The Jakarta Post
All over the world people are doing more online. Young Indonesians are as digitally savvy as their Asian peers, increasingly making use of mobile banking services and social media. Governments are acutely aware that their citizens also expect faster and easier access to public services online.
According to a recent survey by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) covering 12 countries including Indonesia, and sampling 1,600 Indonesians who already use the Internet regularly, 55 percent of those surveyed use online government services at least once a month, while 93 percent of those surveyed have used at least one online government service over the past two years.
On average, the respondents used over nine types of online government services in the past two years ' lower than the other developing countries in the survey but higher than all the developed countries surveyed.
The tremendous upside of the trend toward digital government, particularly in a country like Indonesia, is that digitalization helps to make government more efficient and can also reduce corruption. But many people, aware of the high quality of online services offered by the private sector, are frustrated when online government services do not perform to the same standard.
This is true of the online services provided by the government in Indonesia: 52 percent of those surveyed felt that public services were 'much worse' or 'somewhat worse'' than the private sector.
Moving beyond simple online access to information to seamless end-to-end transactions will take time and leadership.
But the potential payback in terms of money saved, efficiencies achieved and enhanced competitiveness with other nations is enormous. The BCG estimates that the global potential efficiency gains of e-government could be up to US$50 billion a year by 2020.
Indonesia has made good progress toward digital government. It was one of the eight founding countries to launch the Open Government Initiative (OGI) and Indonesia hosted the Asia Pacific Regional Meeting Open Government Partnership in Bali in May this year. Indonesia's key initiatives include One Service, Open Budget, One Map Indonesia, Indonesia Data Portal and the Open Government Indonesia Public Service Competition in 2012.
One Service (Satu Layanan), for example, serves as a portal to provide general information about public services from approximately 50 government agencies.
Such examples are having an impact of Indonesian users' perceptions: 85 percent of those surveyed said online government services had improved over the past two years.
But there is still considerable room for improvement: not only does the government need to improve the breadth of online services and expand the number of users, it also needs to add more depth by designing services that can work across different platforms and devices, such as smartphones and tablets. This in turn will allow the government to provide increased sophistication in the interactions that many users seek.
Going forward, the government needs to focus on those online services that users feel are the most important but also currently register the lowest levels of user satisfaction. Based on the findings from the BCG survey, this means paying particular attention to improving online legal services, housing and land registration services, and applying for and receiving financial benefits online.
More than 90 percent of users also still encountered problems while using online government services: for example, the process took too long, or they could not find what they needed. Finally, the respondents wanted greater simplicity on public service websites and stronger reassurance on the privacy of their information.
There are five steps that the future Indonesian government should take to 'go digital' and close the gap between rhetoric and reality. First, the government should focus on value. Given the limited resources, the government needs to focus on the widest gaps between their importance to users and users' satisfaction with digital delivery of services.
Second, government agencies need to adopt service-design thinking by walking in the users' shoes. The language should be plain and non-bureaucratic, it should be easy to navigate the website to find the desired information, and this should require a maximum number of steps.
Third, the government needs to lead users to go online and then keep them online. This means that they need to develop seamless end-to-end online capabilities. Just like placing an order with Amazon as a returning customer, users should not need to leave their device or laptop to complete the transaction.
Most Indonesian government sites need to become more sophisticated than just providing information and move toward enabling users to transact their business in its entirety.
Fourth, the government needs to demonstrate visible senior-leadership commitment. Leadership not only sets a clear strategy, agendas and ambitious targets, but also helps to ensure cooperation and coordination among ministries and agencies. This is especially important in Indonesia.
Finally, the government needs to build up capacities and skills to be able to execute. These skills to develop and deliver digital services are often captured by the private sector, as digital talent is not naturally attracted to the public sector.
One solution, adopted in the UK with its Government Digital Service team, is to set up a strong central team to drive the strategy, with the option of contracting outside service providers where necessary to fill any skills gaps in the civil service.
As users become more digital savvy going forward and the technology advances with new mobile devices, expectations will continue to rise. The Indonesian government cannot afford to be left behind. Instead, it should strive to be ahead of the game, and especially ahead of its neighbors.
The writer is a partner and managing director at the Boston Consulting Group office in Indonesia.