LIVE FROM DIGITAL SOCIETIES POLICY FORUM, BANGKOK: With cities and communities across the world facing bigger challenges than ever before, emerging digital services are giving governments the tools to address many common problems.

Delivering the keynote at the event today, John Giusti, chief regulatory officer at GSMA (pictured), said: “Rapid urbanisation is putting strain on cities’ infrastructure, pollution, natural disasters, and humanitarian crises need to be better monitored and managed, and a growing population will require access to essential services.”

The digitisation of services and the rise of the IoT – the creation of networks of intelligently connected devices and interoperable services – allows citizens to seamlessly interact with different aspects of their life all over digital channels, he explained.

For a glimpse the impact a digital future will have, he gave a number of examples in Asia Pacific. Local governments in China are using IoT to monitor public buses and use the data collected to deliver more effective and efficient transportation.

Mobile operators in Taiwan are collaborating with city governments to use IoT technology to collect real-time data on water levels and develop capabilities to improve flood control and disaster recovery.

In Pakistan the government held competitions calling on citizens to design mobile apps to improve government services, transparency and information dissemination.

These examples, Giusti said, capture what a digital society is all about: using connectivity to offer innovative services, share information quickly, react more efficiently to identified problems and ultimately build more inclusive communities.

Common steps
While countries across the region are at varying stages of connectivity, he noted there are a number of common elements required for making digital societies a reality.

First, because innovation always outpaces regulation, flexible governance structures are key. Second, governments need to think big-picture and have long-term planning for their digital society. A strong vision and strategy is key, he said.

Third, digital societies will not develop in a silo and require collaboration on many fronts: “Within governments, we must acknowledge that the impact of digitisation falls across many different sectors and agencies. As our societies become increasingly connected, digitisation is no longer only relevant to ICT ministers, but also to finance, health, education ministers, and the list goes on,” Giusti said.

The final point is that data is vital: “Digital societies accumulate a wealth of information. We must use this data to drive policy making,” Giusti advises.