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Why public sector organisations need to embrace digital technology

Across the African continent public sector organisations are facing a myriad of challenges if their services are to meet the demands and expectations of their customers.

Global megatrends such as increasing urbanisation, changing demographics, a shift in global economic power, technological advances, and climate change and resource scarcity have transformed the environment in which the public sector operates. Core to the demand for better public services is the increased expectation of citizens.

Public sector leaders from PwC Africa gathered in Johannesburg recently to deliberate on the opportunities and challenges that the public sector across the continent is facing.

Benson Okundi, government and public services leader for PwC Africa, said that delivering on customer expectations has never been more challenging in the wake of recent economic uncertainty.

“Budgetary constraints, public sector reforms and changing demographics are transforming the landscape for public services,” he said. “Increasing urbanisation, demographic changes, climate change, scarcity of water and the impact of the drought are just some of the ongoing issues with which leaders in the public sector continue to grapple.

“These global megatrends will have far-reaching and disruptive effects on public sector organisations,” he added. “This will require more a more agile approach from government institutions as well as effective collaboration across the whole of society.”

Technological advances

Technological advances are transforming business and society as a whole. Increasingly, citizens are using an array of technological devices to access more services at any given time.

Governments must seize the opportunity to reconsider their strategy on how to implement and utilise new technology to provide better services for citizens, while also decreasing the cost burden.

These and other mega trends are impacting governments and the public sector in Africa, many of which are responding by developing national plans for future-focused service delivery.

Shirley Machaba, leader of the public sector for PwC Southern Africa said South Africa’s National Development Plan’s (NDP) vision for 2030 is a good example.

South Africa’s NDP 2030 provides the public and private sectors as well as society at large with an opportunity to jointly plan and implement a new South Africa.

South Africa has also played an instrumental role in the processes that led to the development of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

More than a year ago the United Nations launched the 17 global SDGs.  The goals of the NDP have similar objectives to a number of the Global Goals, indicating that the government is aligned with regard to the implementation of the Global Goals.

The SDGs focus on poverty, health, education, protecting the natural environment and reducing inequality, amongst others.

Many of the challenges addressed by the SDGs are particularly relevant to Africa. To achieve a 2030 sustainable future, businesses, government and society will have to collaborate and work together in a way that has not been seen or tried before.

As more companies and policymakers work on achieving the SDGs, there are numerous obstacles that need to be overcome. One of these is good governance, Machaba said.

The King IV Report on Corporate Governance, published on 1 November 2016, is also expected to advance the SDGs. King IV supports the belief that the good governance of organisations means integrating social and environmental issues into the value creation processes.

Machaba said another challenge across the African continent is the shortage of key skills and talent.

Every year in PwC’s Africa Business Agenda survey, business and government leaders are asked whether strategies for managing talent are on the boardroom agenda, and every year an overwhelming majority say ‘yes’.

Managing talent is considered a priority for their organisations. “This tells us that leadership is paying more than just lip service to managing talent,” Machaba said.

*This was supplied by international auditing company, PricewaterhouseCoopers.

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