The pandemic has erased any doubt that we have fully entered a digital age driven by data.
COVID-19 has presented a major challenge to governments’ ability to serve their mission in bettering citizens’ lives. With faltering recovery amidst the spread of the delta and omicron variants, uneven vaccination rates across nations, and rising severity and new visibility of cyberattacks, leaders in the public sector have their work cut out for them in adapting to the modernisation of citizen services and remote work.
To achieve this goal, the public sector needs to have agility and strategic foresight to effectively navigate disruptions. Unlike in the private sector, issues that erupt within the public sector are often more visible and disruptive. Bad interface experience and CX (citizen experience) mean citizens are unable to access essential services readily. This, in turn, makes it challenging for governments to implement regulations or mobilise citizens when required.
In addition, security leaders in the public sector have the difficult task of maintaining smooth day-to-day operations while meeting the public’s expectations of maintaining the highest standards of data privacy and protection.
To that end, we see public sector leaders becoming increasingly aware that their citizens have higher expectations of digital services, and are now prioritising citizens’ needs and working to improve those citizen experiences.
This year, we expect to see more of the public sector in Southeast Asia significantly ramping up their focus on improving their CX by equipping their organisations with the right technology, as well as establishing closer interagency cooperation, and greater sharing and integration of threat intelligence.
Closer interagency cooperation
Amid the embrace of digital technology to better deliver mission outcomes for citizens, we are starting to see within the public sector increasing demand for (and subsequently levels of) closer interagency collaboration.
In Singapore, we have seen how the government has the vision to not only deal with the current disruptions, but also anticipate future needs. For instance, the nation has designed its SingPass app to bring together databases from various public agencies (from driving licences and employment income to vaccination certificates for travelling), in order to provide citizens the information they need, securely and instantaneously at their fingertips.
However, more can still be done.
On one hand, we see young government agencies across the region that are open to new solutions, and are looking for centralised platforms that improve sharing and break down data silos to enable efficiency and bring significant improvement to the public sector’s digitalisation efforts. These agencies are nimbler in responding to public feedback, and can swiftly turn around digital solutions that are laser-focused on addressing citizens’ needs. On the other hand, we see relatively more traditional agencies being encumbered by legacy roles, procurement woes, and traditional processes that hinder their digital adoption and slow down their responsiveness to public needs.
We also observed a preference for public agencies in Southeast Asia for established technology providers of digital solutions. Although this may afford them greater familiarity, a lower risk to adoption, and shorter time to value, they suffer from less agile and flexible solutions that may not be sufficient to provide a holistic view to pinpoint the true needs of citizens.
Nonetheless, this has begun to evolve with the pandemic, where demand for bespoke apps is rapidly growing to address user needs more accurately and efficiently. This has, in turn, accelerated investment in application development, data analytics, and security for such customised solutions.
Greater sharing of threat intelligence
“Knowledge is power” – or so the saying goes. More and more, government leaders are recognising that they can’t do it alone.
With a vast and rapidly developing cyberthreat landscape, evolving a nation’s cybersecurity through interagency work is the most effective way to combat cyberattacks and nation-state attacks. This includes combined efforts on planning, threat analysis, and defensive operations.
For instance, Israel recently led a simulation of a major cyberattack on the global financial system, as part of international collaborative efforts to strengthen cyber resilience among global financial markets and banks. This involved representatives from the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, together with treasury officials from 10 countries including Thailand, Switzerland, and the United States.
In Singapore, we also witness a strong commitment to cybersecurity encouraging collaboration. For example, part of the mandate for the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore is to pursue international partnerships and drive regional cybersecurity capacity-building programs. It has also been working closely with GovTech as an aggregation point and a distribution point for threat intelligence for Singapore.
Singapore’s digital economy agreements, such as its most recent with the United Kingdom, also come with a strong focus on security. It unites neighbouring nations to enable trusted digital commerce and data distribution, setting the stage for cooperation as technology and citizen needs evolve. The ASEAN-Singapore Cybersecurity Centre of Excellence was created to facilitate the exchange of open-source information on cyberthreats and cyberattacks, as well as cybersecurity best practices. Such programs will give both the public and private sector a leg up against fast-evolving threats.
Automation and integration of threat data
Alongside the need for greater sharing of threat intelligence, we expect to see better automation and integration of threat data in 2022, given the increase in noise.
We’ve started to see security vendors consolidating data from across their own customer bases. Adding better automation to more intelligence will allow security teams to focus their resources and investments in the most needed areas, and help overburdened analysts avoid burnout.
This will progress on to governments providing intelligence too, as they take a more assertive role against cybercrime. Still, it may take a while to see more extensive levels of government-led information sharing as countries work through layers of bureaucratic red tape, sensitive data governance and responsibility, and legal hurdles.
COVID-19 has only increased the attention on the need for investment and will continue to accelerate IT modernisation, providing tailwinds both to security and citizen services. We have already witnessed tremendous momentum across government agencies globally.
We’ll see greater collaboration within the public sector, greater determination to modernise, and increasingly, governments providing their public agencies executive support and greater access to funding for critical needs such as improving security through zero-trust solutions, modernising critical citizen services and applications, and enhancing full-stack data visibility across networks to help improve citizen experiences.
Today, there is a greater reason for citizens to listen to their governments, and it is amazing how speedily governments have been responding to this attention. With 2022 set to bring on new and unforeseen challenges, the public sector is rising to the challenge of building stronger CX through interagency cooperation, greater sharing of threat intelligence, and the automation and integration of threat data.