Godfrey: the OGCIO is a service business

Name:          Jeremy Godfrey
Title:             Independent consultant
CWHK: Where are you heading?
Jeremy Godfrey: I have no firm plans yet. But I have lived in Hong Kong for the past 20 years. I want to stay in Hong Kong as I consider this place home. In the immediate future, I will resume my independent consulting practice, which was what I did before joining the government. I enjoy my time in the government and being of service to the IT sector. I will find ways to continue public service [after I leave the government].
CWHK: Your personal highlights during the term?
JG: There are many. Among them is the works we have done on the repositioning of IT professions within the government. We have done a lot towards developing the skills and roles of government IT pros. As a result, government IT staffers are recognized for key roles they play in inspiring and supporting their colleagues across the government to use IT in the best possible ways and in meeting policy requirements and business goals. IT is not just tech, but about people.
The revamp of, particularly MyGovHK, is another highlight. We set our sights on benchmarking e-government services against the best in commercial sector. There is no point to compare ourselves with [e-government services in] Singapore, Australia, or the UK because Hong Kong citizens don’t experience e-government services anywhere else. But many of them have experienced e-services by great enterprises.
Digital inclusion is a massive highlight for me. When I first joined the government, I hadn’t appreciated the importance of digital inclusion and the differences it can make. Programs like Be NetWize—an Internet education campaign—and the District Cyber Center Alliance the OGCIO supports are meaningful.
CWHK: Our readers tell us that GovHK can be difficult to navigate, with different departments only handling their specific tasks. We realize you’ve tried to address this with the plan. In your opinion, how well has worked—has it met your expectations?
JG: The site has become more user-friendly, though it is still a work-in-progress that needs further improvement such as integration with transaction services. We have already laid the groundwork, so expect more services to be accessed through your account.
CWHK: How has the role of OGCIO changed in the last three years? Do you see the role changing for the next person?
JG: There are continuous changes. The OGCIO, besides giving advice, is a business that delivers services to internal clients through the cloud and external clients through
CWHK: Is the OGCIO still on schedule to roll out the HK government cloud strategy this year?
JG: The government is on track to deliver its cloud strategy this year while a variety of cloud-based apps for internal use by government departments will be rolled out over the next two to three years. These apps include collaboration, records management, human resources management, as well as “some [form of] procurement [processes].”
As far as cloud computing is concerned, the OGCIO will position itself as a cloud service provider to other government departments. But we won’t force the same pace [of cloud adoption among the departments]. The practical way to go about it is to leave it to departments to decide when they will get onto it.
CWHK: If you were to handpick the next GCIO, who will that person be? Or can you detail the must-have characteristics and abilities of your successor?
JG: The government will choose my successor, I won’t. The next person must care about the impact and/or outcome. He or she needs to give good advice and support when it comes to the use of IT. The next GCIO must also care about IT access for people with disabilities and low income groups, in addition to being able to work with a whole range of people.
CWHK: The OGCIO is an office rather than a bureau. Do you think that’s a major limitation for you and the incoming person in terms of making improvements in internal IT usage and public services delivery?
JG: The OGCIO is a hybrid [of a department and a bureau] as it was formed by merging an IT policy bureau and an IT services department. Making changes is easier than one might think because there is a good team of IT pros across the departments who have a common view of what it means to be an IT pro. In addition, business users want IT to be their best tool for meeting goals. IT staffers and business users are on the same page.
CWHK: I notice you and some of your colleagues from another department have iPads. Do you use it for work all the time?
JG: The use of tablets is a department-by-department decision, but our choices of tablets won’t be limited to iPads. The government uses lots of paper—like drafts, minutes, and approval documents. Many of us in the past carried these to formal meetings. But we often run from one meeting to another, so we need a mobile device to access information.
My iPad experience is good. For instance with some programs installed, I can do annotations in documents. However, the iPad isn’t 100 percent perfect—iPads aren’t secure, take too much effort to support and aren’t user-friendly enough for wider deployment.
CWHK: Do you think there is anything in the government’s structure or responsibility that needs changes so that the OGCIO will be more effective?
JG: We don’t change structure. One significant difference between the private and government sector is that there’s constant pressure to improve and make money but there is no such constant change in the government.

Changes do take place in the government, but not relentlessly. We create continuous processes to facilitate change, for instance by setting improvement targets over a two-to-three year period. Departments such as Immigration have increasing business volume, so must use IT to speed up changes. But departments that don’t have as much business volume can change at a more steady pace.