Digital citizen engagement: insights from Singapore

Wednesday, 26 May, 2021

Digital citizen engagement: insights from Singapore

The global health crisis has pushed public sector organisations around the world to fast-track their digital transformation in an effort to calibrate processes for the new pandemic normal.

Across Asia Pacific, a digital revolution is clearly in motion. Australia has refreshed its Digital Transformation Strategy as its roadmap to make more government services digitally accessible by 2025. Likewise, Vietnam has set major milestones for a digital government and Malaysia has launched its MyDIGITAL blueprint tool as a step forward to realise its ambitions to become a leading digital economy. Not forgetting Singapore, which holds a long-standing reputation as one of the world’s most digitally competitive countries.

Many government agencies have since followed suit to tap on a mix of communications channels, both offline and online, as an effective way to engage with the public.

Data content and social research agency Blackbox Research’s latest annual Public Sector Experience Index (PSXI), an all-round composite index, measured where 30 public sector organisations in Singapore stand in terms of their digitalisation journeys.

Covering 4000 statistically representative Singaporeans and Permanent Residents (PRs), the PSXI tracks PSOs’ — ministries, statutory boards and other agencies — digitalisation journeys, benchmarking their progress over time and across three key indicators: Impressions, Sentiments and Interactions.

Key findings

• Emerging disconnect between public perception and actual experience. There was a wide range of scores across all three indicators — Impressions Sentiments and Interactions — which suggested that Singaporeans are mostly aligned in the way they hold public sector organisations in high regard, but they remain divided when it comes to assessing whether their specific needs and expectations are being met.

• A generational digital divide persists despite digitalisation advances. Despite its progressive and conducive approach to digital technologies, a generational digital divide persists in Singapore. Young respondents rate public sector agencies most favourably, whereas seniors are less satisfied. This is true despite the elderly in Singapore being as informed and as connected as they have ever been.

Saurabh Sardana, Chief Operating Officer of Blackbox Research, said that there are many learning points from these findings that are applicable across different countries.

Anticipating citizens’ needs

“While our study is focused on Singapore’s public sector, these findings can resonate equally across the wider region. Our study highlights that it is no longer about meeting citizens’ needs and expectations, but about anticipating them. By tapping into digital tools such as social media and data analytics, governments can create citizen engagement opportunities for public sector organisations,” Sardana said.

“2020 was an inflection point for digitalisation as public sector organisations face an all-time high in terms of digital interactions with citizens. The greatest challenge for the public sector today is to further build on such interactions by sustaining engagement and surpassing satisfaction levels. With this index, we hope our timely, comprehensive data sparks productive conversations, helping both private and public sector organisations gain greater insight into how they can anticipate users’ constantly evolving needs and expectations,” Sardana said.

Bridging the digital divide

As savvy and connected as older generations may be today, they are still struggling to keep up with the rapid pace of digital progress, Sardana said. “This is an important takeaway and especially relevant for public sector organisations, as it reveals a main point of challenge for countries with ageing populations that are embarking on their own digitalisation journey — and an area where more can be done to bridge the generational divide so that no-one is left behind in the digital future.”

Image credit: © Langnar

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