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APAC nations move on digital transformation, but at varying speeds

Leaders roll out programs and timelines as ‘digital government’ becomes redundant
APAC nations move on digital transformation, but at varying speeds

Governments in the Asia-Pacific region are on trend in pursuing digital transformation initiatives, according to new analysis from Gartner naming digital identity ecosystems and adaptive security among the top five government technology trends for 2024. In Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Cambodia and Papua New Guinea, efforts are underway to digitize government services, with inclusion emerging as a common core objective alongside more robust online security.

Sri Lankan government rolls out path to digital empowerment by 2030

Daily FT reports that the Sri Lankan government has unveiled its comprehensive national digital strategy for the country. Digital identity is named among the six critical enablers identified in “Digital Sri Lanka 2030,” which charts a path for a “digitally empowered” Sri Lanka to grow its economy and develop the digital ecosystem for social inclusion.

The strategy is divided into two phases, with the first focused on economic recovery following the devastating collapse of the economy of 2019. The second is aimed at “strategically positioning the country as a digital innovation and entrepreneurship hub in the Asia-Pacific” region and “fully integrating digital technology across all of society and the economy.”

While the details on the specific role digital ID systems will play are scant, the strategy includes plans for a digital government agency focused on technical implementation, and notes the need for increased regulatory capacity. It is designed to be a “living document” that can keep up with ongoing evolution in the global digital economy.

Indonesia and Malaysia hope to kickstart digital government efforts

The Sun reports that Indonesia’s president Joko Widodo has asked former UK prime minister Tony Blair for help with its digital transformation campaign. The initiative is aimed at speeding up the digitization of government bureaucracy. Blair and his team at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change are looking at the UK and Estonia as models. The government is currently in the midst of an effort to consolidate its ministries’ various apps into one single app.

Malaysia’s leaders have also indicated that digital transformation will play a major role in the country’s future. Bernama reports on recent comments by Deputy Economy Minister Datuk Hanifah Hajar Taib indicating that strategies are underway to expand digitalization, strengthen research and development capabilities and foster innovation.

Papua New Guinea leans on China for digital expertise, infrastructure

Papua New Guinea is also seeking foreign assistance in accelerating digital transformation. The Post Courier reports that the government has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the People’s Republic of China, outlining areas of cooperation including digital transformation, digital government, AI, blockchain, cybersecurity and 5G technology. PNG will be looking to leading Chinese enterprises to provide multilingual software and support on digital infrastructure.

Papua New Guinea launched its digital ID program, Digizen ID, in 2022. The digital inclusion aspect is a key driver for the country, where around 80 percent of people do not have valid government ID documents. Despite that, the country is pushing ahead in digitizing its national broadcaster and developing a digital ID wallet.

Resecurity launches bespoke identity protection for the Filipino market

In the Philippines, the focus on digitization leans toward consumer protection. A press release from U.S. cybersecurity firm Resecurity says its latest identity protection product is tailored for the Filipino market and fully compliant with the Data Privacy Act . Dark Web activity, account takeover, and exposure of Personal Identifiable Information (PII) are named as threats that come with digital transformation.

“With the rapid growth of digital adoption in the country, including internet and mobile connectivity, it is crucial to adapt to cybersecurity advancements in the Philippines,” says Ben Ouano, COO of Resecurity’s APAC division. “Whether protecting against identity theft, fraud, or other cyber threats, we are committed to empowering individuals and businesses with the tools they need to stay secure online.”

Decades in, Cambodia sees interoperability as hurdle to digital government

Cambodia has been pursuing digitization of a sort since 2002, says Dr. Taing Nguonly, the country’s deputy secretary general of the General Secretariat of Digital Economy and Business Committee and the director general of the General Department of Digital Economy at the Ministry of Economy and Finance.

Speaking at the IMF’s spring 2024 New Economy Forum, which explored govtech initiatives around the world, Dr. Nguonly cites ownership of data as a long-standing challenge – but says interoperability has emerged as an even bigger problem. As part of its push to solve the problem, Cambodia’s government is developing its own online document authentication and verification platform.

There is no digital, only government

An overriding message to be extracted from the wave of digital transformation projects is that – to quote David Eaves, associate professor of digital government at University College London – there is no digital government; there’s just government. “The reality is, almost anything that happens in your government now touches technology in one form or another.”

This insight, combined with Gartner’s trend forecasts, has major implications for cybersecurity. As governments become stewards of data and digital identity, advanced security safeguards such as biometrics and AI-based digital ID tools are becoming a necessity.

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