Technology & Innovation

Digital transformation in South-East Asia: Reaping the fruits in government and society

June 28, 2022

Asia

Digital transformation in South-East Asia: Reaping the fruits in government and society

June 28, 2022

Asia
Charles Ross

Asia editorial director

Charles Ross is Principal of Policy and Insights in Asia-Pacific and leads the region's technology and society practice. Prior to this role, he was editorial director for The Economist Intelligence Unit overseeing all thought leadership research in Asia. Charles combines a deep understanding of how technology trends are reshaping business and society with excellent research and editorial skills, to create impactful and award-winning research programmes for clients. Charles is currently based in Australia and has led many projects analysing the implications for business of new technology trends such as blockchain, fintech, smart cities, cloud computing, sustainability and the internet of things, for Google, Stripe, SAP, Telstra, Microsoft, Prudential, Westpac and the Singapore government. He is a contributing industry expert to the UN Science Policy and Business Forum on the Environment and a frequent speaker at finance and technology events across the region. Charles holds a master of business administration, focusing on strategy and organisational change, from the University of Oxford and a certificate in public policy analysis from the London School of Economics and Political Science.

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The last 20 years have seen a gradual digital shift among public-sector organisations as citizens and businesses come to expect digital services from their government. Covid-19 served as a catalyst for increased digitalisation in government, creating new incentives and opportunities. For the first time, public-sector organisations had to truly contend with the challenges of delivering their services primarily over the internet. Large-scale experiments, such as remote work and virtual offices, and the digitalisation of service delivery, have illustrated there is a major role for digital technologies to play in how government is run. Implementing such processes is easier said than done, however. 
 
According to a survey of senior-level employees from 150 government organisations across South-East Asia, conducted by Economist Impact and commissioned by Microsoft, 71.3% say the pandemic has accelerated the pace of their digital transformation in their field. This wide acknowledgement has also resulted in a corresponding increase in investments in digital technologies, with nine in ten (90.7%) of respondents saying their organisations have increased investment in digital technology since the onset of covid-19.
 
Key research findings:
• The pace of digital transformation has accelerated in almost all government agencies in South-East Asia
• Covid-19 has resulted in significant increases in technology investment across public-sector agencies of all kinds
• Government agencies in South-East Asia are likelier to take a piecemeal approach to digital transformation, though larger organisations with bigger budgets tend to take a more holistic approach
• Budget constraints and legacy systems are the biggest barriers to digital transformation for government, but security and privacy risks are growing in importance
• Across South-East Asia, the pandemic has put the focus squarely on skill-building and various aspects of sustainability such as public health and safety, diversity and inclusion, and energy security
 
 

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