BRIEF

GovTech: Putting people first

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Introduction

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 Global GovTech Partnership

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.

GovTech Goals and Approach

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.

Digital technologies can address key governance challenges

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.

Pulling it all together at the country level

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.

Data as a Commodity: Links to Job Creation and the Digital Economy

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.

Building Blocks of GovTech: Key Foundations and Analog Complements

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.


GovTech Global Public Goods and Services

The all-inclusive nature of GovTech can steer digital governance in the right direction and create relevant global public goods:

Digital governance: Building on the existing suite of digital governance/development assessments and existing in-country engagements, the development of good practice options for digital governance will provide guidance for the public sector. This will address key issues that come up in the context of digital transformation, such as shared services organization, pros and cons of institutional options for government digital services, and the pricing of intra-government digital services. This will elevate this dialogue beyond the more traditional realm of ICT departments, to framing this more in terms of a cross-cutting programmatic public policy issues that pertain to Finance Agencies and the Center of Government.

Citizen-centric public service delivery: Citizens are also customers who increasingly expect seamless digital customer experiences, requiring a qualitative leap on the part of the public sector. The World Bank is supporting governments to better understand and optimize user experience across a range of public services, from driver licenses, passports and civil registries to health care, education, transport and security, and how these can be better integrated for single entry point experiences. This includes working on prototyping and user experience testing, predictive services, AI, and user interfaces such as bots and digital assistants as well as mobile first applications. We will put together a toolkit on the transition to citizen-centric delivery.

Public Sector Big Data Analytics and AI for Decision Making: GovTech works with Center of Government counterparts and Central Finance Agencies to move from data to insights. With growing digitization of government transactions and asset registries, many governments are increasingly data rich but insight poor. Getting public sector information “markets” wrong means public goods insight and private sector support remain untapped. Starting with a few simple applied functionalities (action labs for analytics deployment, analytics strategies, fraud, and corruption red flags), these will boost the ability of key client counterparts to gain actionable insights from growing digital governance. GovTech will also work with external partners to engage stakeholders on the ethical and legal dimensions of the use of AI in the public sector and propose some global principles in this space.

CivicTech: In parallel, GovTech can leverage CivicTech innovations to increase governments’ responsiveness to citizens’ needs, ultimately strengthening trust and the social contract between the parties. In conjunction to the definition of principles on ethical and legal dimensions of the use of AI in the public sector, this will pull together good practices from CivicTech.

Modernization of Core Government Systems: The modernization of Financial Management Information Systems, Tax, Customs, Human Resources Management Information Systems/Payroll, and Public Investment Management Systems will greatly improve World Bank Group Client capacities to deliver better results to their beneficiaries. Wider spread data analytics (DW & BI/DM tools) will help to provide better decision support, reporting, and performance monitoring. Building interconnectivity via web services and APIs will make government systems more interoperable, which can lead to a Government Service Bus. Finally, governments can better examine open source software in the public sector. GovTech will help governments manage the interactions between foundational and disruptive technologies in core governments systems in the era of ‘bimodal computing’ (where traditional core systems and disruptive technologies coexist) by proposing some good practice principles in this area.

Procurement Modernization: With trillions of dollars spent on public contracts, efficiency in public procurement transactions can result in significant savings. The automation of procurement and contract management is an area where the Bank is exploring the use of disruptive technologies to reduce the administrative cost of spending public funds. This applies to small contracts, the procurement of which is simple and rule-based and therefore provides the potential of automated objective decision-making which does not only free up time for procurement officers to get involved in high value/risk contracts of more strategic importance but also increases the trust of taxpayers in public procurement. GovTech can assist counterparts in adopting best practice ICT procurement strategies and contract management practices to help streamline the tendering and contract management process. It also includes an approach to ICT procurement involving experimentation and trialing options in a transparent and results-based framework, rather than excessively constraining options through rigid ex-ante procurement specifications.

GovTech and the digital economy: Boosting GovTech’s pace of adoption can also have a positive spillover effect on the tech ecosystem. The Bank helps governments identify the transmission channels from the public to the private sector, including through the adoption of digital payment systems (to and from a government) as well as the the move to e-procurement and the provision of foundational or disruptive technology solutions to the public sector. The Bank also helps governments identify opportunities that stem from the concept of government as a platform. Sharing public data in a secure, interoperable, and anonymous format can lead to the development of value-adding private sector services and local innovations. The Bank will produce analytical work to identify the most effective transmission pathways from investments in GovTech to local jobs and business opportunities.

Capacity-Building: While the bulk of the capacity building required in GovTech happens at the country level, there is a need for a global architecture for GovTech capacity building. GovTech solutions providers are also looking to find out more about the development challenges faced by developing country governments to invent the right solutions for them. The Bank will play a key role as a broker between aspiring and leading GovTech countries, which requires a good infrastructure to connect key stakeholders across the public and private sectors.

 

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