It is possible to provide open, efficient, secure, and reliable public services in a cost-effective way, while also laying the groundwork for a more connected and intelligent future. Huawei has collected more than 30 projects by national governments in which digital transformation is playing a vital role in improving the quality of government services, healthcare, and education. Here are some of the insights gleaned from this global experience.
Digital government is not just a question of investment. It requires political commitment and the adaptation of institutional frameworks. Governments need to have a long-term vision and to understand that ICT investments today are for the benefit of future citizens. Governments need to review their laws and regulations to clear the way for the use of new technologies in both the public and private sectors, so that when new tech emerges, it can quickly find users.
Digital government requires digital skills. Training programs are needed for senior officials, public sector workers, and private organizations, including digital literacy for vulnerable groups. Some jobs may disappear during the process of digital transformation, even as new positions are created. Government workers will need to be retrained to adapt to the new environment. Governments should reach out to partners such as ICT providers and universities to train more ICT professionals. Steps like these can significantly boost public digital literacy, and pave the way for future growth in the digital economy.
A long-term vision is also required. Budget and approvals for digital projects can be difficult to secure in the public sector, with its abundance of stakeholders and strictly defined mandates. Governments are more likely to be successful when they have a vision for future development, and can see money spent on digitization as an investment, rather than a cost. Governments with limited funds should consider making digital infrastructure a priority, and see digital transformation as a long-term growth strategy.
The purpose of digital government is to provide better services to citizens. However, these benefits may not be enjoyed by the entire population. A digital divide runs through the middle of today's society, in terms of both access and the skills required to make the most of digital services. Even within the United States, according to the Pew Research Center, some 13% of Americans don't use the Internet. Internet use is highly correlated with age, level of education, household income, and community type. For example, adults from households earning less than US$30,000 a year are roughly eight times more likely than the most affluent adults to not use the Internet, and around a third of adults with less than a high school education do not use the Internet.4
Huawei believes that digital government requires ubiquitous, inclusive connectivity so that services can benefit every citizen equally. Strong ICT infrastructure is a foundation of digital government. New technologies such as cloud computing can be an important tool for increasing accessibility, sharing information, and lowering the cost of ownership. There is also a need to provide education and training so that all citizens have the ability to make use of digital services.
Digital governments and societies will succeed in the long term when they set clear policies, invest in ICT infrastructure, adopt open platforms, and secure participation from both the public and private sectors.