Dubai, UAE, February 11, 2015:
Demographics and technology will be crucial in shaping government services of the future, concluded experts on the closing day of the Government Summit in Dubai.
In a panel discussion that embodied the theme of the Summit, “Shaping Future Governments”, senior executives from some of the world’s foremost consultancies said that the leaders of the future will have to implement strategies that focus on their people and tools to be successful.
“There is no ‘one’ government of the future. Depending upon the needs, age and demographics of the country, the type of government that is necessary also changes,” said Dr Hans- Paul Burkner, BCG Chair and Chair of BCG Centre for Public Impact. Dr Burkner explained that leadership relevant for a country such as Japan, where more than half of the population is over 50 years, is very different from the governance of the Arab world, where more than 50 per cent of the population is under the age of 25.
Good governance, however, is universal. “Only a government that delivers on the needs of its people is legitimate,” he continued. “A good government is one that caters to the needs of citizens and residents, and over time, measures and improves upon the services it delivers.”
Similarly, technology is rapidly changing the way the world works. “Today, there are 4.5 billion people on the internet. And there are also 3.5 billion people with toothbrushes. More people are online today than have refrigerators. The digital world is going to have a profound impact on the way countries are governed,” said Sean Shine, Managing Director of Health & Public Service, Accenture.
“Successful governments of the future will challenge the way that things are done and yes, they will have to be ‘always on’ and ‘always secure’. But this is necessary because it is a legitimate concern,” he continued, citing a recent report which demonstrated that 93% of people in the UAE will have more trust in the government if their digital spaces are secure.
Leaders can learn lessons in governance from technology. “A government of the future will have to be like an adaptive system like the Watson computer,” said Paul MacMillan, Global Public Sector Industry Leader, Deloitte. “Governments of the future will need have an open functionality; applied learning with an ability to apply innovation and adaptive rule making so that innovative systems are scalable.”
And there are challenges on the horizon.
“By 2050, the population aged over 60 will double putting pressure on healthcare and welfare systems,” said Shine. “And there is also a resource decline with studies indicating that governments will reduce public spending by 2.1 per cent of GDP per year. If you look at technology, the pace is relentless: 11 per cent of the world is on Facebook and in one minute, 140,000 tweets are posted.”
People look at governments as social service providers. Dr Burkner cited Europe as an example: the continent is responsible for 50 per cent of global spending on welfare yet has only 7 per cent of the world’s population. “You have to be segmented in your approach to services because sometimes, like with subsidies, the rich benefit more. Governments will need to be economical and focus on providing services to the people that really need them,” he said.
“It is not the case of doing more with less, but rather, doing more but better,” said Shine. “There is a clear urgency in doing so because incomes are dwindling—like you see here in the GCC with the recent oil price decline– but the demand is increasing. What they need to focus is on the ‘art of the possible’, figuring out how to do it and developing an ability and confidence to execute.”
According to MacMillan, technologies such as big data and analytics can help provide solutions. “What is big data and analytics? It’s a bunch of information that you look and do a bunch of rigorous analysis on. Big data is useful in the sense that it can predict outcomes for a whole host of sectors like healthcare or taxation. What is key, however, is using behavioral economics, like the Nudge Unit has done in the United Kingdom, to enable good behavior in people.”
The Government Summit featured a diverse programme featuring seminars on education, healthcare, smart cities, technology and happiness.