Last week, Kigali hosted a three-day Africa Public Service Day Conference, where delegates urged governments across the continent to better engage the youth in national development policies and public service delivery. It was acknowledged that it is impossible to effectively deliver public services and bring about socio-economic development without engaging the youth. Youth are the most important and dynamic segment of the population in any country. Across the world, especially developing countries, it is believed that contribution of youth could see enormous socio-economic development.
For this to be achieved, it requires, however, to invest largely in young people’s education, health and protect and guarantee their rights. The corollary of that is change of mindsets towards better service delivery.
It is quite arguable that today’s youth are tomorrow’s innovators, creators, builders and leaders. But they need the required support to attain desirable knowledge and skills to be part and parcel of a broader transformational agenda. The precursor for improved public service delivery is to have people with changed mindsets. To put it succinctly, improved public service delivery must be premised on the shift of patterns of doing things and having hands-on style of management of services.
Given that Rwanda’s largest segment of the population are youth, a lot more needs to be done to train and inculcate young people to contribute more meaningfully to better service delivery. Change of perspectives is the fulcrum for changing the patterns of behaviour in service delivery. Of course, change of mindsets is not the only yardstick but a driving force behind improved services.
However, change of mindsets must have certain ideals. As familiarly known, ‘customer is a king’. This adage is attuned to delivering quick and efficient services. More than ever before, ‘the customer is king’, and this applies to all public and private sector organisations.
The best approach to this is to develop customer-centric strategy. To become truly customer-centric, public sector organisations need first and foremost to gear their cultures towards service for the customer or meeting customer’s expectation. That means aligning agency and customer priorities. Today, virtually all public and private entities have a division or unit in charge of customer-care that is mandated to provide services to customers or to give them orientation, but there’s still a lot of inefficiencies that need to be checked holistically. The government will only come to full fruition by equipping civil servants with the rights skills, plus emboldening change of mindsets towards better service delivery. Of course, this is a curvy road; it takes time, it takes persistence, on this road there is a very important signpost. While the government has tremendously embarked on e-government in numerous services, the prime focus is to put the citizen in the centre.
The fact that the public sector is, collectively, the world’s largest service provider, must be the catalyst to better service delivery. Obviously, any increment improvement in public services positively impacts millions of people. The first step to delivering the customer promise is to know your customers and their needs. To deliver on the customer promise, public sector agencies must build connected government, seamlessly aligning multiple government services with customer needs.
As noted elsewhere, the key to improved service delivery is shifting mindsets to begin with. No matter environment, public institutions must foster efficient, transparent and accountable administrative services. Achieving this requires a significant change in the mindset of civil servants in institutions and at all levels. To this end, a whole mindset will be attuned to transparency, accountability and customer-orientation.
At the same time, customers, whether individual citizens seeking civil registrations or business registrations for commercial licences, must also change their expectations and attitudes becoming more willing to demand better services, avail themselves of complaint mechanism when necessary, and comply with regulation voluntarily.
While public sector agencies remain at the centre of improving service delivery, a custom-centric approach will build service delivery models that can be emulated by all agencies operating in any given country. To address this, the public sector must find ways of improving the efficiency and effectiveness of its services. This means providing value for money by improving quality of services and reducing the costs involved in providing those services.
In my view, as the government recently introduced the slogan of ‘Made-in-Rwanda’ promoting the consumption of locally-made goods and services, equally can enhance ‘Citizens First’, as a slogan whose key pillars are: improved access to government services and improved service delivery performance.
Inefficiency in service delivery isn’t alone in public sector agencies but also in private sector. The change is needed in both sectors. Employees in either sector have habits and mindsets which are hard to accommodate to the trends of the contemporary time. Employees must be given a compelling reason as to why a change is necessary, because if employees do not see the point of the change, even if they agree to it, they won’t be supportive of changing patterns of behavior.
Once again, this goes with capacity building where employees must be trained to have desirable skills to change the mindsets and habits of doing things.
The writer is an international expert.