Executive summary

As the fast-paced digital transformation brings tremendous opportunities for citizens to participate in society and the economy, these can be also undermined by the risks associated with how digital technologies are developed, used, and adopted. Embracing a human-centric approach to the digital transformation is essential to leverage its opportunities while managing related risks, in order to deliver results that benefit all and leave no one behind. Taking decisive steps to strengthen digital government is thus critical for governments to be able to meet today’s public governance challenges as well as the evolving needs of societies. Given the increasing adoption of digital technologies in the public sector, governments need to develop solid governance arrangements and capabilities that enable a fair, trustworthy, and sustainable digital transformation.

The digital transition of LAC governments follows a similar path as that observed across OECD member countries. Governments have embraced the adoption and use of digital tools for more transparent and efficient processes (e-government), reflected in public sector reforms and strategies to modernise services and digitise government institutions. These efforts are particularly relevant for addressing pressing regional priorities such as overcoming social, economic and digital inequalities, and for improving public sector transparency. Despite the progress made, LAC governments still face significant challenges in achieving a human-centric, integrated, and sustainable digital transformation of the public sector (digital government). While governments are addressing disparities in digital connectivity, concrete actions can be taken to secure an inclusive digitalisation of public services in the region.

First, LAC countries can prioritise strengthening the governance of digital government. Most countries have embedded digital transformation functions within the machinery of government; however, digital government authorities still require further empowerment, such as having a stronger role in setting standards and investment decisions. While mainstreamed, digital government strategies could be more ambitious and comprehensive to enable a system-wide digital transformation in the public sector. Digital government strategies in the region largely ignore several areas that, if prioritised, can produce long-lasting and effective results. These include the development of digital talent in the public sector; coherent approaches for more inclusive design and delivery of government services across levels of government; and the development of dedicated capacities to invest on digital government.

Second, more decisive actions are needed to enable data-driven public sectors in LAC. To develop a regional integrated public sector data approach, and reap the benefits of cross-border interoperability, LAC countries should formalise roles, functions and strategies for government data. Countries face significant challenges for effective data governance, including addressing legacy data infrastructure and interoperability systems to improve data access and sharing, as well as formalising the ethical use of data in the public sector. Despite the momentum achieved during the past decade, open government data policies require further institutionalisation and connection with broader regional agendas, including on climate change and the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the public sector.

Finally, the digital transformation of LAC governments should result in more convenient, coherent, and responsive government services for individuals and businesses. Despite the increasing availability of public services through digital channels, LAC countries make less of an effort to understand users and their needs throughout service design. Similarly, further efforts are needed to ensure a seamless experience for users across online and offline channels. For example, further actions are needed to improve the mutual recognition and interoperability of digital tools among LAC governments to facilitate cross-border access to government services.

  • Secure strong political leadership for digital government policies within national agendas, empowering digital government authorities.

  • Strengthen the strategic approach for digital government through comprehensive and forward-looking national digital government strategies, prioritising efforts to enable an inclusive and user-centric approach digital transformation.

  • Increase efforts to promote co-ordination and alignment between national and sub-national digital government policies through dedicated co-operation mechanisms such as incentive funds, capacity building and shared digital public infrastructure.

  • Adopt strategic and whole-of-government planning and co-ordination mechanisms for coherent investments in the digital transformation of the public sector.

  • Use investments in digital government to secure a coherent and consistent digital transformation of the public sector, fostering compliance with digital standards.

  • Use public procurement more innovatively and strategically to support the implementation of digital transformation investments in the public sector.

  • Develop an organisational environment to attract, develop and retain digital talent in the public sector.

  • Secure stronger political support and data leadership

  • Work towards inclusive national data strategies for the LAC region and link them with efforts to improve AI strategies and governance.

  • Develop greater regional data integration through regulatory harmonization, data stewardship, data interoperability, and the provision of digital public goods such as open-source, open application programming interfaces (APIs), and open data.

  • Invest further in promoting AI and data ethics.

  • Improve digital security.

  • Increase digital and data literacy across public bodies and society.

  • Develop a culture and capacities to support a user-centric approach in public service design and delivery, promoting horizontal and multi-disciplinary collaboration within the public sector to better understand users, meet their needs and propose an inclusive and responsive experience.

  • Anchor public service design and delivery in national priorities and agendas, defining specific governance arrangements to promote collaboration and integration among public services providers to deliver a seamless experience to users.

  • Prioritise the development of core enabling conditions for the digitalisation of public services, promoting standardisation, scalability and interoperability of digital public infrastructure within countries and across the LAC region.

  • Reinforce capacities and commitment for digital innovation in the public sector, promoting the use of common methodologies and approaches to govern and scale-up public sector innovation.

  • Promote the development of GovTech ecosystems to support the implementation of digital government strategies and improve public sector capacities to effectively collaborate with start-ups, innovators and entrepreneurs.

Metadata, Legal and Rights

This document, as well as any data and map included herein, are without prejudice to the status of or sovereignty over any territory, to the delimitation of international frontiers and boundaries and to the name of any territory, city or area. Extracts from publications may be subject to additional disclaimers, which are set out in the complete version of the publication, available at the link provided.

© OECD/CAF 2023

The use of this work, whether digital or print, is governed by the Terms and Conditions to be found at https://www.oecd.org/termsandconditions.