In the last decade the region’s public sector has seen a complete transformation in what it means to deliver citizen services, manage public sector information, and get on with the increasingly tricky business of governing. FutureGov has seen this at first hand, discussing the transition with civil servants and reporting on it for the magazine. But nowhere have the changes been more apparent than than at our FutureGov Summit - now in its 10th year.
When I first gathered with the readers of FutureGov back in 2004, in Singapore’s Fullerton Hotel, the conversation centred on ‘citizen relationship management’. We’ve come a long way. I’m not sure citizens much like the idea of being ‘managed’, and with the consumerisation of IT, the boot is now on the other foot. At the same event a senior Hong Kong official explained the rationale for outsourcing the territory’s e-government portal to a private sector consortium - channel management was a “non core” activity.
Certainly looking across a decade’s worth of conversations with top government officials, the shift has been pronounced - from a top-down, command-and-control approach; through the distracting thicket of ‘mass customisation’; and on to the sunlit uplands of participatory governance. I’m not saying that civil servants and citizens have reached journey’s end - but we’ve certainly crossed a point of no return. Once you shift to ‘open government’, the future can only be collaborative, and the value created by harnessing public, people and private sectors can only build exponentially.
So this inflection point adds extra interest to what was always going to be a very special occasion - the 10th FutureGov Summit. Ten years of hosting the Asia Pacific’s most senior gathering of government technologists is a major mile stone in the life of the company, and frankly I sometimes pinch myself to imagine how we’ve grown from that first business plan and Excel spreadsheet in the public bar of The Crooked Billet.
And grown we have. This morning we received confirmation that the CIO of Texas, Karen Robinson, will be joining us, along with the First Assistant Secretary of Australia’s Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, the CIOs of London and Barcelona, the CTOs of Arkansas and Maine, the CIO of Australia’s Treasury, Estonia’s national ICT policy adviser, and many more besides.
As for the VIP participants from Asia itself, it always puts a smile on my face to know I’ll be catching up with good friends like Malaysia’s GCIO, Maldives’ GCIO, the Group CIO of Singapore’s IHIS, the Undersecretary for Agrarian Reform in the Philippines, the Executive Vice Chairman of Indonesia’s National ICT Council, the CIO of Surabaya, and the CIO of Indonesia’s Ministry of Finance (there’s a reason why I wear so much batik these days) - along with another 120 or so of their regional peers.
Familiarity leads to understanding, and I know I’m looking forward to the ‘start of school term’ atmosphere of the event - as we all gather together again to discuss their trials and triumphs of the past 12 months. Happily the ‘iron rice bowl’ nature of public sector employment means that there are still three government officials attending who were present at that first event in Singapore, and many more who, having risen to positions of seniority within their agencies, are regular attendees.
This collegiate atmosphere is important because it creates the right frame of mind to talk candidly about where we’re at, and where we’re headed. It’s been a fantastic ride over the past 10 years, with real change and demonstrable progress. But I firmly believe that the best is yet to come.
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