The military rule and the Kim Young-sam administration’s promises to foster an information and communication network were followed by the Kim Dae-jung administration’s policies to promote risky enterprises. President Roh Moo-hyun envisioned the transition to e-government, Lee Myung-bak presented an IT convergence plan, Park Geun-hye supported initiatives to promote government data transparency, and Moon Jae-in worked for freer Internet access. The key aspects of the “fourth industrial revolution” (software, computing, networking, cloud, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things) all have one thing in common: the use of computers.
Yoon’s Digital Platform Government
President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol appears determined to establish a digital platform government. His vision remains in line with previous administrations’ digital transformation efforts. So what would set Yoon apart from his predecessors in terms of specific goals and action plans? What legacy would he leave behind compared to past presidents?
Let’s take a look at the usage of the word “platform”. The term, in general, refers to a railway platform. But in business, a platform is an IT architecture where the activities of production, consumption and distribution take place in a coherent way. In other words, a system that creates value by linking consumers and producers and by facilitating their exchanges.
Nowadays, the term is not limited to the online sphere, but is extended to encompass a broader social ecosystem underlying various sectors. Particularly in the public sector, e-government centered around the Ministry of Interior and Security and the Ministry of Science and ICT would come closest to an IT platform. It is a platform since it was launched to serve as a system and is still managed that way. Building on South Korea’s legacy of having the world’s fastest internet and #1 e-government for three years since 2010, we will need to address our shortcomings and build our strengths to develop the platform into an even more advanced platform.
Along with the global trend of digital transformation, we need to lay the foundation for cloud computing, tap into the metaverse to overcome physical and time limitations, and transform the work environment amid the pandemic. We can also use big data and AI to improve the government system into a more efficient, secure and transparent system. Smart industry driving technologies should be developed and integrated into the renewed platform.
Importance of platform, data
There is nothing so special in the above proposals.
So what additional steps need to be taken to animate digital platforms so that they generate more innovative and forward-looking results? In a nutshell, it is data that distinguishes today’s digital platforms from the previous version of e-government. To do this, it is of the utmost necessity to establish a data governance policy that coordinates the aspects responsible for the production, collection, storage and management of data.
In other words, policies must determine what data is produced in each ministry and municipality. They need to determine who owns the data, how to normalize the data, and how much data should be shared and disclosed. When these policies take root, we will be ready to integrate data sources. A standardized and integrated data set can serve as the primary conduit within and between government agencies and the public. It also allows for transparency in the work process, which helps foster mutual trust and efficient and timely decision-making. A unified data set can even promote new businesses, fueling a national ecosystem favorable to industrial development.
Another element of a successful digital platform policy is the integration of ordinary people into the platform. Digital technology should not exclusively favor conglomerates and technology companies. It can also benefit those who are overshadowed by these giants: individual merchants, small and medium-sized businesses, and ordinary citizens. Encouraging those on the margins of power to capitalize on digital technologies can help bridge the digital divide. For example, connecting the government-led digital platform to private sector platforms can foster entrepreneurship, inviting start-ups and small businesses to benefit from integration into a digital platform centered on the government.
It is also important to train computer experts. The promotion of talents is essential to meet the various digital needs and to energize the digital ecosystem. Such a policy offers employment opportunities for young people. However, current policies aimed at cultivating tech talent do not define priorities. Stuck in the past, they do not fully integrate what the most advanced sectors demand. The new administration must resolve these unresolved challenges left by previous administrations.
To illustrate some exemplary uses of the platform, a data governance system that coordinates data across ministries and municipalities can help create a public data catalog service, like an AI secretary. This virtual assistant helps with administrative services, legal affairs, taxation and civil complaints. Specifically, it can serve as a digital AI guide that answers questions, breaks down complex terms for laypersons, and provides consultation on filing complaints.
In addition, the government can launch a personalized data service, called MyData, which provides information on job opportunities, social benefits, tax affairs, lifelong learning, vocational training programs and crime prevention services. In order to move such an application from an application that simply explains technical terms to a more comprehensive application that provides real services, we need to revise the traditional e-government system where data was distributed among departments and municipalities. disparate, and develop an accessible and unique structure called Government as a Service, or GaaS, based on standardized and integrated data governance. Such a transition requires the development of relevant administrative policies and political agreements between data owners and managers.
A CIO under PM
The final piece of the puzzle to successfully establishing and operating a digital platform is an organization that plans, coordinates and integrates the platform.
The options currently available – the Ministry of Interior and Security and the Ministry of Science and ICT – do not have the authority and capacity to play this role. Additionally, political sensitivities, which bureaucracies fail to provide, are needed to coordinate departmental responsibilities and mitigate municipal conflicts of interest. That’s why we need to put in place senior IT positions — chief information officer and chief digital officer — directly under the president’s or prime minister’s office. Through consensus and integration, we can establish a shared and coordinated data governance system based on the data created and collected by the digital platform.
Such efforts require a supportive government environment for the use of collected and aggregated data. By generating diverse and useful data through the interface with the private sector, we can increase the value of digital platform services. We can also animate data transaction systems and data-based businesses.
One thing to keep in mind when powering a platform is that it tends to be dominated by more powerful entities. To prevent this from happening, it is essential to manage the platforms in an open manner and to constantly monitor activities in order to avoid conflicts of interest between those who manage the platform.
By Lee Young-sang
Lee Young-sang is chairman and CEO of DataStreams, a data management company in Seoul. His opinions expressed in this article are his own. — Ed.
By Korea Herald (firstname.lastname@example.org)