IoE can advance citizen services
IoE solutions and systems offer governments the opportunity to improve and create new services for their citizens in many different areas of operations, writes Ala’A Al-Bawab of Cisco
More than perhaps any technological advancement since the dawn of the Internet, the Internet of Everything holds tremendous potential for helping Middle Eastern public sector leaders address their many challenges and as we move into an era of complete digitization, where technology begins to connect everything from people, processes and data to things, governments are going to have to rethink and relook their approach to national infrastructure on a bigger scale.
Internet technology has changed the way people work, live, play and learn over the last few decades. It has enabled people to do more things, from different locations, faster and better with computers, mobile devices, homes, cars, clothes, businesses and even cities are all being connected to the global network.
The pace at which technology has changed can be compared to a vortex — relentlessly and chaotically sweeping everything into its spiral path, demanding digitization. The force of this technological revolution is too strong to ignore and anything that fails to adapt, will break apart and fall away.
As digitization accelerates, cutting-edge infrastructure will increase a country’s GDP, reduce spending and create jobs. It will allow governments to extend the reach and impact of public services by converting insights into action. It will enable new and diverse groups of entrepreneurs to build businesses that will shape the world, while providing more accessibility and opportunities for education and technology-based careers. As a result, it will ensure that countries become more competitive on the global stage.
Becoming digital requires an agile IT model, and the ability to rethink core processes for the digital era. Embracing new security, cloud, mobile, social and analytics technologies is required to fully digitize — it takes imagination, investment and expertise. This is exactly what our governments here in the Middle East region are doing.
If Public Sector departments and organisations in the Middle East are to embrace the Internet of Everything, they must bring together the use of information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) in the context of their vertical industry.
The Internet of Everything (IoE) and Country Digitization will profoundly enhance the human condition. IoE offers Middle East governments the opportunity to make significant advances in citizen services. For example, IoE will enable governments to create services that leverage Big Data and crowdsourcing to expand the power of machine-to-machine communications for citizen delivery. Within the Middle East, large organisations, government departments and cities can benefit directly from the same new technologies that are transforming supply-chain management and logistics in the private sector. Similarly, they can build on the potential of mobile technology to develop ‘smart working’ for their employees, resulting in significant cost savings. ‘Smart building’ strategies can also reduce costs, while generating a positive environmental impact.
IoE-driven benefits from programs such as connected transportation, smart roads, social care, and education accrue as reductions in overall costs, especially through better targeting and control of resource usage. Other programs have indirect benefits for government — economic, social, or environmental — but direct benefits for citizens and businesses in terms of reduced transactional costs and time saved, or in external benefits such as better quality of life.
Where should Middle East governments focus to begin their IoE journey? As with the Internet itself, IoE technologies will transcend national boundaries, so it will be important for governments within the region to work together to promote international collaboration and governance. Governments in the region will need to focus on three key areas: economic development, service delivery and efficiency, and policy and regulation.
As promoter of economic development
IoE’s growth in the public sector will rely on governments in the Middle East making it part of their broader economic development strategies. This is likely to include promoting a business environment that encourages innovation in the development and use of IoE, including IoE-related R&D, cultivation of IoE-related specialist skills through the education system, and actions necessary to foster development of the required infrastructure. Governments in the Middle East will also wish to encourage private-sector implementation of IoE-based solutions to advance wider program goals, such as environmental sustainability, infrastructure resilience, effective transportation, and public safety and protection.
As provider of services
Public-sector bodies will have similar opportunities to create new services and capabilities and/or to improve existing ones. At the city level, these include applications such as improved building management, traffic flow, street lighting, water or waste management and policing. At the state/province level, these will encompass highway infrastructure (such as pavement and bridge conditions), highway traffic management and health and education applications. At the national level, applications will include border protection and critical infrastructure protection (such as airports, railways, and ports).
As policymaker and regulator
Middle East governments will continue to have a policy making and regulatory role in relation to IoE. They will need to devise policies for the allocation of resources, such as radio spectrum, as well as support the openness and efficient operation of markets. The pervasive nature of IoE — and the potential for it to be used extensively for management of critical infrastructure — means that governments will need to help ensure the safety and security of the systems themselves, while also protecting users’ personal information and privacy. As an increasing number of the societal systems become ‘smart’ through IoE technologies, government will be responsible for ensuring social cohesion and inclusion as part of the process. The development of new technologies across all sectors — driverless cars, food testing or health monitoring, for example — will also call for new regulations in the interests of protecting public safety.
What are the first steps governments can take?
To capture more value in the IoE economy, organisations must take a strategic approach that involves: investing in high-quality technology infrastructure and tools, adopting and following inclusive practices, and developing effective information-management practices.
Public-sector leaders in the Middle East have a unique opportunity to act rather than react to the IoE opportunity. To get started, public-sector leaders should determine which IoE capabilities their organisations have today, harness the complementary insights of both service and IT leaders, identify major IoE opportunity areas and establish an IoE vision, reach out to other organizations to share the benefits of IoE platforms, and build an IoE culture by helping employees imagine the possibilities of connecting the unconnected.
The public sector is an excellent proving ground for Internet of Everything because of the size of many government institutions, the number of people they serve, and the difficult problems they must solve. I strongly believe that in today’s increasingly connected world, public sector leaders know that change isn’t constant, it’s instant. And they are acting appropriately – they are leading the way.
As the needs of the citizens grow, organisations must work with both private and public sector organisations to expand their technology infrastructures capabilities accordingly to stay ahead in an environment of increasing competition thereby enabling them to take advantage of the IoE and embrace digital transformation.
Ala’A Al-Bawab is Public Sector Sales Lead, Cisco, UAE.