While effective governments are the cornerstone of poverty reduction and inclusive growth, weak capacity in developing countries results in falling fiscal space, procurement inefficiencies, and poor service delivery. There are rising expectations from citizens for the government to perform on par with the service standards of the private sector. Technology has the potential to boost government efficiency, transparency, responsiveness, and citizen trust. However, the capacity to leverage technology for public sector transformation is uneven and typically weak in developing countries.
To ensure the public sector keeps up and makes the most of technology, the World Bank Group launched in 2019 the GovTech Global Initiative. GovTech is a whole-of-government approach to digitalization that promotes simple, accessible, and efficient government. It aims to promote the use of technology to transform the public sector, improve service delivery to citizens and businesses, and increase efficiency, transparency and accountability. GovTech is a pillar of the Digital Economy Framework, providing necessary technology to foster economic growth, reduce poverty, and boost shared prosperity.
Click to view: The Global GovTech Partnership | GovTech Goals and Approach | Digital technology can address key governance challenges | Pulling it all together at the country level | Data as a Commodity | Building Blocks of GovTech | GovTech Global Public Goods and Services
The GovTech Global Partnership, housed at and managed by the World Bank, is a mechanism to convene key stakeholders leading in the digital governance landscape, including governments; multinational technology companies; local and regional technology companies; freelance IT experts; development partners and civil society organizations to promote the use of foundational and frontier digital technologies to help transform the way governments deliver to citizens and businesses. This Partnership will allow the World Bank to provide clients with a more integrated and fit-for-purpose suite of services to advance strengthened digital governance.
The Partnership will advance the GovTech agenda by promoting:
- Analytical Work: Conducting research and providing knowledge and expertise to inform GovTech design and implementation.
- Global Public Goods: Creating public goods including standards, evaluation tools, open source core systems and modular applications.
- Engagement: Financing work at country, regional and global levels and individual GovTech projects, providing technical assistance for implementation support and brokering with the private sector for solution development.
- Coordination of Partnerships: Coordinating and aligning external partners
The GovTech Partnership will bring together relevant stakeholders, who each have different interests but could converge on spreading the benefits and managing the risks of GovTech globally:
- Developing country governments at various stages of digital maturity interested in leveraging GovTech to address key development challenges: The World Bank Group has a strong pipeline of projects with GovTech components. There is strong interest in leveraging digital technology in client countries. The Partnership would provide a platform to support these countries to achieve their aims to provide transparent, efficient and responsive services, advance digital inclusion and support private sector job creation.
- Digitally-advanced governments: many developed and emerging economies have made significant investments and progress in public sector digital transformation. The key objective of the GovTech initiative in relation to these countries is to curate, package and disseminate knowledge and expertise associated with GovTech experiences, in a way that would showcase good practice and advance mutual understanding of the challenges and opportunities associated with GovTech.
- Leading Global Tech companies: The Partnership will leverage this experience to benefit client countries to address their development challenges. The World Bank Group would play a critical role in bringing innovative technologies to clients in a competitively neutral manner.
- Innovative Local Tech Companies: For this segment of stakeholders, the key objective of the partnership is to create awareness of GovTech opportunities, identify the conditions for a supporting environment for the development of this type of entrepreneurship, including the creation of specific digital skills needed for the private sector to respond to public sector demand.
- Donor Partners: Global development partners often have local footprints/country presence as well as demonstrated experience in the GovTech space. The Partnership will leverage these donors to finance activities, provide experience and know-how on GovTech implementation.
The goal is to put people first, to design and deliver services that are accessible, affordable, and inclusive. The private sector is using data and disruptive technologies to proactively customize consumer experiences, lower costs, and accelerate service delivery. GovTech is an initiative to support client countries, meet citizen demands, and open-up opportunities for economic growth.
Citizen engagement is another focus area of GovTech, to increase participation, foster transparency and accountability, and build citizen trust. Using technology can enable real-time communication between citizens and government. Through SMS, social media, online petition platforms, and other tools, governments are hearing about issues that are important to citizens and can respond more effectively.
The third dimension of GovTech is to bring the machinery of Government into the 21st century. Technology and AI have the potential to transform the efficiency of core government functions, including financial management, procurement, human resource management, domestic resource mobilization and monitoring & evaluation systems. For instance, we are working to incorporate artificial intelligence and machine learning to identify risks and patterns in procurement and financial management data to uncover red flags for integrity.
There are many opportunities to leapfrog technologically, and at the same time address some of the key governance challenges faced by client countries.
The shift to GovTech can be transformational not only in terms of operations and delivering for citizens but can also result in positive governance impacts. Research shows that e-government capacity is positively correlated with government effectiveness and lower perceptions of corruption.
Many of our GovTech projects incorporate all three aspects of citizen-centric service delivery, citizen engagement, and core government operations.
In Albania, as part of the Citizen-Centric Service Delivery Project, we are supporting the Government to address service delivery challenges through interoperability, re-engineering and simplifying business processes, expanding online services, and developing mechanisms for citizen feedback to provide real time data.
In Djibouti, as part of the Public Administration Modernization Project, we are supporting the creation of digital ID, improvements in the tax administration system and expanding service access points, again with citizen feedback mechanisms.
Further, every online transaction creates valuable data, and by making this open and accessible to the public it can increase transparency, but also promote value and job creation by supporting local GovTech ecosystems in developing products and services. Key examples include weather alerts to farmers, urban transportation information, location of medical services, etc. However, using technology responsibly and protecting users’ data is very important to the World Bank Group. When dealing with government systems and personal information, misuse of data has significant potential to erode trust between government and citizens.
The foundations of GovTech include connectivity, digital ID, e-payments and national data registries. Taken together, these foundational platforms support social, financial, and economic inclusion. Digital ID is a key building block for platforms and systems for public service delivery, civil service personnel and payroll management, taxation and fees for public service. These digital IDs can not only identify people, but also reduce the administrative burden for beneficiaries and facilitates service access from multiple channels. From the government perspective they increase efficiency, reduce potential for fraud and corruption, and ensure better targeting and delivery of government services to citizens among other benefits.
To be successful, digital transformation requires critical analog complements: legislation, regulation, capacity and coordination across government. Particularly important is leadership and change management, to ensure that internally, governments are organized and have the capacity to migrate to new ways of working. We are working on all these aspects within the context of the GovTech Global Partnership.