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Tech & Digitalisation

Keeping Pace: A Global Survey of Digital-Government Transformation

Briefing14th March 2022

Our new five-part series reports on the progress of digital government in major regions worldwide, including sub-Saharan AfricaNorth America, Europe and South-East Asia.

Conversations about digital-government transformation that do not mention Estonia, Singapore or Taiwan are rare since these countries are rightly considered pioneers of digitalising their government services. Large and advanced economies such as Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States are also making progress on the systemic changes required to bring government in line with the needs of economies and societies transformed by the internet.

During the past 15 years, digital transformation has become widely recognised as a priority for governments worldwide, producing an increasingly well-developed field of study and research among academics, think tanks, and multilateral and policy organisations. Growing expectations around the efficient delivery of public services, on par with the private sector, continue to influence how governments are leveraging technology to fundamentally rethink, redesign and improve them. The Covid-19 pandemic has increased this sense of urgency, prompting governments to step up and embrace innovative approaches to serving their citizens.

The Different Phases of Government Transformation

Phase I: Analogue Government

  • Closed operations and internal focus

  • Analogue procedures

  • Government as a provider

Phase II: e-Government

  • User-centred approach but supply driven

  • One-way communications and service delivery

  • ICT-enabled procedures, but often analogue in design

  • Sliced ICT development and acquisition

  • Greater transparency

  • Government as a provider

Phase III: Digital Government

  • Procedures that are digital by design

  • User-driven public services

  • Government as a Platform (GaaP)

  • Open by default (co-creation)

  • Data-driven public sector

  • Proactive administration

Phase IV: GovTech

  • Citizen-centric public services that are universally accessible

  • Whole-of-government approach to digital transformation

  • Simple, efficient and transparent government systems

Source: OECD

The pace of transformation differs between and within countries. Developed countries are by and large transitioning from e-government to digital government with the fastest progress in areas of public-service delivery and internal operations, but the slowest in citizen engagement and administrative reform. The majority of developing countries are still in the first phase of transformation while others, in recognition of their limited capacities, are adapting more quickly to emerging technologies and leapfrogging phases of the process. At all phases, governments are mostly innovating around three models: government to government, which comprises high-quality digital services for internal use; government to business; and government to their citizens/or individuals.

In this series, we review how the digital-transformation challenge is being approached in the following four regions – sub-Saharan Africa, North America (Canada and the US), the UK and Europe, and Asia – to discover which countries are setting the pace. We also highlight the digital-government ecosystems that support the creation of and access to data and services as part of these interactions with governments as well as best practices. Finally, we shed light on the factors that support and hinder progress, and identify the latest opportunities.

Figure 1

The connections within a fully developed digital-government ecosystem

Source: TBI

In our report "Transforming Government for the 21st Century", we identified three principles – purposeful governance, enabling infrastructure and responsive institutions – which underpin a whole-of-government transformation that seeks to modernise the public sector while promoting citizen-centric, efficient and transparent government. Purposeful governance refers to how governments identify their priorities and mission through strong political leadership and organise their resources to tackle these effectively. Enabling infrastructure covers the platforms, services and tools that governments need to put in place to support a fully functioning digital society and economy. Responsive institutions is a term that captures the ways in which governments are redesigning systems as well as the organisations responsible for policy and service delivery, which break down internal silos and invest in building their capabilities.

Our Approach

Tom Loosemore’s “Applying the culture, processes, business models and technologies of the internet era to respond to people’s raised expectations” informs our understanding of digital government and digital transformation. This covers broader ground than the definitions used by some policy organisations, which often focus on making traditional government services available online. For this series, we have drawn on a combination of established assessment frameworks – the UN’s E-Government Development Index (EGDI) and the E-Participation Index (EPI), and the OECD Digital Government Index (DGI) – as well as our own qualitative research.

There are several approaches to measuring progress in digital-government transformation. The three indices we have used comprise the most comprehensive datasets available: the EGDI, which measures the capacity to develop and implement digital-government services; the EPI, which measures how national government portals facilitate the provision of information, consultation and participatory decision-making; and the DGI to benchmark the progress of digital-government reforms across OECD members and key partner countries.

Our conclusion to the series will include a summary of key insights. We welcome feedback and engagement so please get in touch to discuss our work here:

Download our table that compares the most widely used frameworks to measure the progress of digital transformation

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