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GCIO Forum 2017: Public-private partnerships key enabler of digital governments

Nurdianah Md Nur | Aug. 15, 2017
Public sector leaders from Denmark, Estonia, and New Zealand discuss the benefits of working with the private sector when it comes to digital transformation, and how to do so.

Panel Discussion 1 at GCIO Forum 2017
From left to right: Denmark's Yih-Jeou Wang; Sri Narayanan, Executive Editor of Executive Networks Media; New Zealand's Chris Buxton; and Estonia's Siim Sikkut at GCIO Forum 2017.

Public-private partnerships (PPP) have been and will continue to be a key enabler of digital transformation for governments.

According to Siim Sikkut, Government CIO, Estonia, his country has been relying on PPP throughout its digital journey. "We always outsource work [related to digitising government services to the private sector] as this allows us to better prioritise and achieve more things in the end because of the expertise we leverage. We see also PPP as a way to grow the IT industry's competence," he said at GCIO Forum 2017.

Agreeing with Sikkut, Chris Buxton, chief digital officer of Statistics New Zealand, said: "Core IT services are getting more complex, and governments may not be able to afford the level of technical skills needed. PPP offers good value for money as it allows us to focus on our core business while getting far better performance [from our IT systems that are managed by our service providers]."   

Similar to Estonia and New Zealand, Denmark is also using PPP for its citizen-centric innovations. For instance, the third generation of NemID -- the national electronic identification for Danish citizens to access both public and private services -- is funded by a PPP. "We jointly launched NemID with the banking sector so they bore 50 percent of the cost of joint procurement," said Yih-Jeou Wang, head of International Co-operation, Agency for Digitisation, Denmark.

Besides sharing costs, the move helped NemID to be widely used as citizens were more likely to use it for online banking services than government services. "Some years ago, we found that citizens report to government authorities about seven times a year but they use online banking services far more frequently than that. Public sector's digital services alone will thus never drive the adoption of secure digital authentication; you need to partner with the private sector to do so," explained Wang.

For PPP to work, Wang advised governments and their agencies to understand how to work with the private sector and vice versa.

Meanwhile, Buxton added that a successful PPP requires the public sector to have employees with good soft skills when it comes to managing a vendor/supplier relationship. For instance, they should be able to "have open and honest conversations with partners" in order to develop strong and trusting working relationships.


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