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Skills shortage and poor IT infrastructure hinder tech adoption by Asean governments

EIU report highlights governments’ desire for better use of data, including cloud access

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Sub-standard hardware, staff shortages and poor data-sharing are impeding the adoption of cutting-edge technology by the governments of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, according to a report by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).

The Microsoft-sponsored report, High aspirations, stark realities: Digitising government in South-East Asia, is based on a survey of 300 IT leaders and interviews with experts in industry, government, academia and the civic sector.

Respondents said their priority is better use of data, including cloud access. More than one-third (37%) named cloud computing as the most important tech trend, and there were also high hopes for the internet of things (IoT).

As regards barriers to greater utilisation of technology, top of the list is lack of skills, according to 46% of survey respondents in government, whereas 44% of those working in the technology sector said the main barrier is organisational ICT infrastructure.

In view of high-profile cyber attacks around the world, a surprising finding was that only (16%) of south-east Asian governments consider cyber security a barrier to public-sector technology adoption. The research showed that private clouds that isolate sensitive information from public clouds have reduced security concerns.

“Organisational challenges have overtaken security concerns [as barriers] for governments in south-east Asia as they seek to deliver more and more services digitally,” said Charles Ross, editor of the report.

“Governments in the region have an opportunity to stand at the forefront of smart-government development, but only if it addresses real challenges related to employee and citizen ICT skills, and insufficient infrastructure.”

Asean governments’ sub-optimal investment in infrastructure and training of staff, and their inability to attract better staff when competing on salaries could be because many governments are underfunded compared with the local private sector, said Jim Longwood, research VP at Gartner.

Read more about government IT in Asean

A Gartner survey found that 10% of CIOs in south-east Asia believe the scarcity of talent is reaching crisis proportions, and 48% feel they are suffering from talent shortages.

Longwood noted that in the more emerging south-east Asian countries, global and Indian service providers are setting up offshore delivery centres, increasing competition for experienced resources in countries such as Malaysia and the Philippines.

By contrast, Singapore’s success as a regional hub for global company headquarters has increased competition for better IT resources, resulting in increasing take-up of nearshore outsourcing to Malaysia and offshore to India.

The EIU study also reveals gaps in perception. Just 20% of Singaporean respondents believe the government is “very effective” at implementing new technologies. This contrasts with 57% of Indonesian respondents and 33% overall.

Singaporeans who are long used to easily accessible internet connectivity and robust services are likely to have far higher expectations of their government than users in less developed markets where connectivity is less accessible.

The respondents’ priorities – better data use, IoT and cloud computing – echo the focus of CIOs in the Asean region. Gartner’s 2016 CIO study found that Asean CIOs are focused on investing in business intelligence/analytics, cloud, mobility, infrastructure and datacentres as well as digitisation, with legacy migration a low priority.

“Factors such as improving operational efficiencies via better infrastructure operations and use of digital channels, along with reducing costs, were common drivers for these priorities in south-east Asia as well as globally,” said Longwood.

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