Break away from silo mentality

Abang Johari addresses the Sarawak Civil Service Innovation Convention Awards (SCSICA) 2021 ceremony. Photo: JaPen Sarawak

KUCHING: Government agencies must break away from silo mentality by being strategically collaborative and working together actively across all sectors in order for Sarawak to achieve its aspirations by 2030.

Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg said a classic criticism of the public sector and a key obstacle to innovation was the siloed approach to government, which also extended across sectors and into the public domain.

He explained that by working in silos, there would not be a comprehensive and pragmatic approach to government, especially interrelation between the agencies involved.

“We cannot create public value in isolation. Better outcomes need to be developed collaboratively. This is relevant not just to the state government agencies but to the federal government agencies as well. We have to work together.”

Citing the issue of dilapidated schools as an example, the chief minister said Sarawak has the funds, so the Education (Ministry) and the state government have to tackle the problem together.

“If there is an issue with land, we will come in. But in terms of the disbursement and the appointment of people who are going to develop or improve the schools, it is a common endeavour between agencies from both sides.”

He said this when officiating at the Sarawak Civil Service Innovation Convention Awards (SCSICA) 2021 in conjunction with the official closing of the Sarawak Civil Service Innovation Month 2021 at the State Legislative Assembly Complex here today (Oct 14).

Commenting on this year’s theme – ‘Innovation: Breaking Through Norms’, Abang Johari stressed that governments needed to understand, test, and embed new ways of doing things.

“As the government, we must be agile and responsive to the need of the citizens and at the same time, we should be proactive and foresighted in order to be innovative.

“This is what I would expect from all Sarawak government agencies. It is high time for the Sarawak government to be an innovative government,” he said.

He said one lesson learned from the Covid-19 pandemic was that they could no longer be reactive in handling and tackling any crisis or pandemic – “We must be agile, proactive, and ready for the next crisis in the future.”

He said that for governments to understand the types of innovations worth pursuing, they needed to reach a better understanding of those affected by their work, that is, the people and businesses.

“This ongoing drive towards a seamless and proactive government demands humility on the part of the public sector – to listen to the rakyat from the grassroots and build on their insights. Only then, can we succeed in bringing Sarawak to be an advanced state by 2030,” he said.

The chief minister expressed his firm belief that different areas and levels of government, sectors, and parts of society each had unique strengths, competencies and insights, adding that the most impactful innovation successes occurred when they came together.

“Therefore, for us to be able to achieve our intended outcome from the Post Covid-19 Development Strategy (PCDS) in 2030, strategic partnerships across government (socio-economic and enabler sectors) and with businesses and civil society organisations are very important,” he said.

He added that on top of coping with the Covid-19 crisis, governments must also deal with accelerating technological shifts, which were fundamentally changing the ways in which people live and interact with governments.

“This ever-growing and interconnected ecosystem of citizens and other stakeholders is demanding and expecting better performance from governments, resulting in increasingly complex and unpredictable challenges and future scenarios,” he said.

He pointed out that innovative countries such as Estonia, China, United Arab Emirates were taking action to eliminate points of friction between governments and those that they govern.

“The seamless government approach enables these countries to re-imagine the ways in which governments can collaborate and consider future scenarios,” he said.