We have dedicated several articles over the past year looking at digital transformation and how it has become a key consideration for companies as a result of the changes and challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. Those in the business sphere are not the only ones who are grappling with the importance of digital transformation, as governments too are acknowledging the need to be more digitally savvy and resilient in the face of growing societal issues.
According to IBM, cloud computing and the hybrid cloud in particular holds the answer for many a government organisation. The company was able to glean these insights from a recent COVID-19 and the Future of Business report, where executives from across the globe highlighted the key opportunities to respond to opportunity and change.
“With 60% of South African executives reporting that digital transformation is increasing in priority, we are seeing how every aspect of society – from individuals, small businesses to the largest organisations is challenged by the unprecedented disruption brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. There is great potential for government to leverage cloud for improved citizen experiences, shared services and new business models as well as new revenue streams,” explains Hamilton Ratshefola, country GM for IBM Southern Africa (pictured in header).
Added to this is the need from citizens who have had their expectations altered as a result of the pandemic, not to mention the fact that many are dependant on what governments can do as waves of infection hit different parts of the world.
“As demand for services increases, so too do citizens expectations for improved and enhanced access to services through multiple channels. Faced with a public that expects the agility and efficiency found in the private sector – government was challenged to provide convenience, quality, transparency, promptness and personalisation in services across channels,” notes Ratshefola.
“As many departments and agencies navigate these challenges, we’re seeing hybrid cloud emerge as a central element to this growing need for digital transformation. Hybrid cloud allows for more convenient access to the latest technologies like IoT, high-performance computing and blockchain to re-imagine business processes and ecosystems – while enabling companies to modernize at their own pace,” he adds.
Using the example of organisations in the country becoming more trusting of technology as necessitated by the pandemic, Ratshefola believes that those within government need to take a similar stance, especially as they are increasingly required to do more with less.
Here he espouses the value that the hybrid cloud holds, and in particular its flexibility and cost efficiency.
“Hybrid cloud will enable all areas of government to integrate existing on-premises investments with cloud services such as analytics and artificial intelligence. The result: innovation that improves the user experience for citizens and employees, and accelerates time to value. Enabled by artificial intelligence (AI) and cognitive computing, flesh-and-blood experts will find more time to focus on activities where human judgement and experience has greater impact. AI-enabled tools can make filing taxes faster, easier and with more precise results,” he enthuses.
“Access to important personal identification documents like birth certificates and driver’s licenses will become a customised interactive task. Network technologies such as blockchain, that enhances the security of online records, will redefine many core government functions such as global trade, customs and visa processing, rendering them more trustworthy and efficient. Once a record is added to the blockchain, it is permanent and difficult to tamper with,” he touts as a potential application for hybrid cloud-driven digital transformation locally.
While governments, our own in particular, face many challenges from the growing pressure to better protect its citizens while tackling improved service delivery, Ratshefola is optimistic that those who embrace technology will be better off than those who do not.
“For government in particular, the timing for a game changer couldn’t be better. Disruptive forces are complicating the missions and operations of departments and it has become more crucial than ever to find new ways of working to achieve sustained success. One can anticipate a long journey to get there. But by embracing digital technologies, governments will be better able to deliver on the promise of a digital future,” he concludes.