Public Private Partnerships: Driving Transformation through Innovation
By Tendai Innocent Khumalo, Senior Sales Manager (Industry Sales) at T-Systems in South Africa
Transforming services through ICT that works is essential in enabling the transformation of South Africa as a whole, and in order to create programmes and outcomes that benefit the public, it is essential for the private sector to participate.
Service delivery is at the heart of Government’s mandate, and technology is a key enabler in improving service delivery. However, technology alone is not a ‘silver bullet’.
The talent, skills and experience within the private sector should be harnessed to allow for technological innovation that is able to make a real difference in the lives of the country’s citizens.
Take for example, the transportation sector in Austria. Through a Public Private Partnership (PPP), a single ticketing system has been developed, where one ticket can be used for almost all means of transport such as the Metro, buses, trains and trams.
Private businesses can provide the necessary infrastructure for these types of services such as WAN and LAN services as well as systems, applications and services hosted in the cloud.
This can assist Government to take advantage of a ‘pay-as-you-use’ service enabling them to scale and switch services on and off, as and when they need them without the costly infrastructure investment.
This allows Government to redeploy this ‘spend’ into other areas and focus on the actual delivery of service rather than the IT aspect and requirements that underpin these services. This reduces the distance between Government and the public.
This example of ICT that works is just one area where PPPs are benefiting both Government and the private sector overseas. Imagine the possibilities in South Africa. These partnerships could create the capability to issue an identity document to a mother who has given birth to her child – before leaving the hospital.
Such partnerships can also provide blueprints to international initiatives that can be leveraged for the local market. For example, strides have been made in healthcare in South Africa based on solutions that were developed for the healthcare sector in international markets.
Basic services can be enhanced by closing the gap between citizens and government to allow service to be delivered where and when they are needed.
The possibilities are endless, but what needs to be kept top of mind are the need of the citizens, and how technology and innovation can be harnessed to create real benefit. Ease of use and functionality are critical to transformation through technology innovation.
PPPs assist Government in accessing skills that are critical to transformation through technology, and aid private organisations in aligning their services to be relevant to the local market.
Transformation is a journey, and collaboration between Government and private sector is a mutually beneficial step on this journey. By partnering with private sector entities, Government can benefit from the skills and experience of these organisations.
Ultimately Government is a business, with the citizens as customers, and should follow trend in terms of employing the right skills, measuring and monitoring solutions against desired outcomes, introducing repercussions for poor performance, and rewarding achievements made.
PPPs have the potential to have enormous benefit to South Africa as a whole. Corporates are essentially driven by measurable outcomes, bringing the expertise, the methods and repeatable processes to the partnership, while the Government brings the challenges and the money.
By harnessing the skills of the private sector, Government can improve service delivery to citizens and ensure knowledge transfer to assist in bridging the current skills gap.
By collaborating with Government on service delivery projects, private sector organisations stand to gain additional business, which enhances profitability, in turn contributing towards improving the economy and creating much needed jobs. This is a win-win situation for all involved, and creates a cycle of benefit that continues to grow.
However, for PPPs to be successful, the word ‘partnership’ is key. Such ventures should be driven by specific programmes, and focus should be directed at creating a partnership that is measurable in terms of its impact on service delivery.
The outcome of the PPP is of the utmost importance: what does this partnership aim to achieve, by when, and how will this be measured?
Once these criteria have been addressed, Government will be better able to determine the right private sector organisation to partner with in order to deliver according to the desired solution. Partnering on outcomes-based projects with dual accountability is key to the success of PPPs.
Leveraging the success of such initiatives in other countries by partnering with locally-based multinational corporations and adapting these solutions to local scenarios can speed the process of service delivery. The methods, assets, skills and solutions are already available, which ensures that the outcome of the partnership can be more effective.
Ultimately, service delivery through PPPs should be driven by the need to create zero distance between the citizen and Government, closing the gap between those who need services, and where services are delivered.
Service delivery should be driven by requirements, an understanding of what citizens require, which drives the creation of an approach and the most appropriate partnership between private sector and Government.
In this way, transformation through innovation and ICT that works for South Africa can be achieved, which will make a lasting and tangible impact on the lives of the country’s citizens.
SAS: Improving the British Army’s decision making with data
SAS’ long-standing relationship with the British Army is built on mutual respect and grounded by a reciprocal understanding of each others’ capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Roderick Crawford, VP and Country GM for SAS UKI, states that the company’s thorough grasp of the defence sector makes it an ideal partner for the Army as it undergoes its own digital transformation.
“Major General Jon Cole told us that he wanted to enable better, faster decision-making in order to improve operational efficiency,” he explains. Therefore, SAS’ task was to help the British Army realise the “significant potential” of data through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to automate tasks and conduct complex analysis.
In 2020, the Army invested in the SAS ‘Viya platform’ as an overture to embarking on its new digital roadmap. The goal was to deliver a new way of working that enabled agility, flexibility, faster deployment, and reduced risk and cost: “SAS put a commercial framework in place to free the Army of limits in terms of their access to our tech capabilities.”
Doing so was important not just in terms of facilitating faster innovation but also, in Crawford’s words, to “connect the unconnected.” This means structuring data in a simultaneously secure and accessible manner for all skill levels, from analysts to data engineers and military commanders. The result is that analytics and decision-making that drives innovation and increases collaboration.
Crawford also highlights the importance of the SAS platform’s open nature, “General Cole was very clear that the Army wanted a way to work with other data and analytics tools such as Python. We allow them to do that, but with improved governance and faster delivery capabilities.”
SAS realises that collaboration is at the heart of a strong partnership and has been closely developing a long-term roadmap with the Army. “Although we're separate organisations, we come together to work effectively as one,” says Crawford. “Companies usually find it very easy to partner with SAS because we're a very open, honest, and people-based business by nature.”
With digital technology itself changing with great regularity, it’s safe to imagine that SAS’ own relationship with the Army will become even closer and more diverse. As SAS assists it in enhancing its operational readiness and providing its commanders with a secure view of key data points, Crawford is certain that the company will have a continually valuable role to play.
“As warfare moves into what we might call ‘the grey-zone’, the need to understand, decide, and act on complex information streams and diverse sources has never been more important. AI, computer vision and natural language processing are technologies that we hope to exploit over the next three to five years in conjunction with the Army.”
Fundamentally, data analytics is a tool for gaining valuable insights and expediting the delivery of outcomes. The goal of the two parties’ partnership, concludes Crawford, will be to reach the point where both access to data and decision-making can be performed qualitatively and in real-time.
“SAS is absolutely delighted to have this relationship with the British Army, and across the MOD. It’s a great privilege to be part of the armed forces covenant.”