2. Public sector capabilities for digital transformation

This chapter assesses the capabilities to support the design and implementation of digital government policies in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). The assessment examines two dimensions: 1) digital government investments and 2) digital talent and skills in the public sector. The first section analyses how governments plan, implement, and monitor public investments on digital government, securing coherence, mitigating risks and delivering impact by fostering a cost-effective and results-oriented digital transformation of the public sector. The second section uses the OECD Framework for Digital Talent and Skills in the Public Sector to assess the approach of LAC countries in creating an environment to encourage digital transformation, developing the skills to support digital government maturity, and establishing and maintaining a digital workforce (OECD, 2021[1]).

Digital transformation calls for governments to streamline administrative and internal processes to facilitate the development of digital capabilities in the public sector. In this context, governments across the world are increasingly investing in their digital capabilities to address the changing needs of their citizens. Doing so entails governments being able to coherently and strategically plan, prioritise, fund, implement, and monitor digital investments that support a sustainable digital transformation. The COVID-19 pandemic catalysed this process, making it imperative to establish a resilient digital ecosystem in the public sector to enable citizens and other users to move seamlessly between analogue and digital environments. The need to develop such an ecosystem, including digital public infrastructure that sustains more effective and user-friendly interactions between governments and citizens, calls for governments to rethink their approaches to digital investments across the public sector.

Faced with the need for new digital capabilities in the public sector, governments should adopt strategic approaches to align efforts and exploit efficient management tools to ensure the best value-for-money in developing digital and ICT projects. To support governments in this task, the OECD has developed a Digital Government Investment Framework to identify the critical elements to ensure strategic and efficient planning, implementation, and evaluation of digital investments in the public sector. By advancing mature approaches to digital investments in the public sector, governments can increase the efficiency of public spending, improve the design and delivery of services, and develop the agility needed to ensure a sustainable digital transformation.

These considerations are especially relevant in a sector that has been characterised by cost overruns and major failures in the implementation of investments. In a context of limited fiscal space and sluggish economic growth (OECD et al., 2022[2]), the need to move towards impactful investments in digital transformation is essential to build capabilities and strengthen the resilience of the public sector in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The OECD Digital Government Investment Framework (OECD forthcoming) identifies three pillars building the foundations of a mature approach to developing digital government projects. Each of these pillars is composed of different policy elements that governments should secure and leverage to ensure public value creation through digital government investments:

  • Strategic planning of digital government investments: Planning is the first step in developing digital projects. For digital investments in the public sector, three key elements are considered in planning: co-ordination and collaboration between the actors involved in the development of digital projects, the articulation of the value proposition, and the thorough assessment of benefits, costs, and risks.

  • Implementation of digital government investments: The implementation phase includes the approval, execution and assurance of digital investment projects. In this phase, digitally mature governments will ensure consistency in the project approval process, strengthen project management mechanisms, and ensure procurement practices creating necessary agility as well as the consistent adoption and deployment of digital tools across the public sector.

  • Monitoring and evaluation of digital government investments: The monitoring and evaluation stage includes oversight of digital investments, safeguarding strategic alignment while maximizing efficiency and timely delivery. A whole-of-government approach to digital investments involves monitoring the progress of strategic initiatives, reporting delays, and promoting engagement with key stakeholders to secure the achievement of intended outcomes. Robust monitoring and evaluation mechanisms - can promote accountability in the development of digital projects by strengthening ownership and transparency. Governments can introduce user experience into the ex-post evaluation of digital projects, allowing the public sector to adapt delivery according to user needs. Proven monitoring and evaluation mechanisms incorporate data-driven approaches – enabling access to timely data on the implementation progresses - to maximise the realisation of benefits.

The first pillar analyses governments' capacities to strategically plan the digital government investment portfolio. One of the critical elements is the level of co-ordination between digital government, public budgeting, and government procurement policies and institutions. This co-ordination should be reflected in high-level, including ministers and senior administrative officials, and operational alignment to secure coherence and sustainability of the direction taken on digitalisation of the whole public sector (OECD, 2021[3]). Digitally mature governments will be able to concert efforts in digital government, public budgeting, and government procurement to maximise the benefits realisation of digital transformation.

Latin American countries are facing challenges to align efforts between digital, budget and procurement authorities on decisions about digital government investments, in an institutional context in which budget authorities lead resource allocation.  

In Brazil, the role of the Secretary of Digital Government is limited to advising the Ministry of Management and Innovation in Public Services on decisions over resource allocation for digital investments in the public sector. In Chile, the Digital Government Division (DGD) influences spending on digital transformation through technical standard-setting (i.e., interoperability, digital identity), but the ultimate power to allocate resources resides in the Budget Office of the Ministry of Finance (DIPRES). However, since 2017, the DGD and DIPRES have been working together through standardised investment project evaluation processes, unifying spending criteria for digital goods and services. In Colombia, the planning of digital investments is decentralised, and the Ministry of Information and Communication Technologies (MINTIC) has limited influence on budget allocation and investment decisions for technology or infrastructure by public entities. Due to the significant differences in central government institutions' planning and implementation capabilities, the MINTIC is unable to determine the overall expenditure in digital projects across central government. In 2018 Paraguay published the decree establishing mandate of the Ministry of Information and Communication Technologies (MITIC), including approval of digital transformation plans, issuance of standards, guidelines, general policies, and support to public procurement to ensure efficient decision-making.1

In Uruguay, two of the pillars of the national digital government strategy (NDGS)2 aim to strengthen co-ordination and alignment between digital government policies and budgetary and public procurement processes in terms of: (i) alignment with national government objectives and (ii) efficiency and savings. Regarding alignment with national government objectives, the Agency for Electronic Government and the Information and Knowledge Society (AGESIC) is working closely with the National Civil Service Office and the Office of Planning and Budget in the organisational restructuring of the central administration. This effort is organised around whole-of-government principles such as citizens’ value creation, savings and efficiency through administrative simplification and process redesign. AGESIC also developed norms and standards to foster economies of scale in digital expenditures by standardising management tools and public procurement processes. These efforts are focused on a comprehensive and multidisciplinary approach led by AGESIC, considering technological, security, legal and financial aspects.

Cost-benefit and risk assessments follow a traditional approach in most countries, but rising and pressing global challenges, such as the green transition, call for updating relevant frameworks so that these are multi-faceted and decisions on digital investments are better informed.  

The OECD Recommendation of the Council on Digital Government Strategies of 2014 includes a specific provision on business cases to support the value proposition, funding and implementation of digital investments (OECD, 2014[4]). The Recommendation emphasises the need to identify the economic, social, and political benefits to justify public investments, bringing together all relevant stakeholders including end-users, to secure engagement and benefits realisation.

Building on this provision, countries should develop sound mechanisms for estimating costs, benefits, and risks of investments on digital government. Decision-making on investments should be assessed to ensure an efficient management of public resources and a sustainable return on investments. Ex-ante assessments should also address pressing policy issues, including the environmental effects of digital investments, to prevent the digital transition from deepening environmental issues. As governments go digital, the environmental considerations of digital investments will be increasingly relevant to secure a sustainable digital transformation of the public sector.

The value proposition is the holistic assessment of digital investment projects, reflecting the evaluation of costs and benefits, while at the same time assessing the relevance of individual projects in a broader digital strategy. The value proposition allows investment decisions to be standardised and aligned with strategic government objectives. A widely used mechanism for weighing value propositions are business cases. The OECD Recommendations for Digital Government Strategies calls for developing clear business cases to sustain the funding of digital projects by articulating value proposition mechanism to identify expected economic, social and political benefits (OECD, 2014[4]).

Countries in the region show different approaches to using business cases to define value propositions for digital projects. Seven countries are using business cases to evaluate the value proposition for digital, data or technology projects in the public sector. For example, in Argentina the approval of digital procurements requires the alignment with digital and technical standards set by the National Office of Information Technologies (ONTI) at the centre of government. ONTI updates these standards regularly, engaging with procurement officials in public sector institutions, including subnational governments. In Barbados, the 2019 Information Technology Procurement Policy mandates the Ministry of Innovation, Science and Smart Technology (MIST) as the authority for assessing and approving digital projects in the public sector. In Panama, the National Authority for Government Innovation (AIG) does not have the mandate to manage other institutions' budgets; nevertheless, acquiring technology goods and services requires their approval. To streamline these procedures, the AIG engages early in the budget process identifying needs across the public sector. These proposals require the consent of a strategic committee3 and must comply with the software and hardware quality standards. Finally, in Uruguay, AGESIC developed a standardised model to assess the costs and benefits of digital government initiatives, providing an estimation of the return on investments. This model includes a cost-benefit analysis and an indicator matrix.

Digital government investment assessment should include a thorough evaluation of the intrinsic risks of digital technologies, especially those related to the automation of operations and the use of data, such as the use of artificial intelligence in the public sector. These considerations affect public trust and pose a financial risk for the public sector in the form of contingent liabilities. This risk may include potential claims for both material and moral damages due to the misuse and flawed deployment of digital technologies, as exemplified by the Robodebt case in Australia.4 To address these risks the OECD Good Practice Principles for the Ethical use of Data in the Public Sector (OECD, 2020[5]) call governments to embed ex-ante and ex-post risk-management approaches in order to mitigate such issues. Countries in the region have different maturity levels concerning the risk management for digital transformation projects, with Uruguay and Mexico advancing in the development of algorithmic impact assessment guidelines for process automation. These instruments allow the identification of risks and their timely mitigation (Box 2.1). However, such tools for identifying and measuring risks associated with the automation of decisions are still limited in LAC. Similarly, Chile has advance in the identification and registration of the use of algorithms in the public sector.5

LAC countries can enhance their planning capabilities for digital government investments by establishing multidisciplinary collaboration when conducting value proposition assessments, including digital, legal, and financial experts. LAC countries could broaden the scope of value propositions assessment by introducing social and environmental considerations as key dimensions in ex-ante assessments, reinforcing synergies between investments for digital and green transition. For example, France developed a whole-of-government mission for eco-responsible digital government,8 which includes a roadmap and guidelines for the design of green digital services and procurement of digital goods and service in the public. These non-binding instruments can also contribute to ongoing efforts to measure the carbon footprint in the public sector and enable efforts towards convergent digital and green transitions. Finally, governments should consider further developing risk management approaches in the formulation of digital investments to secure a sustainable and resilient digital transformation of the public sector.

The second area of analysis relates to the execution and implementation of investments on digital transformation in the public sector. Governments should ensure coherent and consistent implementation of digital transformation initiatives across the public sector to maximise the benefits of investments in digital capabilities. For this purpose, governments should secure sound approval mechanisms, project management and ICT procurement mechanisms to equip governments with the digital capabilities needed to drive a sustainable transformation.

The project approval process refers to the selection of projects cleared for implementation. Digitally mature governments are more able to integrate the value proposition with the approval mechanism to ensure that the approved project portfolio has the financial feasibility, proper risk management and is aligned with strategic priorities. A robust project approval system allows governments to ensure compliance with digital standards enabling a coherent adoption of technologies across the public sector. Finally, project approval should be closely linked to funding mechanisms to reinforce compliance and coherence across government.

Governments in the region could leverage the approval process of digital projects to build coherence in the delivery of digital government investments by securing digital standard compliance.  

Governments in LAC show different approaches when approving digital investment projects. Overall, countries in the region could further leverage the approval process to enhance the management of digital investment portfolios by ensuring compliance with digital standards across government. Evidence collected shows that the link between approval mechanisms and compliance with standards is insufficient. However, some initiatives in the region may show the way forward to enhance the management of digital government investments in LAC.

In Chile, the Digital Government Division, together with the Budget Office, established in 2018 a procedure for approving investments in digital technologies in the public sector called EvalTIC (Box 2.2). In November 2020, Ecuador developed standardised guidelines to support the development of digital projects including technical and economic feasibility, operation and sustainability and legal assessment of potential initiatives. Ecuador’s Ministry of Telecommunications (MINTEL) assesses projects by a simplified procedure based on a self-declaration of all projects over a budget threshold of USD 20.000. Under this guideline, MINTEL also provide technical guidance for the procurement of digital goods and services. In most LAC countries the impact of approval mechanisms for digital investments in the public sector has been limited as often these efforts are isolated from the budgetary cycle, including funding decision-making.

LAC governments are leveraging the use of guidelines and directives to streamline the management and implementation of digital investments in the public sector. In line with these efforts, governments could embed and promote agile methodologies by developing supporting resources for project owners.  

Another aspect for a successful execution of investments is the project management approach to support efficient and timely implementation of digital projects. The complexity involved in digital transformation projects requires governments to take concrete actions to ensure a coherent and standardised management. Governments can leverage guidelines and standards to support project delivery units, ensuring a homogeneous and consistent approach to project management across government. However, evidence shows that LAC governments do not have common approaches to manage digital projects in the public sector (Figure 2.3). Nevertheless, countries are leveraging guidelines and directives to support the management of digital investments and would benefit from embedding more clearly the use of agile methodologies, including agile public procurement, in the implementation of digital transformation projects.

In Brazil, the Secretary of Digital Government at the Ministry of Management and Innovation in Public Services elaborated in 2020 a portfolio project management methodology9 which provides a set of good practices in the development and management of digital projects in the public sector. In Colombia, the MINTIC developed in 2019 a model for managing IT projects10 to guide public institutions in the administration of their information technology projects in an adequate way to offer services to citizens in line with the digital government policy.

In Peru, the Secretariat for Digital Government of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers published in 2021 a dedicated guide for agile development of government digital services.11 Based on the guidelines for digital services and the experience of countries such as the United Kingdom, the Secretariat for Digital Government developed this guide with the recommended pillars, principles, phases, and frameworks for the agile development of digital projects in the public sector.

In Uruguay, AGESIC developed a similar instrument in 2019 to guide the design of digital government projects12 with recommendations, methods and tools that are publicly and freely available to support the development of digital transformation projects in the public sector. The document contains information and examples developed by consultants and officials working in AGESIC's Project Management Office to support the design and implementation of projects.13

Finally, implementation of digital government investments requires relying on the capacities and expertise of the private sector through public procurement. Evidence shows that LAC countries have different levels of maturity regarding public procurement for digital goods and services, as well as different preferred procurement mechanisms to address digital needs in the public sector (Table 2.1). Nevertheless, it is possible to identify some trends in the procurement of digital goods and services. Firstly, some countries in the region have formalised joint procurement processes to improve value-for-money in the acquisition of standardised goods and services, with a particular focus on the procurement of hardware and ICT services such as internet and phone services. Secondly, despite recent initiatives in the region, Latin American and Caribbean countries have not been able to leverage innovative public procurement processes to equip public services with digital capabilities.

Framework agreements (along with open tender procedures) appear to be the most widely used mechanisms to implement public procurement processes for digital government in LAC given the faster access to approved suppliers under predefined conditions. Brazil, Chile, Dominican Republic, Mexico, and Peru use framework agreements to purchase digital goods and services. In Chile, ChileCompra prepares framework agreements for software development and digital service providers for contracts below a budget threshold; bids over the given threshold require an open tendering process. In Colombia, the government developed framework agreements for hardware, software, and digital services, including cloud services.14 Uruguay developed a framework agreement tailored for short projects with a set of pre-approved providers, which is complemented with a specific framework to facilitate the collaboration with start-ups and innovators given existing restrictions for the participation of start-ups and other SMEs in public procurement.

LAC governments can also better leverage the benefits of co-ordinated public procurement processes for highly standardised and needed digital commodities, aggregating demand through a competitive procedure that improves purchasing conditions for the public sector. In the region, Chile stands out in the implementation of co-ordinated procurement for the acquisition of ICT goods and services. ChileCompra has two co-ordinated procurement mechanisms: co-ordinated purchases by mandate executed by ChileCompra; and joint co-ordinated purchases, where the procurement authority provides advice to the beneficiary institutions.15 These procedures resulted in relevant efficiency gains, i.e. the co-ordinated purchase of computers reduce spending in 36,6% during the first half of 2022.16 For 2023, ChileCompra and the Budget Office are planning to conduct co-ordinated procurement for mobile phone and broadband services, computer and printer leasing and purchasing of hardware. In addition to the work of Chile, Colombia is also leveraging framework agreements to aggregate demand while securing technical standardisation for digital goods and services, cloud services and software.

Finally, digital government authorities in LAC are not yet fully leveraging the possibilities of innovative public procurement and challenged-based mechanisms. Table 2.1 shows that eleven out of the fifth teen countries never or rarely used challenge-based mechanisms for public procurement. Several reasons may explain this, including the absence of these mechanisms in LAC public procurement frameworks and a generalised lack of awareness about innovative procurement (Zapata and Sinde, 2022[8]).

Some LAC countries are advancing in adjusting existing public procurement mechanisms for this purpose. In December 2022, the Digital Government Secretariat in the Ministry of Management and Innovation in Public Services of Brazil issued the normative Instruction No. 94/2022,17 which establishes public procurement procedures for ICT aligned with the New Law on Public Procurement and Administrative Contracts/NLLC (No. 14133/2021) including a standard defining new contracting modalities such as competitive dialogue. Overall, the use of innovative procurement mechanisms remains an exception rather than a regular practice when it comes to the procurement of digital goods and services in the public sector. there is an opportunity for the Latin American and the Caribbean governments to explore the use of innovative public procurement mechanisms such as competitive dialogue, design contests or innovation partnerships when procuring digital goods and services. These novel administrative instruments are an opportunity to equip the public sector with state-of-the-art digital capabilities by bringing in talent and knowledge from private providers and civil society. The European Commission developed in 2021 specific guidelines on innovative procurement practice to support countries through practical guidance that could be useful inspiration (Box 2.3).18

Some cases in the region show how governments are adapting public procurement processes to the contemporary challenges of digital technologies in the public sector such as artificial intelligence. For example, in Brazil different authorities including the Metro of Sao Paulo and the University of Sao Paulo Hospital19 developed a dedicated AI procurement toolkit.20 Similarly, in Chile, ChileCompra is collaborating with the Adolfo Ibañez University to formulate standardised bidding rules for procuring algorithms and artificial intelligence through public procurement processes.21 These standardised directives consider ethical requirements such as transparency, privacy, non-discrimination and explainability for automated decision and artificial intelligence components in digital projects.

The third aspect to analyse relates to instruments for monitoring and evaluating digital government investments. The OECD Recommendation of the Council on Digital Government Strategies (OECD, 2014[4]) underlines the importance of institutional capacities to monitor and assess the performance of digital government initiatives. When developing institutional capabilities and organisational knowledge, monitoring and evaluation tools play a critical role in an accountable and results-oriented digital transformation of the public sector. Finally, governments should acknowledge and address user experience when assessing the outcomes of digital investments. Monitoring and evaluation efforts are areas of improvement across LAC countries in digital government, as no consistent practices and efforts are observed in order to secure an effective implementation across participant countries. With a few examples on monitoring activities, most efforts in the region are concentrated on gathering of user experience regarding digital public services.

Governments could more effectively use monitoring tools as strategic levers to steer the delivery of digital projects by developing performance indicators to better inform policymakers about the performance of digital investments in the public sector.  

Monitoring and accountability mechanisms allow reporting on the progress and fulfilment of commitments set in NDGSs. Monitoring instruments and policy evaluation mechanisms can strengthen accountability by fostering institutional ownership over implementation and delivery. In this sense, LAC countries are not implementing whole-of-government and coherent mechanisms to monitor the implementation of digital government policy goals. One interesting example is being developed by Colombia's MINTIC through the Digital Government Index22 as a measurement tool to support the implementation of the digital government strategy. This measurement instrument provides disaggregated data on the performance of national and local government institutions in relation to the policy goals established in the strategy. MINTIC publishes the results through an interactive dashboard and in open government data formats. The information is collected annually using a survey based on the three enablers and five objectives comprised in Colombia’s NDGS.

LAC countries could develop standardised methodologies to measure user experience and channel these insights into the design and delivery of digital transformation initiatives.  

An area of further interest and expansion in LAC is measuring user experience in digital government services as a mechanism for ex-post evaluation of digital investments. Effective methods for measuring user experience are critical to build a user-driven culture within the public sector, and enables the incorporation of user feedback into the design of digital government efforts and services. By developing standardised methodologies to measure user experience and channel those inputs into actionable insights, governments can transform the formulation of digital investments in a way that can be shaped by user needs. However, as further developed in Chapter 4 efforts conducive to collecting user satisfaction data are not yet fully leveraged in LAC governments, nor incorporated into feedback loops that inform service design and delivery.

Evidence shows different levels of maturity regarding collection and use of user feedback in LAC. Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, and Mexico collect user experience through dedicated surveys. In some cases, such as in Chile, Colombia and Mexico, citizen satisfaction surveys are designed and implemented by the public sector institutions responsible for quality of public service delivery (including outsourcing the data collection to external providers).

In the case of Mexico, the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI) conducts since 2011 the biannual National Survey on Government Quality and Impact23 to measure citizen experience, perception and evaluation of government services. The 2021 edition included specific questions to measure the effect of corruption on service delivery and its overall impact on the citizen perception regarding public service delivery. In Colombia, the National Programme for Efficiency in the Service of the Citizen in the National Planning Department (Departamento Nacional de Planeación – DNP) ensures service quality and administrative efficiency in the public sector.24 Since 2011, the DNP conducts the Survey for Citizen Perception,25 measuring perception of the quality and accessibility of public procedures and services.

In Chile, since 2015 the Ministry of Finance in Chile develops a standardised yet adaptable methodology and survey to capture citizen satisfaction with public services.26 The survey collects data on satisfaction rates, identifying users, channels, products, and services. While each institution conducts citizen satisfaction exercises, a standard methodology has been agreed to facilitate comparability between institutions and longitudinal analysis. External providers conduct the survey, including citizens' perception of service provision through face-to-face, digital and telephone channels.

In the Dominican Republic, the Ministry of Public Administration (MAP) is the body responsible for service quality. In 2019, MAP issued the resolution 03/201927 to conduct a citizen satisfaction survey across the public administration, including central government, local governments, and autonomous institutions. The resolution includes technical considerations for the survey methodology and specific questions covering accuracy, responsiveness, credibility and trust in public services. Based on these technical specifications, each institution is responsible for conducting the survey and informing the MAP of the results collected.

Digital talent and skills in the public sector are another critical capability to reap the benefits of digital technologies and secure a sustainable transformation. In the same way that management mechanisms and standardised processes in the planning, implementation, and monitoring of digital projects are needed, governments should develop an agile, user-driven, collaborative, innovative, and adaptable workforce (OECD, 2022[10]). To analyse the capacity of public organisations to acquire and develop digital talent, and equip public servants with the necessary digital skills, the OECD developed the Framework for Digital Talent and Skills in the Public Sector (OECD, 2021[1]). This analytical tool presents three pillars to understand what leaders and public servants need to do to effectively manage digital transformation in the public sector (Figure 2.4):

  • Create the right environment to encourage digital transformation, which focuses on elements that constitute the environmental conditions that enable digital transformation, including the role of leadership, the learning culture and ways of working.

  • Skills to support digital government maturity, which focuses on the specific skills needed to support governments in building digital maturity, including foundational skills and specific skills in four areas: digital government user skills, digital government socio-emotional skills, digital government professional skills and digital government leadership skills.

  • Establish and maintain a digital workforce, which refers to the required elements to retain talent and bring in new people with the needed skills to drive digital transformation in the public sector.

The three pillars entail a thorough understanding of the skills required to drive transformation in the public sector, the importance of setting the leadership, procedures and organisational culture to motivate people by creating an appealing environment, and acknowledging the importance of recruitment, training, and mobility to incentivise and encourage digital talent in the public sector workforce.

Setting an enabling environment is essential for achieving digital government policy goals. Governments need to define a common narrative and a shared vision from executive and leadership positions to steer the public sector workforce towards a digital by-design mindset. Ensuring leaders thoroughly understand the strategic goals of digital government facilitates coordination efforts towards a cultural change within public administration. Given the rapid evolution of digital technology, digital skills need to mature and respond over time (OECD, 2021[1]). This evolving context is reflected in the need of creating safe environments for experimentation, recognising the value of iteration, failure and learning, and encouraging the inclusion of new practices and methods into existing processes.

Despite limited actions to enable experimentation in government digital transformation in LAC, a number of governments are taking action to encourage experimentation in the public sector. For example, in Colombia MINTIC developed the initiative Catalysts of Innovation28 in which public servants are selected for initial training in design thinking to later identify and solve challenges in their respective institutions by leveraging digital tools for the development of prototypes. Colombia has also developed a challenge-based initiative to build digital capabilities in public sector institutions, including subnational governments (Box 2.4). In the case of Uruguay, AGESIC developed new digital tools and skills through proofs of concept in which officials test tools and approaches in safe environments.29

Despite these initiatives, evidence collected reflects that LAC countries still face challenges when encouraging experimentation in the public sector. During interviews, officials from different countries acknowledge a risk-averse culture rooted in the administrative and legalistic culture of public sector institutions, limiting the cultural approach needed for experimentation in the public sector (see also Chapter 4).

Working practices are critical in creating an environment that enables digital transformation in the public sector. Governments should encourage public officials to work together and collaborate in the delivery of digital projects. Multidisciplinary teams can draw on diverse expertise, including digital and data, to address the inherent complexities of policy making in the digital age (Figure 2.5). Participant countries in this report declared having actions to promote multidisciplinary teams for the delivery of digital projects (Figure 2.6). In Peru, the Ministerial Resolution N° 087-2019-PCM mandates each institution to create a multidisciplinary committee for developing each institutional digital transformation plan including digital, legal and human resource experts.30 In Uruguay, professionals from different backgrounds and institutions formed the working group that defined the national strategy for open government data.31 In the context of this report, AGESIC noted how multidisciplinary teams have been essential for the successful implementation of transformational projects in the Regional Government of Canelones.

Governments should identify, promote and develop the different skill sets to secure a sustainable and organic digital transformation. This including digital government user skills, such as recognising the potential of digital for transformation, understanding users' needs, collaborating openly for iterative delivery, trustworthy use of data and technology, and data-driven government, socio-emotional skills and digital government professional skills are core skills to support digital government maturity and are required across public sector institutions (OECD, 2021[1]).

Skills frameworks are key policy instruments to enable a shared understanding and standardisation of the skills needed to advance the digital transformation of governments as well as to adopt coherent and systematic approaches to skills development across the public sector workforce. Evidence indicates that nine of the fourteen countries have skills frameworks or strategies at the central or federal government level (Table 2.2). However, not all existing skills frameworks are fully comprehensive to address the digital needs of the public sector, including coverage of different and types of civil servants. For example, Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, Panama, Peru and Uruguay reported that their skill frameworks cover the managerial layer within the public administration. On the other hand, only four countries cover staff dedicated to providing services to citizens, while seven countries include specialised teams such as personnel dedicated to digital technologies and data.

LAC governments should develop dedicated digital skills strategies in the public sector, including comprehensive digital skills frameworks to align and enhance training and capacity-building efforts, with a particular focus on subnational governments.  

With several LAC governments having digital skills frameworks in place, countries could consider expanding the coverage and comprehensiveness of existing skills frameworks to secure that NDGSs are accompanied by the needed digital skills in public sector institutions. Particular focus can be given to management, support staff and frontline service delivery. These frameworks can enable the standardisation of recruitment processes, fine-tuning of training programmes and identification of digital capacity gaps in public institutions. In addition, governments could leverage these policy instruments to bridge the digital talent gap in the public sector, encouraging subnational governments to adhere to these frameworks and build coherence across institutions and levels.

In addition to building an enabling environment and defining the required skills to drive digital transformation, it is essential that governments design initiatives to attract, develop and allocate talent across the public sector. Attracting talent for a digital workforce implies investing in recruitment processes and ensuring that recruitment selection is fair and merit-based (OECD, 2021[1]). Developing and maintaining a digital workforce also entails the provision of training and capacity- building for public officials to keep learning while promoting a learning culture that foster transformation, working in a co-ordinated way with relevant civil service authorities.

Evidence collected shows that LAC countries have not been able to develop integrated and whole-of-government approaches to attract and recruit digital talent in the public sector. For example, 12 out of 14 countries under review indicated that improving public servants' digital skills and competencies is a high priority. Nevertheless, only Brazil, Mexico and Peru indicated that digital skills are mandatory when recruiting civil servants in the public sector (Figure 2.7).

Allocating talent and skills involves making sure public sector institutions can access the right people for the right roles (OECD, 2021[1]). Regarding the provision of talent across governments, LAC countries have adopted different approaches to identify skills gaps across the public sector. For example, in Brazil the Secretary of Digital Government developed the project Startup.gov.br to profile IT analyst roles, select personnel with technical expertise and allocate them to specific positions across government. By identifying seven professional profiles, the Secretariat supported public institutions deploying a temporary digital workforce to scale up transformation, avoiding the burdensome procedure for permanent hiring. The programme created an opening for 350 digital professionals to support the delivery of strategic digital projects in the federal government.32

Other countries have taken centralised approaches to define job profiles while hiring processes are managed independently by each public sector institution. Such is the case of Colombia through the Resolution 667/201833 that creates IT profiles, specifying the requirement for IT roles in the public sector. In Uruguay, AGESIC developed a structured model for assessing digital skills, identifying gaps, and planning capacity building in the public sector. For doing so, the government implemented a study of more than 10 000 public officials, including a dedicated module focusing on public managers.

Remote working schemes are increasingly another important way to attract, develop and maintain the required talent for digital transformation. Governments should acknowledge the current context, where digital transformation experts and professionals can access more flexible jobs and non-monetary incentives such as remote working. The adoption of flexible practices impacts on the effectiveness of the public service and its ability to attract talent (OECD, 2023[12]). The digital ecosystem, particularly in the private sector, has been characterised by promoting these perks for more appealing conditions to attract talent to their organisations.

LAC governments are adopting different approaches to embed remote working practices. The COVID-19 pandemic played a critical role for governments to regulate this work modality, with most countries adopting new regulations after the outbreak in March 2020. Nevertheless, governments such as Chile, Costa Rica and Peru had implemented these approaches before the outbreak, building on this experience and maturity to enable the shift to remote government operations during the health crisis in early 2020. Countries have also adjusted teleworking regulations in the aftermath of the pandemic building on the lessons during the respond to the crisis.

Between 2017 and 2018, Chile implemented a remote work pilot programme at the Intellectual and Industrial Property Institute (Instituto Nacional de Propiedad Industrial – INAPI), which enabled the remote working system for specific functions within this institution. The pilot programme allowed up to 10% of this agency's workforce to perform its functions remotely. Even though there were previous teleworking experiences in the Chilean public sector, this was the first institutionalised remote working example in the country. In 2019, Costa Rica issued Law No. 9738 to regulate remote working.34 35 This law was built on lessons from the implementation of the decree N° 34704 in 202336 to promote teleworking in public institutions. The order set working conditions and mandates each institution to develop teleworking programmes describing the specific jobs subject to teleworking schemes, the working conditions, the total amount of employees entitled to this modality and the selection procedure. In the case of Peru, in 2013the government issued the Law Nº 30.036, which regulates remote working in the private and public sectors, providing a common understanding of teleworking arrangements and setting rules and rights for employers and employees.

The unprecedented disruption unleashed in March 2020 pushed governments to adopt remote work in the public sector to secure service continuity while keeping employees safe. LAC governments were not the exception, adjusting regulations, and legal frameworks and implementing concrete policies to facilitate the adoption of teleworking schemes in the public sector. For example, in March 2020, the Undersecretary of Public Employment of Argentina issued a resolution enabling teleworking in public institutions and a second decree with the provision regulating remote working in the public sector. In April 2020, the National Office for Public Employment published a set of recommendations for public employers on remote working and wellbeing.37 Similarly, the government implemented flexible teleworking arrangements, including hybrid models that combine remote and on-site work. In April 2020 Bolivia published the decree N4218 regulating teleworking in the private and public sector. In 2020, the government of Panama published a decree enabling public sector employees to work remotely on a full-time or part-time basis for suitable posts.

In the aftermath of the pandemic, governments have adapted remote working regulations and developed new approaches for the upcoming years. For example, in May 2022, the Government of Brazil issued a decree regulating remote working and framing it under the performance management programmes.38 In December 2022, Chile updated the teleworking regulation, including accountability mechanisms, security considerations and the right to disconnect.39 In July 2022, the Government of Costa Rica issued a presidential guideline to foster teleworking in the public sector, calling subnational governments to also adopt these principles.40 The Ministry of Public Administration in the Dominican Republic issued the resolution 074 in March 2022, mandating the return to on-site working for all officials in the public administration while mandating each institution to implement dedicated teleworking agreements. In April 2021, the National Civil Service Office in Uruguay conducted a survey to collect data on the adoption of remote working in the public sector during the COVID sanitary emergency. The results showed relevant gaps across institutions and job families.41

Developing and maintaining the skills of a digital workforce implies building in-house capacities to avoid dependencies on external third parties (OECD, 2021[1]). In addition to formal training and capacity building, a digital workforce can also benefit from informal and flexible spaces such as the creation of communities of practices, professional networks, and mentoring programmes. Countries in the region have created and promoted the use of communities of practice: eight out of fourteen countries reported having developed some type of communities of practice, networks or mentoring programmes related to data and digital in the public sector(Figure 2.8).

In Chile, the Network of Public Innovators run by the Government Innovation Lab brings together more than 24 000 members, including public servants, civil society and academia, creating a community of practice where members can connect, learn and share experiences on public innovation and public sector transformation. In addition, the Civil Service has implemented a mentoring programme for digital leaders 42 in which younger and experienced officials partner to close the digital divide in the public workforce. In Colombia, MINTIC implements knowledge and experience-sharing communities such as CIOs and data science networks to develop strategic communities concerning data issues. In Panama, AIG has implemented collaboration and learning communities for public officials fostering peer learning and knowledge sharing in the public sector workforce. In Uruguay, AGESIC has developed a community of practice on interoperability, allowing members to work collaboratively to address common challenges and build shared knowledge (see Box 2.5). These processes enable learning and favour the transformation of paradigms, generating new visions and knowledge.

Evidence shows that training programmes are one of the main lines of action regarding developing digital skills through training and capacity building for public officials at central and sub-national levels. Despite these efforts, the lack of clarity on the skills required, reflected in absent or partially developed digital skills frameworks, limits the effectiveness and sustainability of digital skills development in LAC public sectors.

For example, Argentina's National Institution of Public Administration43 provides training and knowledge management for civil servants. INAP priorities include digital capacities, technologies, and soft skills for change management. INAP also provides Virtual courses for public officials in central and subnational governments. Similarly, the National School of Public Administration in Brazil has developed dedicated courses on digital capabilities, including user experience, quality assurance methods, open data, and service assessment.44 In Chile, the Civil Service Campus delivers digital training for public services through short modules on digital transformation.45

In Colombia, MINTIC and the Civil Service provide training sessions and certifications for public officials on digital technologies, digital transformation and innovation, including diplomas on interoperability in the public sector. In Ecuador, the MINTEL signed an agreement with COURSERA to deliver training to the public sector reaching more than 7 000 officials. Besides training, MINTEL has carried out seminars and dissemination events communicating officials on digital government policies. In Panama, the Institute for Technology and Innovation (ITI) within the AIG, provides training for the public sector including digital skills. AIG works together with ITI on strategic planning capacity building. In addition, AIG provides workshops for public sector institutions on change management and digital transformation.

The essential role that subnational governments play in service delivery makes it imperative to build capacities for digital transformation at these levels of public administration. To address these challenges, some LAC governments have focused on providing training for local and regional government officials and tapped the use of distance learning systems to train and develop local governments' workforce skills (Figure 2.9).

In Brazil, ENAP implemented the Government Virtual School, providing online modules for public officials, including one on digital government. All modules are available for federal and local governments, and some topics focus on sub-national governments. The contents related to digital government were developed in collaboration with the Secretary of Digital Government in collaboration with civil society organisations. In Chile, the Training Academy created in 2012 under the Undersecretariat for Regional Development (SUBDERE), provides training programmes for public officials in regional and local governments. In collaboration with Universities, the Academy provides scholarships, certifications, and training modules for officials in subnational governments of the country. The courses include innovation, digital transformation and change management, among other public administration-related topics. In the Dominican Republic, the National Institute for Public Administration, under the Ministry of Public Administration, provides training for public officials, including innovation management, change management and use of ICT in the public sector. In addition, the INAP has elaborated dedicated modules for local government, including innovation in local administrations. In Uruguay, AGESIC and the National School of Public Administration, under the National Office for Civil Service, have created multiple virtual training programmes for public officials in central and subnational governments.


[13] agesic (n.d.), ¿Qué es un Centro de Conocimiento?, Agencia de Gobierno Electrónico y Sociedad de la Información y del Conocimiento, https://centrodeconocimiento.agesic.gub.uy/sobre-el-centro.

[9] EC (2021), Guidance on Innovation Procurement, European Commission, https://ec.europa.eu/docsroom/documents/45975.

[11] MINTIC (2022), Máxima Velocidad, Ministerio de Tecnologías de la Información y las Comunicaciones, https://maximavelocidad.gov.co/804/w3-propertyvalue-396020.html.

[12] OECD (2023), Public Employment and Management 2023: Towards a More Flexible Public Service, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/5b378e11-en.

[10] OECD (2022), Digital Government Review of Luxembourg: Towards More Digital, Innovative and Inclusive Public Services, OECD Digital Government Studies, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/b623803d-en.

[7] OECD (2022), Digital Transformation Projects in Greece’s Public Sector: Governance, Procurement and Implementation, OECD Public Governance Reviews, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/33792fae-en.

[3] OECD (2021), The E-Leaders Handbook on the Governance of Digital Government, OECD Digital Government Studies, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/ac7f2531-en.

[1] OECD (2021), “The OECD Framework for digital talent and skills in the public sector”, OECD Working Papers on Public Governance, No. 45, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/4e7c3f58-en.

[5] OECD (2020), Good Practice Principles for Data Ethics in the Public Sector, OECD, Paris, https://www.oecd.org/gov/digital-government/good-practice-principles-for-data-ethics-in-the-public-sector.pdf (accessed on 27 April 2021).

[4] OECD (2014), Recommendation of the Council on Digital Government Strategies, Public Governance and Territorial Development Directorate, OECD, Paris.

[6] OECD/CAF (2022), The Strategic and Responsible Use of Artificial Intelligence in the Public Sector of Latin America and the Caribbean, OECD Public Governance Reviews, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/1f334543-en.

[2] OECD et al. (2022), Latin American Economic Outlook 2022: Towards a Green and Just Transition, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/3d5554fc-en.

[8] Zapata, E. and S. Sinde (2022), La compra pública como catalizador del ecosistema govtech, Development Bank of Latin America and the Caribbean, https://scioteca.caf.com/handle/123456789/1872 (accessed on 22 June 2023).


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