The public sector has digitally transformed government-citizen communications, improving citizen engagement, and benefiting all sectors down the line.
Over a year has passed since the start of the pandemic. While some countries in Asia-Pacific grapple with extended lockdowns and movement controls, it is becoming increasingly clear that others, including Australia and New Zealand, have emerged as standouts in managing the crisis. But what separates these two groups?
As political scientist Francis Fukuyama puts it, it may depend on ‘whether citizens trust their leaders, and whether those leaders preside over a competent and effective state’. This is far easier said than done.
While general trust for governments in the region is high, the next months are critical in applying lessons learned from the pandemic in terms of communication, interaction between citizens and authorities, and moving industries and economies forward.
Public sector organisations have stepped up efforts and transformed government-citizen communications, improving everything from the safety and security of vulnerable groups to participation and engagement opportunities. Here are a few ways that technologies have improved citizen engagement, and how they may lead to benefits across all sectors further down the line.
Secure all personal data
An important way to build trust is to ensure the security of citizen data. This is especially pertinent today, considering the recent rise in cybersecurity threats in Australia. Globally, data breaches exposed about 36 billion records in the first half of 2020 alone. Government entities are vulnerable as well, with the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner identifying the government as one of the top five sectors reporting breaches in the latter half of 2020.
Cyber security must therefore be a critical component of effective government-citizen communication. The public sector must embrace cybersecurity from the inside out, and the solutions selected must meet guidelines set by national security organisations like the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD). From setting up geo-fencing to revising cybersecurity policies, these will go a long way in protecting the personal data of citizens and building long-term trust.
Provide simple, straightforward online services
After prolonged movement restrictions, most of us have become used to performing our business, administrative requests, and duties online. However, many of these remote services are still too complex to use easily — a problem for Asia Pacific, where only 26 percent of governments are digitally ready, according to the United Nations.
One way to improve this is through online services powered by voice-assisted artificial intelligence. This would improve digital inclusion by allowing citizens to perform tasks such as obtaining official documents quickly and easily.
Australia’s online services have certainly evolved as well, with ServiceNSW and the QLD check-in apps making communication and tracing easier. Security is also built-in at the app level, ensuring that personal data is protected from potential breaches. However, they can still benefit from technologies such as voice-assisted transactions. These will lower digital barriers for users, which has benefits that transcend beyond the public sector. For example, they allow private businesses to easily obtain official documentation — streamlining the verification process for financial institutions, which is a key function for account opening and maintenance.
Maintain live voice assistance for low-tech citizens
Online services are a step in the right direction, but a digital divide still affects the Asia Pacific region, with 52 percent of the region’s population lacking internet access. This means traditional methods such as phone calls, remain a mainstay to access various government services.
Australia and New Zealand are better-placed than most with the roll-out of the National Broadband Network across the region. However, geographic difficulties in both countries persist, and both remote and urban regions still suffer from mobile black spots and slow internet.
Even in such cases, it is still possible for technology to bring benefits. Interactive voice responses can pre-filter incoming calls and route them to the right service provider, improving the efficiency of addressing requests and feedback. Such features would also be critical for businesses such as banks and healthcare organisations that receive a high volume of queries.
Interactive voice responses would not only enhance efficiency but improve overall customer experience and satisfaction. With Millennials and Gen Z gravitating towards more personalised experiences with companies, frictionless interactions will be vital in delivering consistent, positive customer experiences to bolster brand loyalty.
Reduce the physical queue
Long queues and wait times are a major hindrance to efficient government-citizen interactions. Bureaucracy and red tape remain alive and well, and siloed services add friction to citizens getting the help they need.
This is where technology can ease such congestions. Indoor geolocation services can orient visitors to the right offices and offer information on wait times. Location services can also help manage crowd safety in high-density buildings — especially crucial for social distancing measures.
The business benefits of geolocation services also abound. Public transport companies and airports can use them to guide passengers and study crowd patterns. Instead of pamphlets and on-site staff, geolocation services can also be utilised at events to connect attendees to their destinations.
The above are just some examples of how technology can improve government-citizen communication, how countries have utilised various innovations, as well as the potential trickle-down opportunities for businesses. As we slowly recover from the economic impact of the pandemic, harnessing the power of technology will give countries and businesses the competitive edge they need to thrive in the recovery phase and beyond.