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Parole d'experts Rencontre

The digitalisation of Government ministries and its ancillary services


Technology in Government sector has not been so popular in the early years of digital transformation. This is in comparison to the rate at which private organisations have adopted technology. But this mindset has started to change rapidly over the recent years. Government bodies have started to realise the importance of technology in their domain of work. We have seen most ministries and their respective ancillary departments making use of technology in some shape or form. In this ever-changing dynamic and connected world, and with increasing number of natural calamities and events such as the global recession of 2008/9 and Brexit, impacting world economies, it is crucial for major economies to always stay afloat and technology can help to guide them better.

Dhinesh Dillum

When it comes to technology, the Government sector offers by far, the most opportunities due to its large scale of operations requiring enterprise-scale solutions. Here in the UK, over the last decade, we have seen a rise in the number of government services going through rapid digital transformation. Although this journey started slow initially, the reasons being, in my opinion, this path was experimental, complex and expensive. It had many unknowns, the right expertise was not there, the infrastructure and the tooling did not exist at that time. But as technology became more advanced and sophisticated over the years, the transformational journey has rapidly gain traction across many government departments. In addition, the government sector comes with its own challenges, such as data confidentiality and protection, security, and requires enterprise-scale solutions and, most importantly, the right mindset within the organisation. They simply had to move away from the old way of doing things! Consequently, a number of ministries from the Trade department to Manufacturing, Work & Pension, Justice, Housing & Planning, Welfare, Health, Education, Finance, Defence, all have gone through an exceptional technological transformation from all perspectives, from back-end to middle and front-end services. Now almost a decade later, the hard-work has started to pay off.

“It is essential for government bodies to keep up with the technological advancements and guide their officials to employ technology in their areas of work

Here are a few areas which have benefited the most thanks to technology. There has been a huge transformation in the department of UK Inland Revenue, the HMRC (Her Majesty Revenue and Custom) which started an initiative called Making Tax Digital (MTD) almost a decade ago. As part of the MTD initiatives, the department of tax decided to devise a world class IT framework with an aim to digitalise the entire tax systems in the UK; from income tax to corporate tax, inheritance tax, VAT, CGT, registration (stamp) duty and national insurance. In turn, it aimed to tackle the ever-growing problems of tax evasion and tax avoidance, both at onshore and offshore levels. The system allows businesses, self-employed, sole traders and corporates to do their self-assessment online directly into the HMRC portal. So far, this initiative has been very successful and exemplary for other countries to follow suite.

Information technologyIn the UK home ministry, the entire immigration process is now fully automated. The visa application system has document processing technology embedded with payment and booking system capabilities. Just a few years ago, visa applications were fully manual and very documentary. Now the entire immigration system is hosted on highly secured cloud infrastructures accessible to anyone, anywhere. This has helped sole applicants, legal representatives and companies to make applications easily for international hires. On the other hand, it has helped to expedite the process significantly and reduce backlogs. Although making a UK visa application can be complicated, the seamless online process now makes it much easier, quicker and more efficient.

The National Health Service (NHS), which is the UK’s flagship department and admired by many around the world, is unique when it comes to digitalisation. The entire NHS is powered and managed on powerful IT infrastructures, from the NHS trusts and hospitals to first and second-line medical care centres, pharmaceutical, medical research and development. This online system is highly secured, portable, and built on strong cloud infrastructures, meaning patients’ medical records are available and accessible nationwide, shared across all hospitals, healthcare centres and clinics and even securely available in other relevant government institutions such as Police, driving authority and insurance companies. As a result, this allows patients’ mobility across the country.

In recent years, there have been significant operational changes in the Department of Work and Pension (DWP). The introduction of private pension, now a statutory requirement for all professional services firms and private, is partly regulated by the DWP. The pension schemes allow employees to invest their pension contributions in a range of available funds, all fully managed via an online platform, powered by major pension providers such as Aviva or Standard Life. Such schemes would not exist without technology.

The UK national statistics office record huge volumes of data which are very useful for the government. Thanks to the rapid evolving methods of recording, storing and analysing data, data has become the most valuable asset in this modern world. The government uses advanced tech-powered data analytics tools to make predictions for the economy, climate change, population migration, financial, electoral and many more areas. For example, the Bank of England (BOE) monetary policy committee analyses financial data to gain economic indicators to set BOE base rate and to monitor inflation/deflation. Traditionally this was a manual and cumbersome process but now with the use of technology, the entire process is simpler, quicker and less likely to be inaccurate.

In Mauritius, there has been really good progress in the government sectors where technology is now inbuilt in the system. For example, ministry portals are there, the use of electronic mail as a main communication method across ministries, embassies and other government agencies, applications for planning, surveys, housing loans, council permits are available and can also be made online, increase of smart motorways with speed and traffic monitoring devices and security cameras CCTVs, business tax can be filed online through an App powered by MRA, and other Apps such as the ‘Drug Free Moris’ and an online platform for the control of precursor chemicals to combat synthetic drugs, developed in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, installation of high-tech Port Exit scanners, and body worn cameras for custom officers, an online navigation system to track marine traffic.

We have seen government backed technology companies such as SIL and NCB in existence for quite some time now. However, more can be done on a number of ministries and its affiliated institutions; from the department of health to police, national security, registration office, local councils, etc. For example, on the outset, creating a shared IT platform for hosting the municipal services, a central repository to maintain citizens information, digitalising the police force from recruitment to crime control and on-street patrolling, digitalising the entire health care service from handling patients’ information to managing staffs, work shifts, hospitals inventories, pharmaceutical dispensers, streamline tender and procurement, introduce a staff cloaking system across all ministries and government offices, manage civil service employees from recruitments to attendance and pay management and many more. This will also enforce transparency, security and good governance. The good news is, to digitalise most of these services, existing software systems, tools and infrastructures are already available and hence bespoke solutions can be achieved easily and with less cost. It is also essential for government bodies to keep up with the technological advancements and guide their officials to employ technology in their areas of work.

Currently, there is a huge demand for IT professionals in the global market place, need for enterprise-scale-solution architects, data scientists, software engineers, network engineers, project managers, business analysts, web and Apps developers, etc. To note that developing and maintaining such large IT projects come with challenges, they do require proper planning, advanced technical expertise, and can be high maintenance.