Weak digital skills and infrastructures are the biggest obstacles governments in Southeast Asia face to implement new technology, research from the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) finds.

“The lack of human resources is a big barrier”, Ilham Habibie, chairman of the Indonesian National ICT Council (DETIKNAS) told EIU. Citizens are “aware of the benefits of online service delivery”, but do not always have the skills to make full use of them, EIU stated.

It calls on governments to connect with citizens through popular platforms. “Government services need to be present on social media,” said Richard Moya, CIO at the Department of Budget and Management, Philippines.

His department’s Facebook page links to relevant services. Moya believes that governments first need to reach citizens, after which they can build customer-friendly portals for the public.

Besides skills, the lack of internet connectivity “is the primary barrier” to digital governments in the region”, EIU stated. High-speed broadband networks are required to reap the full benefits of online education, e-health and other services which ride on big data sharing, the report wrote.

In Indonesia, “limited access to ICT infrastructure in remote areas is a particular challenge for local governments”, said Bambang Heru Tjahjono, director-general for informatics applications at the Ministry of Communication and Information (KOMINFO), Indonesia.

Mobile platforms could be an alternative, but “government services are not always designed for the mobile environment”, the report said.

Security issues are not a top concern for both the public and private sector to trial new technology solutions, it found. “Respondents believe that security concerns may partially be overcome by setting up ‘private’ government clouds,” it stated.

EIU surveyed 300 technology leaders, half from government and the remaining from the private sector for the report, commissioned by Microsoft. It was supplemented by interviews with public sector managers and experts. All respondents came from Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand.