The World Government Summit is a Dubai, UAE-based annual event that brings together government leaders for a global dialogue on government processes and policies—including public sector innovation. It is an international platform for the exchange of knowledge involving futurism, innovation, and technology. Every year, various government officials, policymakers, thought leaders, and trailblazers from the private sector gather to explore the future of governments in the coming years as they seek the advancement of mankind. The World Government Summit encourages and supports future-oriented dialogue between the private and the public sectors of 140 countries in order to determine how governments can improve the lives of their people. The collaboration culminates every year in a global summit that becomes the incubator of future global trends – participated in by distinguished officials, thinkers, and business leaders.
The World Government Summit and the MIT Technology Review Insights worked together in selecting the most interesting government technology implementations from the more innovative initiatives from across the world. Three annual GovTech Prizes will be awarded from the short list of 10 best-in-practice tech projects that achieved their goals of creating smart solutions that can inspire other digitally minded governments.
The Outstanding Top 10 in Public Sector Innovation
- SJ Railways
SJ AB, known as SJ, is a government-owned operator of passenger trains in Sweden. The rail transport uses a network of 13,000 km of track. Prompted by SJ’s large deficits, the Swedish parliament decided to privatize the network by separating the ownership of the infrastructure and the train operations. The government opened up the system to private operators through a competitive rendering of local rail service contracts.
While modern train systems on a global scale, with the use of e-tickets, are converted to digital technology, SJ went beyond that. It is now the world’s first train operation to use NFC payment through microchips embedded in the customers. Train passengers were given the option of getting a biometric chip implanted under the skin of their hands.
- Indian Government’s Aadhaar Program
The Government of India launched the world’s largest biometric identity card network. Aadhaar is a unique 12-digit identity number issued to all the country’s residents based on their biometric and demographic data. The Unique Identification Authority of India, a statutory creation under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, collects the data.
Aadhaar is the largest biometric ID system in the world, with over 1.19 billion enrolled members as of November 2017. The enrolment covers 99 %of the country’s population. Enrolment in the Aadhaar is not considered as a proof of citizenship but only as a proof of residence. Aadhaar does not grant anybody the right to live in the country.
Aadhaar is used by the Indian Government to disburse about $40 billion in social welfare to more than 1.2 billion citizens annually.
- Ghana’s National Land Registry Based on Blockchain Tokens
The Government of Ghana’s Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources is partnering with Bitland, a technology developer, to create a complete and permanent national land registry using Blockchain tokens.
A new Blockchain-based initiative in the West African nation of Ghana aims to eliminate corruption and free up trillions of dollars in locked capital for future infrastructure development. It aims to empower people through legal land ownership. Blockchain technology, the basis of Bitcoin, functions as a decentralized ledger for recording every transaction by storing information on a global network of computers that no one can interfere with. A large number of banks rely on Blockchain technology’s potential use in many financial areas including remittances and exchanges.
Blockchain provides reliability and transparency because of its secured decentralized ledgers. The Bitland project intends to show the people of Ghana how technology can bring the country into the future. The goal is to provide services that will allow Ghanaians to survey land and record title deeds on the Bitland Blockchain to provide a permanent and auditable record and also to serve as a liaison with the government in helping resolve disputes.
- Dubai’s Smart Paperless Strategy
The Smart Dubai Office of the United Arab Emirates is in the process of creating a Blockchain-based, paper-free digital transaction platform for the city government’s official documents. The aim is to remove more than 100 million documents from its processes. The city government is now pilot-testing more than 20 Blockchain cases in various areas of government services ranging from transportation and energy to education and health, with the objective of making Dubai as “the world’s happiest and smartest city”.
The Dubai Paperless Strategy is in line with the vision of His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to transform the city into a full-fledged smart city.
The goal of the city government is for employees or customers of the Government of Dubai to not print any paper document after 2021 anymore. This is a reflection of the government’s vision for the government’s humane role, not only for the people of Dubai but to the whole world. The Dubai Paperless Strategy expects to eliminate the annual use of over one billion sheets of paper by the Dubai Government.
According to Dr. Aisha Bint Butti Bin Bishr, Director General of the Smart Dubai Office, their ambitious mission aims to transform Dubai into the smartest and most successful city in the world, in record time. The office is constantly introducing bold new projects and services in order to ensure a safe and efficient experience that caters to the needs and expectations of every Dubai resident and visitor.
- Analytic-Enabled and AI Digital Mental Health Providers in the United Kingdom
The National Health Services of the UK is enlisting artificial intelligence and analytic-enabled digital mental health providers to increase the access to cognitive therapy services to 1.5 million citizens by 2021. Among the digital mental health providers tapped by the NHS is Ieso Digital Health, a leading digital health company in the world that specializes in internet-enabled evidence-based psychological therapies.
Ieso Digital Health uses a specific modality of providing therapy online by using written conversation, combined with strict adherence to disorder-specific treatment protocols. This ensures that patients are experiencing the best possible evidence-based cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for their needs.
Ieso Digital Health uses their proprietary technology that is augmented by natural language processing and artificial intelligence to amplify therapy outcomes for patients while at the same time providing personalized training and supervision for therapists. The system generates high recovery rates and better results for the patients while delivering cost savings for the health economy.
- Tanzania’s Portable DNA Sequencing Technology
Tanzania’s farmers are faced with a major problem affecting cassava, the country’s staple root crop that supplies the daily calories of more than 800 million people around the world. The whitefly-borne virus threatens the survival of the cassava crops. The new portable DNA sequencing technology lets the cassava farmers of Ghana and other countries in East Africa to identify the disease, and helps the scientists find a solution.
A team of scientists, led by Dr. Titus Alicai and Dr. Joseph Ndunguru, with the collaboration of the cassava farmers, launched the Cassava Virus Action Project (CVAP). Armed with the portable Oxford Nanopore MinION DNA sequencer, they work to identify the strain of virus that is attacking their cassava crop. They sequence the virus and transmit their findings in real time for them to be analyzed in nearby labs. Scientists can then offer instructions to farmers on how to respond to whitefly infestation within 48 hours.
Before the introduction of the portable DNA sequence, the process of getting samples and sending them overseas for DNA sequencing took three months, over which time the samples sent were already degraded.
The cost of the standard DNA sequencing equipment costs upwards of US$1 million while the cost of the Nanopore MinION is US$1,000.
The use of the portable DNA sequencing equipment allowed cassava farmers to identify the viruses that affect their plants, which give them the information needed to choose healthier cassava varieties that are resistant to the viruses in the field. Cassava farmers in Uganda also use the same portable DNA sequencing equipment. The hope is to use the same sequencer for other pests and diseases.
- Japanese Startup Ispace Inc. Aims for the Moon Project
Ispace Inc.—the Japanese startup company—is a commercial launch company that plans to develop lunar infrastructure as a first step to transform Japan’s economic development. The startup is financed in part by advertisements showing the moon. The goal of the project is to focus on the harmony between the earth and the moon, and how the planet and its satellite can become one ecosystem.
The Tokyo-based Ispace has already raised $90 million from the country’s leading businesses, including the Development Bank of Japan, a government-owned bank as the lead investor, Japan Airlines Co. and the Tokyo Broadcasting System Holdings Inc. The initial funding will be spent for sending a spacecraft into lunar orbit by 2019 and land another spacecraft the following year.
Ispace is following the playbook of the private companies in the world that lead in space development, such as Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. and Planetary Resources Inc., an asteroid mining company. These companies aim to deliver humanity into the cosmos while securing a fair return for their shareholders. The lunar economy is still many decades away but Ispace is aiming for profits for its corporate projects at the heart of its future missions.
Takeshi Hakamada, CEO of Ispace, believes that humans are not heading to the stars to become poor, making it crucial to create an economy in the outer space.
- South Korea Built K-City for Self-Driving Cars
South Korea has just opened the first part of the 3.45 million-square-feet self-driving car testing facility—known as “K-City”—which is located approximately 20 miles from the capital city of Seoul. The section is a four-lane highway of the facility that will be fully operational by the end of 2018.
The K-City has a design that accurately simulates real-life conditions for self-driving cars, complete with downtown areas, highways, city outskirts, and commercial environments. The grounds will be used to test cars built by Samsung, Hyundai, SK Telecom, and Kia Motors.
The country is looking to make an impact in the realm of autonomous-driving vehicles. The opening of the facility is in line with the government’s plan to make commercially available vehicles with Level 3 autonomy in the next three years.
- Hangzhou’s City Brain Project
The City Government of Hangzhou in China, home to more than nine million people, collaborated with Alibaba and Foxconn to build the “City Brain” project. The concept of the City Brain is for the metropolis to be partly run by artificial intelligence.
Every single city resident is tracked. Activities on social network, movements, purchases, and commutes are uploaded to the AI’s database. The AI was trained to recognize traffic jams, accidents, as well as crimes. The system is run by 50,000 cameras which report incidents to the traffic control center.
The metropolis will be the ideal smart city that is so advanced where infrastructural systems can be altered on the fly by an artificial intelligence.
- Australia’s National Cities Performance Framework
Launched on December 8, 2017 by the Australian Government, the National Cities Performance Framework provides a snapshot of Australia’s 21 largest cities’ productivity and progress. As the very first kind of its kind, the official framework in Australia, it brings together critical data on the different cities in an accessible online format.
The framework provides a single location to track the performance of the different cities included in the project, such as jobs and skills, livability and sustainability, infrastructure and investment, governance, innovation and digital opportunities, housing, and planning and regulation. It also aims to assist all levels of government, the community, and the different industries to monitor, target, and evaluate city policies and investments.
Global Initiative for Public Sector Innovation
Economic uncertainties coupled with increasing expectations from people is a global problem. As the world deals with shrinking budgets and debt burdens, the need to provide social, health, and other basic services to their constituents keep on growing. Efforts to make the lives of the people better are continuously hampered by budgetary restrictions, but the dissatisfaction of the people keeps on rising, in many instances fueling widespread protests and in some cases, even rebellions. While governments have doubled their efforts in providing for the needs of their people, public trust is still eroding fast.
The good news is that world leaders are inching forward to make incremental improvements in the sphere of public sector innovation. At the same time, they’re exerting efforts to tackle the economic problems that limit their socio-economic potential. Many countries have discovered that the use of the right digital technology is the solution to improve public service and optimize socioeconomic potential. The 2017 Summit held plenary sessions, discussion panels, workshops and more to discuss various themes such as climate change, happiness, youth, the world’s challenges and opportunities. Participants showcased the cutting-edge innovations and trends that they have adapted to provide groundbreaking and smart solutions.