12. Digital Government


This module summarises Chapter 12 which provides guidance on how broadband-enabled central and sub-national governments can become more agile, efficient and effective in fulfilling their roles, while responding to citizen and business’ demands for greater transparency and inclusiveness in public sector operations. It outlines the expected benefits of shifting from e-government to digital government, of increasing availability of open government data and of using data as a strategic asset for improved policy making. The chapter then introduces existing measurement and impact assessment tools and approaches for these policies, both for central/federal and city governments. It also provides an overview of existing efforts in the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region to advance digital government, open government data and smart cities, and describes current trends across the OECD in these areas. Finally, it provides a number of good practices from LAC and OECD countries. These can serve as examples of forward-looking initiatives addressing the most pressing issues for the development of digital government in the region.

Explore this module

Main policy objectives
Tools for measurement and analysis
The LAC region
Leading good practices


Main policy objectives

To reap the full benefits of broadband and digital technologies, clear policy objectives are needed to guide decisions and investments made across the administration and different levels of government. An overarching governance framework is needed to identify roles, responsibilities and co-ordination mechanisms that promote the coherent use of digital technologies in the public sector, while boosting innovation and establishing the conditions for managing risk. These policy objectives are:

  • Improving the supply, quality and uptake of digital government services.
  • Clarifying governance and strengthening management of government information services.
  • Connecting government institutions to enable digital transformation.
  • Open up government data and improve data and information reuse across the public sector.
  • Leverage technology and innovation to organise cities more efficiently.

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Tools for measurement and analysis

Digital government performance and public sector connectivity

The use of digital technologies is increasingly considered a precondition for the performance of public services. ICTs are essential for processes and services throughout the administrative back office, from national security to tax collection and issuance of public permits. Still, the efficiency and effectiveness of delivering, using and managing ICTs within the public sector is only measured sporadically, and performance indicators are one of the weaknesses of this area of work. Creating consensus around standardised metrics or indicators and impact evaluation models can enhance comparability of data across countries and support peer-learning exercises.

Most measurement efforts tend to focus on budget and time management rather than on actual value creation. Existing international measures focus on framework conditions, such as the World Economic Forum (WEF) competitiveness index, using data from entities such as the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the World Bank, or on government supply, such as the United Nations’ e-Government Survey (Figure 12.1) and the European Commission’s revised e-government benchmark framework. The latter also includes some output- and outcome-related measures, such as uptake and user orientation.

Source: UN (2014), United Nations E-Government Survey 2014,

While making useful contributions to the understanding of the international development of e-government and digital government, these indicators need to be complemented by operational insights on governments’ performance in digitising the public sector. These sets of new indicators can help measure impact not only in terms of inputs and outputs, but also in terms of outcomes.

Measuring OGD implementation and effects

It is also important to reach a degree of maturity and consensus around impact assessment methodologies for open government data policies. This can help guide governments as they implement their policies and programmes and maximise value creation. Few objective measures exist at the international level to help governments understand OGD efforts and effects. The OECD has developed the OURdata Index, in its publication Government at a Glance 2015 (OECD, 2015b), which assesses governments’ efforts on three fronts: increasing data availability on the national portal; increasing data accessibility on the national portal; and providing active support for the reuse of data.

Smart cities

Different initiatives exist for measuring smart city performance. Applying its conceptual framework, the IDB has developed an assessment tool for Emerging and Sustainable Cities, gathering 140 indicators from a variety of sectors that help the IDB and local governments assess the sustainability of emerging cities. Emerging cities are defined as rapidly growing intermediate size cities of 100 000 to 2 million people. This tool is particularly valuable, as it consists of a set of indicators that was especially designed and developed to be implemented in the LAC region. Under its Emerging and Sustainable Cities Initiative (ESCI), which aims to foster smart and sustainable development of emerging Latin American cities, the IDB has developed a conceptual framework for analysing smart development. It is based on three pillars:

  • Environmental sustainability and climate change: This includes indicators on efficiency and quality in water management and delivery, sanitation and drainage coverage and quality, waste collection coverage and quality of management, energy coverage, efficiency and sustainability, air quality, greenhouse gas emissions, noise control and vulnerability to natural disasters.

  • Comprehensive urban development: This groups indicators on urban design and planning, fairness in distribution of urban services, urban transport network efficiency, economic competitiveness and public safety. It includes indicators on connectivity (broadband, mobile phones, smartphones), levels of educational attainment and quality of infrastructure.

  • Fiscal sustainability and good governance, with a strong focus on transparency, fiscal effectiveness and sustainability: This includes indicators measuring participatory and modern public management (supported by the use of digital technologies), transparency, tax and financial autonomy, quality of public spending, contingent liabilities and sustainability of municipal debt.

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Overview of the situation in the LAC region

The LAC region has seen substantial change in the past two decades, including a growing middle class, rising levels of education, increased Internet usage and burgeoning mobile penetration. Rising connectivity across the LAC region is changing how people interact in social, economic and civic spheres. Their expectations for the delivery of public services and in how they can interact with the delivery of these services are increasing. As a result, at a time of growing fiscal pressure on LAC governments, public authorities are expected to tackle increasingly complex issues for which they may not have sufficient information, adequate resources or capacities, and are expected to improve public sector productivity to deal with these growing demands. Governments thus need to use technology and data more strategically. To achieve these goals, public sectors across the LAC region need to build a shared view of how digital government is supposed to work, improve collaboration and co-ordination across institutions, and enhance public engagement and participation mechanisms to leverage data, knowledge and talent from their communities.

Digital government

Governments in the LAC region have begun to develop national agendas or strategies to increase digitisation of government processes and develop digital public service delivery and uptake. Most provide online services to their citizens and businesses. However, existing processes have often been transferred online without a substantial overhaul of back-office procedures. The design of these services can be driven by internal priorities. Development is frequently outsourced through traditional procurement arrangements that may not provide the required flexibility or adapt services to user demand. Traditional procurement rules may limit or prevent the public sector from leveraging the skills and potential of small and highly specialised start-ups in favour of large firms. Designing effective digital services demands appropriate governance frameworks as well as institutional capacity. Service delivery in the LAC region is often designed in a silo approach, as an isolated initiative focused on the internal priorities of the delivering organisation. This fragments the online user interface of the public sector, making it harder for citizens and businesses to access online services.

Open Government Data

Governments in the LAC region are progressively recognising the importance of developing overarching open government data (OGD) strategies. A majority of the LAC countries that responded to the OECD/IDB Questionnaire reported that they have an OGD strategy in place (Figure 12.7). However, in most of these countries, open data regulations are, at least conceptually, linked to Freedom of Information Acts (FOIs), many of which were enacted before the open data movement reached government. This might suggest that the legal framework of open data needs to be updated to include considerations such as the publication of government data in open formats by default.

Smart cities

People in the LAC region are not only increasingly connected and mobile, but also Increasingly urban, which translates into new opportunities and organisational challenges. The region is the second most urbanised on the planet, increasing from a 64% urbanisation rate in 1980 to 79% in 2010 (UN, 2015). Cities in the LAC region, like others around the world, are still trying to assess what “smart” looks like. Thanks to increased awareness and concrete challenges, they are rapidly joining broader efforts to create smarter cities and developing initiatives to create sustainable and innovative urban areas. However, in general terms, major challenges remain in terms of traffic, gas emissions and ecological footprint, urban planning, government efficiency and transparency, by comparison with OECD standards.

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Good practices

Some of the good practices addressed in Chapter 12 include:

  • The digital transformation of government entails incorporating ICTs in broader public sector modernisation efforts and rethinking operations and processes to make them digital by design. It also requires new service design and delivery methods that, through increased user engagement, help public authorities better understand user needs and preferences and deploy digital services more flexibly. To ensure return on investment, governments in the region must take steps to reduce and eliminate the digital divide and improve access to ICTs and digital services, to create a critical mass of users.

  • Institutional frameworks should help governments use digital technology and data in strategic ways to maximise their impact on public sector performance. While there is no “one-size-fits-all” model, governance frameworks should create units or bodies responsible for digital government. Given the appropriate policy levers and co-ordination tools, they can guide digital transformation and break down silos and cultural barriers that block open and collaborative ways of working and making decisions.

  • Organisational frameworks should also improve the management of data. Governments can use this information throughout the policy cycle and service development process to support evidence-based decisions. Public authorities should focus on developing management tools to give central government and project managers a clear view of their existing assets, to inform strategic decisions on ICT use and investment.

  • Finally, governments must review the gaps in their existing ICT and project management skills, and develop strategies to attract, develop and retain those with the necessary skills.

  • Concrete action must be taken to create a dynamic ecosystem, through regular consultation with stakeholders such as data producers, providers and reusers. Encouraging the reuse of open data and data analytics is key, as open government data is only useful insofar as it can guide policy going forward.

  • City governments should make decisive investments in building institutional capacities. Technology can be used to collect and process data to better understand human behaviour, find innovative transport arrangements, adequately plan infrastructure and waste management, build energy-efficient cities, deliver more tailored and better services and create more equitable societies. City governments in the region should move towards more open governance models and use technology strategically, to engage citizens and businesses, and share ideas, data and information that promotes innovation at the city level, where most public services are delivered.

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Introduction •  Regulatory frameworks and digital strategies •  Spectrum policy •  Competition and infrastructure bottlenecks •  Extending broadband access and services •  Affordability, government charges and digital inclusion •  Convergence •  Regional integration •  Skills and Jobs •  Business uptake, entrepreneurship and digital content •  E-health •  Digital government •  Consumer protection and e-commerce •  Digital security management •  Privacy protection


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