Digital Government Is No Longer An Option, It Is An Imperative

Tech Industry

UN 2022 E-Government Survey gives the world a new base to build upon

A review of the United Nations recently released 2022 E-Government Survey shows progress, surprises, and opportunity for governments across the globe in their shift to the digitization of services. Covid-19 has accelerated the need for governments to become more and more digitally accessible for their citizens as an increasing percentage of people have become more digitally savvy. Meeting your customers (in this case, your citizens) where they are, instead of forcing them to do things your way, is always the wise way to do business. But, moving the enormous bureaucratic icebergs that are governments is complicated, messy, and sometimes near impossible.

As governments worldwide are looking to streamline the delivery of services through mobile, cloud, automation, and digitalization processes, what will the future of person-to-government interaction look like? Will our relationships with our governmental entities become “better”? Or, will the archaic technologies that governments have invested in previously become a hindrance to actual progress?

What more can we expect over the coming decade?

Digital technology has shown the potential to transform how every person interacts with government services. The recent pandemic shifted the public sector into high gear in its evolution of becoming increasingly data-driven and responsive to the needs of its citizens. This transformation becomes most evident when we see how government agencies make their services available online.

This evolution will lead in the next decade to;

● Individualized, personalized citizen-to-government experiences

● A Customer-first, user-experience mindset

● Driving collaboration and innovation in the space

● Continued adoption of cloud computing

● Increase in security, fairness, trust, and transparency

From national governments down to local municipalities, there must be a commitment to pursue digital government strategies and to implement more sophisticated and enlighted E-government strategies. Still, many governments haven’t done all that is needed to provide adequate, accessible, user-friendly online governmental services. According to the 2022 edition of the United Nations E-Government Survey, online connectivity continues to improve, but digital inclusivity remains a challenge. 68.91 percent of Member States are at the high or very high EGDI level.

Mr. Li Junhua, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, mentioned, “The Survey results highlight that governments have remained focused on developing digital services and infrastructures, despite the global challenges of recent years. Fulfilling our vision for leaving no one behind will require us to leave no one offline in the hybrid digital future.”

Countries Leading the Way

Atop the list were Denmark, Finland, and South Korea. They scored highest regarding the scope and quality of online services, the status of telecommunications infrastructure, and existing human capacity. The runners-up were New Zealand, Sweden, Iceland, Australia, Estonia, the Netherlands, the United States, Britain, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, Japan, and Malta.

Furthermore, Estonia was ranked first in the United Nations’ global digital services scoreboard for 2022, while the e-services of the country’s capital Tallinn were ranked third. Uruguay leads for the 4th time in the Latin America and Caribbean sub-region.

It is interesting to note that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was one the top-ranked countries in the world in terms of providing government services information and providing and sharing government data open to citizens and business sectors. The maturity of digital government organizations reached 96%, and the quality of digital specifications for government services was distinguished by 94%, while the availability and spread of digital government services reached 81%.

By embracing the need for digital governance, these countries are poised to continue to lead the world well into the 21st century and beyond. By better serving their citizens, they will have a healthier, more informed, and more engaged citizenry, leading to a stronger society within their borders.

The 2022 Survey also assessed e-government development at the local city level. Most of the cities have improved their Local Online Service Index scores. For example, the City of Dubai has achieved top rankings in the Local Online Service Index (LOSI) 2022. Dubai was ranked fifth globally and one of the world’s best digital governments.

Importance of Access to Digital Services

Access to digital services is crucial to a country’s overall economic performance and stability. The correlation between a country’s economic health and its access to 4G is glaring. According to Brookings, Eighty-seven percent of the population in the developed world has access to 4G. That number drops to 65 percent in developing countries and down to a startling 25 percent in the least-developed countries.

It’s not just people’s access to information, which is vitally important, but their access to telehealth, e-commerce, legal services, and distance learning for school-aged children and adults alike. Without the access most of us take for granted as a given, those living in underdeveloped countries do not have the means or conduit to better their circumstances.

Digital Services in Education

Estimates suggest that global corporate e-learning will reach a market size of $50 billion by 2026. Equitable access to digital learning is vital in advancing sustainable development for any country or municipality. Looking inward at the United States, consider the rural-urban divide in access to broadband. Though rural residents have seen a 9 percentage point rise in home broadband adoption since 2016, they still lag behind their suburban and urban counterparts. This, in turn, affects school-aged children’s ability to take part in e-learning, causing them to fall behind their suburban and urban counterparts.

The good news in the 2022 UN E-Digital Government Survey is that countries providing digital education services increased by 22 percent. Though the increase was not evenly distributed across the globe, it is a positive move in the right direction.

Future Direction

The 2022 UN E-Digital Government Survey has given the world a new baseline from which to move forward, grow, and strategize where to allocate resources in the most impactful way. With this new data, the survey sets three goals that must be accomplished in the future for the world to continue on this upward trend of digital governance. Assistant Secretary-General Maria-Francesca Spatolisano at UN DESA said during a UN press conference: “Successful digital governments are shifting from being ever-present in people’s lives to becoming rather invisible. At the same time, they offer trusted automated services, which are accessible any time from anywhere at people’s convenience, respecting privacy and personal data protection.”

First, governments must strategize and invest more in long-term national digital transformation plans. Governments can no longer be reactionary. The pandemic forced global leaders to increase digital accessibility and innovation rapidly. They must harness this momentum and continue to build upon the advancements of the past two and a half years.

Next, meaningful connectivity must be guaranteed for all to help prepare for future crises and shocks. Internet access can be unaffordable or inaccessible in poorer nations. In the 46 least-developed countries, nearly 75% of people have never been online. How can we bridge this gap? Governments need to reallocate funding to their most vulnerable citizens’ connectivity. In contrast, world leaders in digital governance and connectivity must send aid to these underdeveloped regions to help them kick-start their growth and innovation.

Lastly, technological advancements, innovation, and e-government must serve a broader goal of supporting sustainable human development. The days of sacrificing the future to satisfy the present must come to an end. No longer can we send the bill down the line to future generations. The innovations of the past two and half years are only the beginning. They can be built upon and used to increase efficiencies of services to the most vulnerable and remote populations. By bringing these people into the fold and supplying them with access to the same advantages as the rest of society, we can expect an increase in health, collaboration, and productivity.

The increase in digital governance is promising and gives a platform on which to build the future. Vincenzo Aquaro, the Chief of the Digital Government Branch in UN-DESA and “Deus ex machina” of the report, recently stated, “Digital Government should always work as an equalizer for inclusion. To do so, leaving no one behind should guide policy development and implementation in e-government and inclusion by design.”

Governments innovating and reaching more of their citizens via digital means is no longer an option but an imperative. Leaders worldwide now have access to this survey and the data to see the positive outcomes of greater e-governance. We must continue pushing them to keep this momentum and build a sustainable, inclusive, and equitable future for all.

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