IT projects are a long journey and oftentimes their success comes down to changing behaviours. That is getting individuals and agencies to participate in a modernisation initiative which might very well represent a different way of doing things. That may be why we have yet to reach a widespread adoption of several technologies such as GIS, mobile payments and analytics among others, in public sector organisations in the region.
The uptake of these technologies is definitely starting in the public sector and is beginning to take off at a promising pace.
At FutureGov we have the perfect vantage point to watch how countries are developing and the differences between them. It is interesting to see how agencies are now shifting from using pads of papers and traditional pin maps for their daily work, and shift towards using integrated GIS as part of their core business processes.
I’ve been covering GIS for two years, and when I’m engaged in a discussion with a senior decision maker from a mapping agency, the meat of our conversation centres on the obstacles that they face on their journey towards the establishment of a National Spatial Data Infrastructure.
I’ve been told anecdotes of how mapping agencies have fallen prey to significant budget cuts resulting in their reliance on intermittent external funding for several mapping projects. The result is outdated maps and fragmented mapping investments.
Perhaps a contributing factor is the low level of appreciation or support for mapping projects from policy makers and the lack of “geo literacy” in the country.
A few years ago, people did not realise the power of location. That was until Google Earth and Google Maps came into the picture.
SInce Google Earth revolutionised the importance of location information in our daily lives, several mapping applications now give users heightened situational awareness and a wakeup call for policy makers that maps are important in almost every aspect of decision making in the government.
Those were their struggles. Now, the mapping agencies in our region are gearing up their respective Spatial Data Infrastructures (most countries have recently launched a GIS/Geo portals) which have become a key part of their country’s e-government programme.
We now see decision makers spearheading interagency change within government to get rid of the “silo mentality” that stops the unlocking of their most valuable resource – information.
My conversations with the senior leaders of the region’s mapping agencies, suggest four key tools which they believe are important to ensure support from key stakeholders.
1. Persuasion – The ability to engage and communicate the goals of your project such that the stakeholders involved will embrace the idea through their own volition and without much convincing.
2. Language - When technologists talk, the policy people’s eyes glaze over and they’ll be like “what are they talking about?”. Policy makers talk in a different way about issues, that’s why a lot of it comes down to the importance of language.
3. Incentivise – Learn to reward for good performance.
4. Require – Learn to demand compliance through policy legislations and regulations.
At present the region’s mapping agencies are aggressively pushing for the development of their country’s SDI. They are looking to better manage and more effectively share geospatial data, across different technology platforms by looking at success stories from other countries.
They are demonstrating how to be a “fast follower” by looking closely at what they can adopt from best practices and lessons learned of other governments.
During FutureGov events we see senior leaders who are excited to sit down and explore innovative ways to use technology to improve business processes and address issues on transparency, corruption and accountability. With that, I would like to invite our readers to take a look at FutureGov Magazine’s country events and Summits, and see what benefits you and your organisation can derive from learning from your counterparts in the region.
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