150 meetings in 20 days
The FutureGov team is anything but deskbound: in the last four weeks I and my colleagues have been fanning out across ASEAN, Australia and Hong Kong to meet with key members of our audience, as we prepare for further growth in 2012.
I’ve been travelling for four out of the last five weeks, along with key members of our publishing, events and research teams, and quite frankly I’m knackered. But it’s a good kind of tired – as I’ve had the opportunity to meet with some of the key change makers in the region’s public sector, as well as reconnect with old colleagues from the World Bank and UNDP. It’s certainly blown away the cobwebs, and helped to recalibrate some of my perspectives on who’s doing what in the region’s public sector – and why.
Over the last week I’ve been in Jakarta, catching up with Secretary-Generals from Department of Immigration, Ministry of Public Works, and Director-Generals from Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Health, KOMINFO, and others, as well as the President’s National ICT Council – and it was interesting to hear them echo conversations that I’d had the week before in Putrajaya, and before that in Brunei Darussalam. In essence governments are grappling with the challenge of big data – storage, categorisation, security, and distribution. Whether its Ministry of Finance’s US$50 million treasury systems revamp (trying to keep tabs on Indonesia’s 20,000+ government spending units), a revamped disaster recovery centre in Bali, a new national ID programme, improving transaction security at the Ministry of Health, or rolling-out distributed e-services through an embryonic G-Cloud – Indonesian departments are focused on improving the oversight and management of citizen data, as a necessary first step to delivering high quality services to citizens and businesses.
And so it goes for Malaysia, Brunei, Thailand, The Philippines, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, Korea … in fact wherever we’ve had conversations with governments in the region since the beginning of October, the list of priorities has remained pretty uniform. There are nuances, sure: Singapore leans towards social media and its implications for G2C communications, whereas Sri Lanka is focused on improving rural service delivery.
But viewed as a whole, governments are grappling with the same issues – which explains why they still enjoy the opportunity to learn from one another’s experience – whether through the pages of FutureGov magazine, our online publications, our research, or the expanding portfolio of country-specific events in Asia, Australia. There really are more similarities than differences, if you take the time to meet with government and listen to their challenges.
For me the biggest lesson from the last month of travelling (other than the need to pack more socks) is simply that there really is no substitute for regular face-to-face engagement. Which means that 2012 is going to see me on the road more often than not.