.

CIOs have been appointed, but… There’s a big difference between someone who is nominally, as opposed to functionally, the CIO of the organisation. This has a huge impact on an agency’s ability to digest and contextualise its technology options. Those countries with a pan-government CIO have a more mature approach to ICT deployment. For now nominal CIOs with other ‘primary’ job responsibilities remain in the majority. It can be a challenge to keep these nominal CIOs engaged with longterm, technically demanding projects.

These observations will have to do for now, but if you’re looking for a bit more meat, then look out for the first of the Country Intelligence Reports I mentioned earlier - the countries we’ll be covering each month are: Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Taiwan, and The Philippines. Watch this space (as well as the weekly newsletter) for further details.


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