copy the linklink copied! Assessments and Recommendations

copy the linklink copied!Strengthening governance

Driving the digital transformation of the public sector

Digital government strategies are critical artefacts in guiding policy action in work streams that are constantly and rapidly evolving. Strategies are able to align goals, objectives and initiatives, but are also fundamental in building consensus and contributing to the necessary cross-government co-ordination for efficient and effective policy implementation. Additionally, their public availability and regular monitoring positively contribute to improved transparency and accountability from the ecosystem of digital government stakeholders (OECD, 2016[1]). Aware of the importance of this policy instrument, all OECD countries that completed the OECD Digital Government Performance survey (2014[2]) and 73% of the Latin American and Caribbean countries that participated in the OECD Government at a Glance survey (2016[3]) have a digital government strategy.

Following a first version made available in 2014, an updated version of the Digital Agenda 2014-19 Panama 4.0 was launched in January 2016 containing the initiatives of digital government and connectivity for the modernisation of public sector organisations (AIG, 2016[4]). The strategy incorporated the demands expressed in several meetings organised with digital government stakeholders about their expectations for the period 2014-19. Questions on transparency, digital government services, planning, capacity building, interoperability and adequate legal and regulatory frameworks were considered as priorities to be integrated into the new policy document. The result was a detailed and comprehensive strategy, structured around important strategic lines and values, as well as key actions and goals considering the 2016, 2019 and 2024 timeframe.

Evidence collected demonstrates that the role of the Agenda was widely acknowledged among the stakeholders as the central strategy that guides the government’s cross-cutting digitalisation efforts. The common recognition of this central policy instrument reflects a positive alignment of views and expectations by the ecosystem of digital government stakeholders.

The OECD peer review team observed that institutional legacy determines that transparency and accountability are still considered as main drivers for digitalisation efforts resulting from social expectations. While those dimensions should remain as critical, the Panamanian context for the digital transformation of the public sector seems to have matured to allow for the uptake of more strategic approaches focused on priorities such as higher agility, performance, user-driven approaches and citizens’ well-being. For instance, the Panamanian government could better prioritise the development of a data-driven public sector culture, including open government data approaches and reinforcing interoperability between public digital systems for an advanced robust transformation of the public sector and public value creation (see Chapter 3 and 4).

In addition, there appears to be room for manoeuvring beyond Panama’s good positioning in international indexes, offering incentives to strengthen the maturity of digital governance towards concrete internal drivers to build a commitment from the public sector to embrace the opportunities and tackle the challenges of the digital transformation based on the national agenda’s priorities.

A reinforced vision for the future of Panama and the role of digital government to support a digital economy and society would bring considerable value to the efforts and commitments already underway across different sectors and levels of government.

Leadership and co-ordination

The existence of a public sector organisation with a clear leadership role on digital government policies is critical for the coherence and sustainability of national efforts, namely in a disruptive context of rapid and constant technological evolution. In line with the OECD Recommendation of the Council on Digital Government Strategies (OECD, 2014[5]) and relevant experiences observed in OECD member and non-member countries, the challenge is to provide such an entity with the proper mandate, political support and adequate resources that can enable co-ordinated and synergetic policy action across the different sectors and levels of government (OECD, 2016[1]).

In Panama, the National Authority for Government Innovation (Autoridad Nacional para la Innovación Gubernamental, AIG) is mandated across the three branches of government (executive, judicial and legislative, including local governments) to “plan, co-ordinate, issue guidelines, supervise, collaborate, support and promote the optimal use of information and communication technologies (ICT) in the government sector for the modernisation of public management, as well as recommend the adoption of national policies, plans and strategic actions” (AIG, 2019[6]).

The work developed by AIG on different fronts, co-ordinated across the government but also involving the private sector and civil society, is highly acknowledged by the ecosystem of digital government stakeholders in Panama. Since its foundation, the Authority was able to leverage political support, institutional mandate and availability of resources to strengthen the digitalisation of the country’s public sector and improve the relationship of the government with its constituents through digital technologies.

During the fact-finding mission in Panama in November 2018, the OECD peer review team identified some critical expectations that can help AIG strengthen its role and simultaneously better respond to the needs of the country’s digital landscape. AIG operational leadership for the digital transformation of government has allowed Panama to rapidly progress in several work streams (e.g. standards and guidelines, multichannel service delivery and the provision of interoperable cloud-based platforms through its data network), but also determined incipient efforts dedicated to the strategic and sustainable planning role of the digital transformation in the Panamanian public sector. A more strategic role could allow the Authority to be less absorbed by operational tasks and the technical delivery of projects and more focused on promoting a digital transformational culture and capacities across the public sector.

The abovementioned repositioning of AIG could allow renewed efforts in the development of a systems thinking vision that identifies and operationalises synergies across the public sector and fosters horizontal integration, thereby overcoming siloed and fragmented digitalisation approaches. Such an approach could also renew efforts in improving the relationship with civil society, businesses and academia as well as reinforcing the ecosystem of digital government stakeholders and better enabling collaborative policy approaches and joint ownership. It could allow simultaneously an improved focus on communication and on the creation of a digital transformation culture across the public sector workforce.

Compliance and mandates

Reflecting the Panamanian government’s commitment in the last decade to the digitalisation of the country’s economy, society and public sector, AIG benefits from a context with high political support and cross-cutting acknowledgement and recognition of its mandate and activities. The Authority counts on a very positive institutional environment that favours its co-ordination role across the public sector to promote digital transformation approaches with possible impacts on the efficiency of the administration, on the levels of trust of the citizens in the government and on the social well-being of the population.

The OECD peer review team assessed an opportunity for reinforced mobilisation of different levels of government, building on several already initiated efforts. The political support, resources and high acknowledgement that AIG benefits from (and contributes to) within the ecosystem of digital government stakeholders could be leveraged to build higher preparedness, engagement and empowerment of the municipalities, in the pursuit of their individual digital transformation agendas. The Government of Panama should consider improved communication and reinforce collaborative efforts with local government as a priority for to ensure local stakeholders understand the needs of the digital transformation of the public sector as a whole, and a common sense of shared responsibility that would help addressing them in a sustainable, informed, co-ordinated and possibly collaborative manner

Additionally, the OECD peer review mission found room for improvement on the level of compliance concerning existing key digital guidelines and standards (e.g. the once-only principle, data exchange in the public sector). Therefore additional policy action seems to be needed to increase awareness and ensure enforcement of the digital government policies. Reinforced communication efforts that provide adequate guidance to different sectors and levels of government could play a fundamental role in expanding awareness of the benefits of the digital transformation of the public sector and the need for co-ordinated efforts and systems thinking approaches.

Enabling legislation and digital rights

An updated legal and regulatory framework is an essential piece of sound governance for digital government policies (2014[5]). To seize the opportunities and tackle the challenges of the digital transformation in economies, societies and governments, the legal and regulatory framework needs to positively respond to the pace of rapid technological change. This requisite is particularly relevant in the public sector context, where actions and activities tend to be framed by laws and regulation.

For several years, Panama has had critical laws and regulations in place that enabled the progressive adoption of digital technologies in different sectors of activity, namely in the public sector. For instance, Law No. 51 of 22 July 2008 regulates the use of electronic documents and digital signatures (Asamblea Nacional, 2008[7]) and Executive Decree 275 of 11 May 2018 regulates digitalisation and digital documents procedures in government (Ministerio de la Presidencia, 2018[8]). Law No. 83 of 9 November 2012 is a cross-cutting legislation on the use of digital technologies in the public sector covering topics such as the value of digital communication and digital signatures, the once-only principle and the exchange of data in the public sector, accessibility for citizens with special needs and interoperability in the public sector (Asamblea Nacional, 2012[9]).

A consensus seems to exist among all the public sector organisations interviewed during the OECD fact-finding mission in Panama City in November 2018 that the legislative and regulatory framework needs to be updated, in particular reflecting the potential application of recent and disruptive technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain or data analytics. A consensus was also found on the need to update the law on public procurement (Asamblea Nacional, 2006[10]), in order to better enable the development of e-procurement and contribute to more efficient digital technology investments in the public sector (see Chapter 2: Towards digital commissioning) although the existing legislation already considers a mechanism available only for ICT procurement through AIG oversight. The development of a law of personal data protection was also flagged as an urgent necessity and during the drafting of the current report, an executive bill approved in October 2018 by the Legislative Assembly is pending its sanction by the President of the Republic of Panama.

A digital by design approach, embedding digital technologies in the Panamanian legal and regulatory framework from the start, seems to be required to secure the continuous growth and development of a digital economy, society and government. In order to fully embrace a digitally transformative approach with the necessary outreach capacity, the Government of Panama should consider enhancing the citizens digital (and data-related) rights angle. This approach would raise relevant issues such as personal data protection, personal data ownership and transparency on its management, but also the more advanced discussions about the right of citizens to accept or not decisions based on AI algorithms (a kind of opting out right on AI). The ethical use of data is also increasingly relevant in this discussion given that technologies increasingly rely on data.

Strengthening governance

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Proposals for action

In light of the key assessments exposed above, which draw on the main findings and analysis included in Chapter 1 of this review, the Panamanian government could consider implementing the following policy recommendations:

1. Prioritise a shift in the policy framework for digital government to more strategic drivers that can reinforce the country’s digital maturity, enabling improved involvement of the ecosystem of stakeholders for better policy alignment and value creation. The following priorities should be considered:

a Strengthen the role of data as a key public asset for improved monitoring, forecasting and delivery of services.

b Enhance user-driven approaches for simpler, efficient and convenient service delivery.

c Build on national and local social and economic drivers, such as improved citizens’ wellbeing, a competitive economic environment and a more open and citizen-driven public sector to mobilise the different sectors and levels of government.

d Move beyond an AIG centric strategy towards a more distributed model of digital government mandate and responsibilities.

2. Continue supporting the relevance and mandate of AIG as the national public sector organisation responsible for leading and co-ordinating the development of digital government, prioritising the evolution of some of its responsibilities and framework of policy action. The following should be considered:

a Evolve the role of AIG to reinforce its strategic mandate and competencies and alleviate some of its operational responsibilities.

b Increase the shared implementation of projects and initiatives, promoting the development of capacities across the different sectors and levels of government and supporting a culture of shared ownership and responsibility.

c Develop and allocate to AIG additional policy levers (see Recommendations 6 and 7) that can reinforce its strategic co-ordination role and allow the improved implementation of digital government projects and initiatives.

3. Strengthen co-ordination mechanisms to secure coherent and sustainable policy implementation, and shared ownership and responsibility for the development of a digitally-enabled state. The following should be considered:

a Increase the regularity of the meetings of Chief Information Officers (CIOs), using them to highlight the relevance and improve the uptake of specific standards and guidelines (e.g. interoperability, the once-only principle).

b Create operational communities, bringing together public sector information technology (IT) professionals from different sectors of government focused on critical standards and guidelines (e.g. open data, digital identity) who can share information and meet to allow streamlined development and implementation across the government.

c Organise regular meetings of local level CIOs, that can support increased alignment with the Digital Agenda 2014-19 Panama 4.0 and also with AIG initiatives and projects.

4. Continue the efforts of keeping the legal and regulatory framework updated, as a critical enabler that can allow Panama to enhance the digital transformation. The following action lines should be prioritised:

a Develop a legal and regulatory framework in critical areas identified during the review such as digital identity, citizens’ participation and collaboration, e-procurement, ICT procurement, data-driven public sector, data ownership and transparency and use of emerging technologies in the public sector.

b Reduce or move away from the strong legalistic culture across the administration through the promotion campaigns and capacity building actions that can further promote innovative, experimentation-based, iterative and agile approaches to service design and delivery.

c Promote digital by design approaches in policy-making processes, developing capacity building/training programmes to sensitise legislators and raise their understanding and awareness on the use of digital technology by the public sector and the implications of new legislation in the digital government landscape.

d Invest in the development of a digital rights culture in the different sectors and levels of government, supporting raising awareness and capacity building across the public workforce.

copy the linklink copied!Building institutional capacities

Digital culture and skills in the public sector

Given the digitalisation underway across government processes and services, reinforced efforts are required to prepare civil services with the proper skills that can enable them to deliver. Across OECD member and non-member countries, governments are emphasising cross-cutting policy actions to equip their public sectors with different sets of talents and skills in a permanent effort to address change. Digital user skills need to be constantly updated to enable efficient use of basic productivity tools (e.g. email, word processor, spreadsheet, workflow applications) and increasing efforts are also necessary to attract, retain and keep updated digital professional soft and hard skills in the public sector (e.g. data analysts).

However, other important skillsets are increasingly recognised as critical for addressing the digital transformation of the public sector. Digital complementary skills are required for public professions that are today profoundly transformed by the digitalisation of our economy and society (e.g. tax collection, public sector communication, management of citizen services and planning). Digital management and leadership skills are also necessary for equipping civil servant with a digital transformation mind-set that can allow them to better perform their activities whilst acknowledging the opportunities, benefits and risks of using digital technologies in the public sector (OECD, 2017[11]).

In line with the trends observed in most OECD member and non-member countries, the stakeholders in Panama interviewed during the OECD fact-finding mission in November 2018 and responded to the OECD Digital Government Survey of Panama recognised the government’s efforts to reinforce digital skills in the public sector through multiple approaches and initiatives. These initiatives for building capacities across the public sector have been part of the general digitalisation process but a consensus was found for reinforcing endeavours to establish a broad and consistent approach that secures the need development of a digitally capable and mature public sector.

The OECD peer review team observed that training still remains mostly focused on the development of the digital and professional skills of information technology (IT) departments, with an emerging but still limited focus on the development of complementary, leadership and management skills. Although many of the stakeholders interviewed did show a digital transformation culture, stronger efforts to promote this culture across different sectors and levels of government, and especially among senior government officials, seem to be needed to reinforce the sustainability of Panamanian digitalisation efforts in the public sector to reach a higher level of digital government maturity.

The clarification of profiles for key roles and subsequent identification of gaps in terms of the needed skills and capacities in the public sector could help Panama to move towards a more strategic approach in terms of agility, performance and efficiency to foster the digital transformation of its public sector. An advanced culture of delivery in a digital transformation context would strengthen the government’s ability to respond to citizens’ increasing and evolving expectations towards public services. In this sense, in order to reinforce a digital culture and maturity in the Panamanian public sector, the government could consider prioritising the mapping of the skills and roles needed that could lead to the development of an action plan for retaining, building or attracting the needed digital talent and skills across different sectors and levels of government. This could be complemented by a communication and promotion campaign around digital opportunities and challenges in the public sector.

Strengthening capacities across sectors and levels of government

As mentioned above (see Chapter 1), the mandate and capacity of AIG to lead and implement the digital government policy in Panama is highly acknowledged and positively appreciated in the different sectors of government. The Authority manages an extended list of programmes, projects and initiatives that support a cross-cutting digitalisation of the public sector, allowing the public administration to better serve citizens and businesses. Initiatives such as the 311 Citizen Contact Centre (Centro de Atención Ciudadana 311), the Government Cloud and the Governance Framework of Digital Government (Marco de Governanza de Gobierno Digital) (see Chapter 4) are clear examples of policy outputs with a cross-cutting outreach throughout the public sector, improving efficiency and coherency of the Panamanian government efforts towards a digitally enabled state.

Although this overarching and cross-cutting role of AIG has been critical for the rapid development of the country’s digital government agenda, the medium- and long-term sustainability of these efforts might be at risk if distributed leadership, joint ownership and shared responsibilities are not promoted throughout the public sector. A risk of overreliance on AIG might determine that the proper capacities and capabilities do not develop in different sectors and levels of government, or they do not do it in a sustainable manner. When discussing their ongoing policy efforts and priorities for the future with different Panamanian institutions, the OECD peer review team assessed that improved digital maturity is needed. Some improvement can be achieved through the development of capacities (see Chapter 2: Digital culture and skills in the public sector) but would be supported by involving and attributing a more active role to different government institutions in the development of digital government policies.

After a period where the cross-cutting leadership and implementation role of AIG was fundamental to kick off and promote strategic projects and mobilise public stakeholders, the Government of Panama should now consider prioritising the creation of shared expertise and digital implementation capacity across different sectors of government. This approach will create conditions for further sustainability of the policies underway and their impact, and bring the country to a new level of digital government maturity.

Planning of investments in digital technologies

The digital disruption underway increases public sector responsibilities for developing an optimised approach to investment in digital technologies that is capable of properly managing and deciding upon different technological trends (e.g. insourcing vs. outsourcing software development, proprietary software vs. open source software, private local hosting and processing vs. public cloud computing). Strategic planning is fundamental for the development of a systems thinking culture across the public sector that promotes the sustainability of digital technology investments, avoids gaps and overlaps, and generates positive impacts in the social and economic context of the countries.

In line with the OECD Recommendation of the Council on Digital Government Strategies (2014[12]), namely Key Recommendation no. 10, the experience of several OECD member and non-member countries also demonstrates that important policy tools can be implemented within digital technology investment frameworks, allowing improved policy leadership and reinforced efficiency and coherency on public spending:

  • The existence of a budget threshold mechanism for the pre-evaluation of digital technology investments above a certain value can promote better alignment between several sectors of the government, avoid duplicated expenditures and secure alignment with existing digital technology standards and guidelines (see Chapter x).

  • Mandatory cost-benefit analysis through the application of common business cases approaches also allow streamlined digital technology investments that better respond to the planned outputs, outcomes and impacts.

  • The availability of project management standards for digital technology projects across the public sector also support improved agility in planning, raising comparability and monitoring possibilities that promote efficiency and accountability towards the different digital government stakeholders.

  • The establishing of co-funding mechanisms capable of strategically mobilising the ecosystem of public, private, academia and civil society stakeholders for the development of digital technology projects and initiatives, guaranteeing the accomplishment of technical standards and guidelines and supporting a systems thinking culture in the delivery of services to citizens and businesses.

In Panama, AIG has oversight of digital government policies through its role in pre-evaluating digital technology procurement, evaluating investments above PAB 50 000 (approximately EUR 44 000). This mechanism demonstrates that a culture of evaluation and monitoring of digital technology investments is already institutionalised in Panama, with substantial results in the coherence of the policy in place.

However, when consulting AIG and the stakeholders, there appeared to be a general consensus regarding the need to strengthen policy levers for improved efficiency and coherence in investments. The development of business case approaches, which could be applied to all sectors of government, was considered a medium-term priority, as well as the development of standardised project management models. Improved monitoring mechanisms to measure the efficiency, impact and return on investment of projects was also considered a fundamental piece to allow a clearer vision of the digital projects and initiatives underway in the country. The use of co-funding mechanisms by AIG to encourage the development of specific projects and initiatives across the administration, accomplishing the necessary standards and guidelines, should also be considered by the Government of Panama.

Towards commissioning of ICT goods and services

Digital technology procurement is commonly recognised as a critical policy mechanism for effectively delivering digital technology investments. Key Recommendation 11 of the OECD Recommendation of the Council on Digital Government Strategies (2014[12]) attributes importance to this policy in sustaining overall objectives for the modernisation of the public sector. The benefits of strategic co-ordination in procuring digital technologies can be found through the aggregation of demand that promotes efficiency, the improved alignment of investments with the main strategic goals of the digital government policy in place, better oversight and monitoring capacities to avoid gaps and overlaps, and new possibilities for reinforced transparency and accountability of public investments.

In 2014, 52% of OECD countries had an ICT procurement strategy for central government according to the OECD Survey on Digital Government Performance (2014[13]). In Panama, a general consensus exists on the permanent need to reinforce and update government efforts in this policy area. As in most OECD member and non-member countries, the shift from a traditional-procurement paradigm focused mostly on the acquisition process to a broader digital commissioning paradigm that allows private contractors to partner in developing solutions and services that create public value is increasingly being considered.

AIG and most digital government stakeholders in Panama recognised that the current procurement law represents an obstacle for mature digital technology procurement. A broad consensus was found for the need to update this law or, following the example of most OECD countries, develop specific legislation that can regulate the procurement of digital technologies. There was strong agreement among the stakeholders when considering digital procurement as a critical policy lever for improved digital government policy. Building on this consensus and on the efforts towards digitalisation developed in the last years, the Government of Panama should prioritise, in the short or medium term, the development of specific regulations for digital technologies procurement that can build on the role AIG already has in the matter.

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Proposals for action

In light of the key assessments exposed above, which draw on the main findings and analysis included in Chapter 2 of this review, the Panamanian government should consider implementing the following policy recommendations:

5. Reinforce the level of priority attributed to the development of digital skills in the public sector that can properly sustain the country’s efforts and ambitions towards a digitally enabled state through a specific policy able to mobilise the administration for the promotion of user, professional, complementary and leadership and management digital skills of public servants. The following measures could be considered:

a. Undertake a mapping of the abovementioned four types of digital skills in the public sector and identify existing gaps and priorities in terms of profiles, roles and capabilities to be developed across the administration,

b. Define an action plan for retaining, building and attracting, the necessary digital talent and skills across the different sectors and levels of government.

c. Prioritise policy actions capable of co-ordinating the supply and demand of these skills in the public sector, securing the proper digital skills are considered as part of the institutional mechanisms such as public job profiles, recruitment processes and evaluation systems.

d. Develop a digital skills communication and promotion campaign led by AIG to raise awareness and acknowledgement across the public sector.

e. Promote a digital culture across the different sectors and levels of government through oriented awareness raising and capacity building to support the development – namely in high-level and senior public officials – of a mind-set able to properly consider the opportunities and challenges of digital technologies across public processes and services.

6. Reinforce the use of policy levers that can reinforce the co-ordination of AIG in the planning of investments in digital technologies across the public sector. These mechanisms should become strategic policy levers properly linked with the Digital Agenda Panama 4.0 and the digital government key enablers, reinforcing the maturity of the governance of digital government in the country. The following levers should be prioritised for this purpose:

a. Establish institutional mechanisms to secure the budgetary influence of the General Administrator of AIG in the approval and distribution of budgetary resources across the public sector.

b. Reinforce the communication of the existing budget threshold for investments in digital technologies to raise awareness of its role and benefits for the public sector.

c. Define the estimation of financial benefits as mandatory for investments above the existing budget threshold and as a recommended practice for investments below the threshold.

d. Develop a standardised business case that can be used as a cost-benefit mechanism by public sector institutions across the government, building on the existing General Norms for the Management of ICT in the State and on the Principles for Working with Business cases developed by the E-Leaders Thematic Group on Business Cases.

e. Define a standardised agile project management methodology that can be used across the administration, with an online application for the application of the standard methodology, allowing centralised monitoring of ICT projects and initiatives.

f. Attribute co-funding responsibilities to AIG, enabling the financial sponsorship of strategic projects and initiatives and reinforcing the leadership and oversight capacities of the Authority.

7. Modernise the approach towards the procurement of digital goods, solutions and services across the public sector to strengthen the impact of the Government’s investments towards a coherent and sustainable digital government. The following actions could be considered:

a. Develop a dedicated strategy on ICT procurement to address strategic and specific needs of public investments in digital technologies

b. Secure the alignment of ICT procurement rules with the use of digital standards such as interoperability, digital identity or open source software.

c. Update the legislation that frames public procurement securing agile approaches adapted to a digital transformation context and better enabling e-procurement solutions.

d. Prioritise the adoption of a commissioning culture, assuring the necessary links with the formulation of business cases and the delivery of services, and guaranteeing the involvement of suppliers and users throughout the procurement process.

e. Consider the development of a digital marketplace in Panama, building on the experiences of New Zealand and the United Kingdom for instance, that promote more agile procurement processes for digital technologies and can progressively be considered in other areas of investment.

copy the linklink copied!Data-driven public sector

Governments produce, collect and use data on an ongoing basis. However, this is often done in a way that emphasises existing siloes without respecting standards or considering how it might duplicate data stored elsewhere. Sometimes this is down to a deliberate decision, other times it is simply that organisations are unaware of the impact of their choices. In other ways, the legal or governance structures in a country may be an obstacle to the easy use, or reuse, of the data governments already hold. This is indicative of an inadequate understanding or recognition of data as a strategic asset for public sector organisations.

In all these cases, the impact on the citizen is not insignificant. Whether it is the challenge a citizen faces in proving that they are who they say they are when attempting a transaction over a remote channel (whether telephone or the Internet) or the overhead placed on them to provide physical documents to several organisations to meet a single need, the ability for citizens to provide information once only is one that countries should prioritise.

Nevertheless, it is not solely in the delivery of services that governments can unlock the transformative impact of a data-driven public sector (DDPS). Countries that have implemented a strategic approach to the use of data throughout the public sector are better able to show foresight in anticipating and predicting societal trends and needs and consequently developing more effective long-term plans. Additionally, data plays an important role in being able to analyse the performance of all types of government activity and to use that information not only to make improvements but to be transparent about success, and failure, in ways that support accountability and stimulate public engagement and trust (Ubaldi, van Ooijen and Welby, 2019[14]).

DDPS in Panama

The Panamanian Government recognises that development of ICT would only be an effective tool for modernising the state if it was accompanied with measures that allowed for internal collaboration and interoperability. Importantly, Law No. 83 of 9 November 2012 (Asamblea Nacional, 2012[15]) on electronic government, makes provision for all government databases to be interoperable.

Some important efforts are being made to encourage the modernisation of the National Institute of Statistics and Census (Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Censo, INEC) and the role it plays alongside the National Authority of Transparency and Access to Information (Autoridad Nacional de Transparencia y Acceso a la Información ANTAI) in supporting the Open Government and Open Government Data (OGD) agendas in Panama. As a result, there are some initial encouraging signs of an open data ecosystem beginning to emerge with initial conversations between academics, civic-minded software engineers and the government starting to take place.

Another important development in the application of data to the experience of citizens and businesses in Panama is the legislative process to implement laws focused on issues of data protection and private data. The recently enacted Law No. 81 of March 26 2019 (Asamblea Nacional, 2019[16]), which regulates the protection of personal data, is currently in a two year implementation period following its publication in the Official Gazette. Reflecting the increased global interest best demonstrated through the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (European Union, 2016[17]) and Panama’s adherence to the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime in 2013, the country is beginning to consider how it might defend the rights of citizens and businesses in the safe and effective use of their data. Once again, this is an early improvement where the building blocks are being put in place and allow Panama to work with a consenting public to make full use of data in ways that encourage trust.

Being open in order to increase transparency and accountability in the eyes of the public and civil society is an important element of building trust. However, this commitment to openness has not yet led to a more proactive recognition of the importance of opening data for re-use. This is another sign of the absence of a real data-driven culture in the government of Panama. Policymaking, service delivery or performance monitoring are not underpinned by an exploration of the opportunities found in applying, opening, sharing and reusing data, either within or outside the government.

Nevertheless, the appetite to become leaders in the application of data to transform policy and services gave the peer review team confidence that this will change. Law No. 33 of 25 April 2013, creating ANTAI, also made provision for an Information Officer and associated team to exist within each public institution with responsibility for proactive transparency, open data and information requests (Asamblea Nacional, 2013[18]). However, this role and this team are not always in place. In order to support efforts around both OGD and DDPS, the Government of Panama should consider it an immediate priority to develop a strategy for appointing people to those roles and co-ordinating that activity across different sectors and levels of the public sector. Building the capacities of senior public sector officers to understand the digital transformation as a phenomenon that clearly surpasses any technological or technical discussion is fundamental to achieving new stages of digital government maturity in national contexts.

The culture of data within Panama’s public sector

Data relating to the performance of the economy, tourism and construction are critical to how Panama plans its policy agenda with government priorities also being influenced by the relative performance of the country in international indicators. This has resulted in a focus on the competitiveness of Panama and the need to simplify bureaucracy, particularly for businesses.

However, there is less evidence of data being considered in the specifics of predicting policy needs or the delivery of services. One of the biggest challenges that still exists is limited data sharing between organisations and an absence of cross-sectoral thinking to ensure standardisation of systems or schemas. Despite the provisions of Law No. 83 of 9 November 2012 on electronic government that stipulates all government databases should interoperate, these have not been strongly enforced meaning there are areas of government where this has not yet been possible. This organisation and sector specific approach to data can be seen in the development of platforms for tackling a tightly defined problem or responding to the particular needs of a specific organisation. The vision for these technology interventions appears to lack the strategic overview of responsibility for data throughout the government.

Nevertheless, one of the most encouraging areas of data being applied to transform the government was the creation of a performance framework. The National e-Government Indicators (Indicadores Nacionales de Gobierno Electrónico, INAGOB) have allowed the National Authority for Government Innovation (Autoridad Nacional para la Innovación Gubernamental, AIG) to produce a baseline for the impact of their activity.

Data is collected relating to the satisfaction and performance of services and AIG publishes comparisons between institutions. Whilst near real-time dashboards are providing institutions and their ministers with insights into what is happening, its application for improving the delivery of services is not universal and depends on the commitment of a given institution to consider data in its approach to delivery.

It is not currently the strategic responsibility of an individual or an explicit expectation of an organisation such as AIG or ANTAI to ensure that a cross-government vision exists for how the country might move towards establishing a data-driven culture. As a result, people still need to look in several places and cannot rely on the data that is available to be timely or licensed in a way that will allow for simple reuse.

There is a potentially crucial opportunity in maximising the role of Information Officers mandated by Law No. 33 of 25 April 2013 (Asamblea Nacional, 2013[18]). In order for that team to act as the champion of a data-driven culture within their organisation, they need to be supported by leadership roles that are not currently in place at either national or organisational levels. This means that the data agenda is not as visible within the country’s strategic planning as it could, or should, be. The Government of Panama should consider sponsoring the mentioned leadership roles, putting in place an important pillar for sustaining a culture of data across the public sector.

Continuous improvement

The OECD peer review team found it encouraging that the 311 Citizen Contact Centre collects satisfaction feedback on all its interactions with citizens and publishes a monthly, per-agency report on the volume of reports and performance in terms of case closures. It was also positively observed that some institutions are proactively requesting this data. Nevertheless, there was limited evidence of a strategic overview from the government as a whole as to how it might apply performance-related insights to improve services. So that such insights are not dependent on ad hoc requests or needs, it would be powerful to make additional information more openly available, initially within government and perhaps later to the public as well.

The Panamanian government should also consider exploring how additional performance information could be made publicly available to provide a visible focus to questions of how citizens, businesses and visitors to Panama experience interactions with the government. Such transparency should not be about highlighting poor performance that could generate broader civic criticism but as a mechanism for empowered teams to derive insights that support the evolution of an improved service.

The Government of Panama is moving away from exclusively using external indices to establish their priorities and is beginning to develop its own, context-specific understanding of performance with the INAGOB and the ten dimensions for digital transformation in government. This existing work on a measurement framework for digital government provides a solid baseline but a culture of performance needs to be fostered within service teams and organisations to establish a more granular understanding of how services are experienced and the outcomes they produce.

It should not be considered sufficient just to measure and publish this data; any of those measurements should be considered in light of how the insight can be applied to improve services or government operations and processes. Therefore, the measurement approach should develop from the pure collection of statistics and become something that can hold people to account. Therefore, the performance framework should not only consider the user’s experience but the efficiency, impact and return on investment as well.

External application of government data

A final area for Panama to consider in developing a DDPS is the role of OGD. Panama is already an active participant in the Open Government Partnership and has since 2012 implemented several activities to support the Open Government agenda. One of the areas in which this has been successful is the creation of ANTAI in 2013 and the subsequent development of the national open government data website (Datos Abiertos de Panamá, is a positive sign. Equally, the AIG SmartNation project shows good promise that will only increase in value if all sectors and ministries participate.

However, with the majority of those datasets detailing budgeting, national statistics, legislation and procurement, it is clear that this has resulted in a focus on questions of transparency and accountability rather than on encouraging the re-use for broader social and economic value creation. Weather forecasting data has been opened up and although universities have done studies with the data, it has not stimulated much interest from app developers or hack events. Despite a public sector with responsibility for delivering various public goods and services that could generate OGD, there was little evidence to see its role and potential being explored.

Whilst there are some limitations to the way in which open data is being used externally, one of the biggest challenges is that there is limited recognition of strategic decisions regarding the publishing of data. This means that organisations make their own decisions about how and when data is published. Whilst there is a top-level recognition of the need to standardise rules, greater effort needs to be made in ensuring that those rules are understood and that public servants are confident in applying them to facilitate increased sharing of their data and a consequently broader application of it.

It is insufficient to create a website for indexing datasets if the level of engagement from government does not stimulate interest in the datasets it contains, promote an understanding of its benefits or encourage external parties to apply the data. In order to establish a culture that naturally considers how data could be re-used externally, the Panamanian government needs to think about how it brings civil society actors and private sector entrepreneurs together with public servants to explore how Panamanian government data can improve lives, whether through government policy, voluntary activities or commercial solutions to everyday problems.

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Proposals for action

In light of the key assessments exposed above, which draw on the main findings and analysis included in Chapter 3 of this review, the Panamanian government should consider implementing the following policy recommendations:

8. In order to build a DDPS culture, Panama must commit to developing a comprehensive data governance model that identifies leadership and vision at both the central level and within each institution as well as addressing the capacity for implementation and the necessary regulations. In this vein, Panama should consider the following actions:

a. Appoint a Chief Data Officer for the country as a priority to offer strategic responsibility for ensuring a cross-government vision exists for Panama to establish a data-driven culture that maximises the opportunities for applying data in policymaking, delivery and ongoing performance as well as OGD.

b. Review and revise the national data strategy to move beyond OGD and establish a framework for data-related roles at an institutional level that ensures people are appointed and that their responsibilities reflect the ambitions of a DDPS.

c. Ensure priority is given to roles like a Chief Data Officer, the enforcement of the Law No. 33 of 25 April 2013, the development of an institutional data strategy, the resourcing of data-related activities and compliance with data publishing guidance by holding institutional leaders accountable through personal objectives and performance reviews.

9. The Government Data Value Cycle provides a blueprint for handling data and creating public value. The flow of data is an important enabler for policymaking, service delivery and the ongoing operations of the public sector. The following actions should be prioritised:

a. Develop a strategic and formalised way to report and reuse feedback and performance data within the public sector that allows for insights throughout the policy lifecycle and on an end-to-end basis within services.

b. Identify a methodology for quantifying the baseline value of data as an asset within the Panamanian public sector in order to track its impact through business case and delivery processes

c. Establish clear guidance around how data is handled within the Government Data Value Cycle (see Figure 3.6)

d. Map the flow of existing data and needs for data within and between Panama’s public sector.

e. Develop the necessary technical tools such as catalogues, base registries, Application Processing Interfaces (APIs) and data standards.

f. Unblock any legal obstacles to the once-only-principle being implemented.

g. Require Chief Data Officers and Information Officers to set out their approach to applying data in order to generate public value in policymaking, service delivery and performance management.

10. The Chief Data Officer, ANTAI and the government’s community of data practitioners should consider how civil society actors and private sector entrepreneurs could be brought together with public servants to explore how Panamanian government data can improve lives whether through government policy, voluntary activities or commercial solutions to everyday problems. As such, Panama should envision the following:

a. Invest in the country’s open data ecosystem, sponsoring competitions linked to specific policy issues/challenges or making particular funding streams available to encourage conversations between academics, civic-minded software engineers and the government.

b. Build on the commitment to data protection enshrined in the new law by exploring whether this is recognised as equivalent to the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation and take the lead on initiating a conversation about regional data interoperability with other members of the e-Government Network of Latin America and Caribbean (Red de Gobierno Electrónico de América Latina y el Caribe, Red GEALC)

c. Develop a skills and capability plan for data literacy, overseen by the Chief Data Officer, within the areas of data governance, the application of data to unlock public value (policymaking, service delivery and performance evaluation) and data for trust (transparency, data protection, managing consent and data ethics).

copy the linklink copied!Service design and delivery

Service delivery is the central point of contact between a state and its citizens, residents, businesses and visitors. It has a major impact on the efficiency achieved by public agencies, the satisfaction of citizens with their government and the success of a policy in meeting its objectives. Alongside confidence in the integrity of government, the most significant indicators of trust in government are the reliability and quality of government services. The quality of these interactions between citizen and state shapes not only their experience of government, but influences the opportunities they access and the lives they build.

Increasingly, the digital transformation of our economies and societies is raising the expectations of citizens and businesses to be served by government in ways that meet their changing needs, leading to pressure on the public sector to improve service delivery. Doing so not only has the potential to increase the satisfaction of citizens with public sector organisations but can also strengthen their confidence in local and national governments. This trust in services and public sector organisations as service providers helps achieve policy outcomes focused on the well-being of citizens and the progress of societies.

In this context, users are unforgiving of services that compare poorly with experiences of high-quality delivery, whether from the private sector or elsewhere in government. To meet rising quality expectations, in the digital age, governments need to focus on understanding the entirety of a user’s journey across multiple channels, as well as the associated internal processes, to transform the end-to-end experience. Doing this may require adjusting and re-designing processes, defining common standards and building shared infrastructure to create the necessary foundations for transformation as well as ensuring the interoperability of public sector organisations to facilitate the data flows that will make integrated, multi-channel services possible.

Service design and delivery in Panama

One of the most helpful initiatives in establishing the base on which Panama is developing its approach to service delivery is the Panama En Línea initiative. It is best understood as two separate projects working together. Firstly, PanamaTramita a listing of all government procedures that provides the necessary information for citizens to complete the interactions and make requests of government. Secondly, the technical platforms which allow for the development of government procedures, an authentication mechanism and the technical support for interoperability.

PanamáTramita ( catalogues the 2 700 procedures which take place between citizens or business and central government, and another 1 463 with local government. Any new procedure or additional requirements must be justified before they are included within PanamáTramita, which prevents public officials requesting documents or creating new processes that are not already detailed, limiting the growth of bureaucracy. PanamáTramita provides the basis for prioritising 450 services to undergo digitisation according to a standardised business process management approach.

Several platforms have been implemented to provide support in different sectors. For example, in the health sector, there is a collaborative effort to digitise health records with participation from both public and private sector actors. A cloud-based local government resource planning (GRP) platform provided and managed by the National Authority for Government Innovation (Autoridad Nacional para la Innovación Gubernamental, AIG) has allowed municipal governments to focus on their core business rather than developing systems, with the result that 68 out of 80 local authorities are using it for their websites and can in future standardise their processes around the tools it offers.

Panama’s future ambitions have been supported by the development of a national network for data and voice connectivity that provides 87% of the country’s population with access to free Wi-Fi hotspots and more than 300 nationwide Internet centres (InfoPlazas). Nevertheless, there is the continued provision of services through telephone and face-to-face channels. The 311 Citizen Contact Center (Centro de Atención Ciudadana 311) service provides a 24/7 telephone-based channel for assisting citizens with procedures on behalf of the whole of government.

With this foundation in place, the country can look to the future confident of addressing the next phase of their ambitions to transform services, while being careful to avoid creating new forms of digital divides. One challenge lies in how the services and technologies that AIG and the Panamanian public sector have already developed, interact with one other in providing a transformed experience of the state for businesses, citizens and visitors that responds to the diverse needs across society.

Internal culture of service delivery

The OECD peer review team was impressed with the implementation of a six-year project begun in 2012 to transform the experience of the justice system across several branches of government. This collaboration between AIG and all the necessary stakeholders saw a transformative approach taken to the end-to-end experience of justice. By disaggregating that complex process, it has been possible to gradually address different elements with the result that, by 2018, they had transformed not just existing digital elements but also the issues related to physical infrastructure and analogue interactions in the entire experience of justice. There is no longer any paper involved and, according to information obtained during the fact-finding interviews, the judicial system has reduced the time involved by 96%. This kind of end-to-end transformation that addresses the entirety of a service in both its back-office and public-facing experiences provides an aspirational model for the rest of Panama and other countries.

However, apart from this excellent example from justice, the language of service design appeared to be absent from the way in which public servants in Panama discuss their approaches to transform service delivery. The dominant themes of delivery in Panama are centred on digitisation and/or automation of existing processes rather than on users and their needs. Consequently, there is greater focus on the technologies that can be deployed rather than the transformation of the underlying services. This leads to the proliferation of apps and different technologies responding to particular problems from a technology point of view rather than considering critical policy actions, such as implementing the once-only principle for data exchange or a channel-agnostic approach to services, to reflect the diversity of the country’s population and better serve their needs.

The focus on technology means that even a conversation about the role of digital identity tends to consider how to digitise an analogue process rather than exploring the transformative impact which digital identity solutions can have on avoiding particular steps, reusing existing data sources and rethinking the way in which a citizen or business might interact with the state. The challenge for Panama is to redesign the state in a way that recognises the context of its citizens, not simply to implement technology and digitise interactions.

External interaction with those outside government

The voice of the private and public sectors is represented through an annual public-private dialogue between AIG and the Center for National Competitiveness (Centro Nacional de Competitividad, CNC) facilitated as part of the National Competitive Forum (Foro Nacional para la Competitividad), as well as special working groups and a study commissioned by AIG to CNC. However, the OECD peer review team found little evidence of making space for actively involving citizens in establishing either the needs or contributing to the ongoing design and development of the services they need to access. The notable exception was the citizen survey commissioned by CNC in identifying the priorities for simplification.

This is partly due to the way in which the priorities for transformation are being set. With Panama heavily influenced by external indicators and benchmarks focused on the needs of business, or the challenges facing government, much of the activity necessarily responds to these challenges first. As a result, whilst there is an important recognition of the needs of the public, the “government to citizen” dynamic is less well represented and certainly not influencing the priorities for the transformation of services.

This lack of decision-making based on an understanding of the needs of citizens highlighted that government tends to be more reactive to needs that come up in the course of implementing its agreed direction rather than proactively focusing on what is important and strategically thinking about how best to deliver the transformation of Panama’s public services in general.

Several stakeholders interviewed during the peer review mission to Panama in November 2018 recognised that awareness of some of the services and transformation achieved by the Panamanian government is low amongst the public. One of the benefits of increasing the involvement of citizens is generating the momentum for adoption but equally important is capturing an understanding of the needs to which these existing services have been responding. Building a culture that places users at its heart and is driven by their needs will ensure that the government’s efforts to transform services are well received by the public and promote public trust.

The nationwide InfoPlazas network not only provides an important route to accessing services for citizens throughout the country but could offer the ideal setting in which to involve local communities and citizens in the discovery of needs and development of solutions to their problems. The Inter-American Development Bank is currently supporting a programme of work using the InfoPlazas network to help increase awareness of Panama en Linea and train people in its usage. This is an important initiative and supports the view of the OECD peer review team that the InfoPlazas network should be seen as a valuable piece of existing infrastructure to further support digital literacy, entrepreneurship and other cross-government agendas.

There are opportunities for the Panamanian government to develop partnerships with research, further education and private sectors both in the country and across international borders. Several of the world’s leading technology companies recruit remote workers in Panama and the ambition to become a logistical hub for the region’s humanitarian aid sector reflects the opportunities of international organisations being based in the country. Further supporting the ambition to see Panama become a global “digital hub” is its advanced Internet connectivity infrastructure, which includes six fibre optic submarine cables. In this sense, Panama should consider developing programmes that attract foreign digital, data and technology companies to base themselves in the country.

Resources and enablers that support delivery

AIG has developed several shared services and platforms with particular success in adoption of the 311 Citizen Contact Centre, voice and data network connectivity and the government private cloud infrastructure. However, it is important that sector-specific interventions do not happen in isolation but are delivered as part of a calculated and planned strategic approach to providing transformed services at the macro level. Else, there is the potential to create a myriad of different legacy platforms requiring rationalisation in the future.

The 311 Citizen Contact Centre provides a single front door to the Panamanian government but the proliferation of platforms behind that is contributing to a fragmented user experience. There are competing channels whether online, through apps, over the phone or in person for different services indicating that the importance of designing good end-to-end services is not always understood at an institutional level.

Work on the various platforms is a clear indicator of a commitment to developing mechanisms that make interoperability possible across the Panamanian public sector but this is still nascent. Indeed, although Panama has the once-only principle enshrined in Law No. 83 of 9 November 2012 (Asamblea Nacional, 2012[19]), the OECD peer review team were informed on multiple occasions of services where citizens or businesses would need to provide information already held by one part of government to another in order to address their issue. Greater support, whether through legislation, increased mandate or political will towards the ongoing efforts of AIG is needed for interoperability to be assured between platforms and government organisations. An increase in the integration of data and systems will enable Panama to consider the design of end-to-end services that respond proactively to the needs of citizens but will also highlight the challenges of legacy technologies.

An important area for Panama’s focus is identity. Panama has an established physical identity mechanism and a law that allows for the use of an electronic signature. However, efforts to implement digital identity as an enabler need to be revisited. Although a technical solution is under consideration, there lacks a clear strategic vision for how it would be adopted across Panama with risks that the implementation of a technical solution is being prioritised over the design of an identity service. Identity highlighted some of the challenges with the existing model of governance for digital government in Panama. Identity is the responsibility of the Electoral Court of Panama (Tribunal Electoral de Panamá) because they are the public sector organisation holding analogue identity records and with responsibility for analogue identity mechanisms. Unfortunately, due to the electoral period, it was clear that the Electoral Court had not prioritised the provision of a digital identity (DI) platform designed to support the transformation efforts of other parts of government with challenges in communication and the technical approach being taken. However, it has invested in a pilot to be resumed for implementation on a larger scale, as well as a new biometric platform to be shared with other stakeholders. With DI so integral to the transformation of the state, more involvement from AIG could be relevant. In the case of DI and other digital, data and technology initiatives, AIG acts on a consultative and co-ordinating basis. In certain cases, it may be beneficial for this central expertise to assume increased responsibility for the strategic outcomes associated with the design, delivery and implementation of critical initiatives.

The role of AIG in offering guidance and building capability remains important. For example, questions of security or cyber protection that need to be emphasised will not be solved through the development of another technology platform but through the cascaded expertise of AIG, responsible for the Cyber-security Strategy and the government’s Computer Security Incident Response Team (CSIRT). The consensus model currently in place is good and has clearly been successful but there is a risk that examples of good practice do not contribute to a coherent and pan-governmental transformation.

AIG has been effective in co-ordinating the Chief Information Officers from across Panama’s public sector but in certain cases there needs to be bolder leadership that moves beyond the softer consultancy advice and guidance, to support and enforce the strategic delivery of an ecosystem that can foster the transformation of Panama government services.

Emerging technologies and innovation

As the digital government agenda in Panama matures, what was once “innovative” becomes more of a mainstream activity. For AIG, this presents a challenge in balancing the need for a focus on operational excellence and continuous improvement of government services with the horizon-scanning role of stimulating and supporting innovation. The plans to build a modern headquarters for AIG as a Center of Excellence for Digital Government and Innovation at the Ciudad del Saber (City of Knowledge) and an ongoing openness to further its role in government innovation through a multi-stakeholder approach, partnering with academic and private sectors, indicates that there is a solid foundation for handling that challenge and contributing to the wider digital ecosystem of the country.

Emerging technologies such as distributed ledgers or artificial intelligence were mentioned in a handful of instances. This reflects the current focus of the Panamanian public sector on delivering the fundamentals of digital transformation before being seduced by the promise of the future. Nevertheless, the OECD peer review team did not find a co-ordinated or strategic view on the role of innovation in the transformation of how Panama delivers services rather than implements technology.

As AIG matures its approach to innovation there are some important sectors to work with. The Panama Canal and the other members of the sea, land and air logistics cluster are exploring whether emerging technologies can add value to their interactions with their customers and stakeholders. The importance of Panama to global trade provides an important opportunity for Panama to develop expertise, stimulate innovation and incubate new businesses. Building public-private partnerships with this sector, and others, led by the Logistics Cabinet (Gabinete Logístico) could provide the necessary funding and expertise to explore other areas of transformation with emerging technology that may otherwise be impossible. Equally, the role of multilateral funding organisations in championing and supporting experimentation with emerging technologies could be a useful area to pursue in encouraging an innovative approach to the delivery of public services in Panama and beyond.

As Panama investigates the opportunities of developing and implementing emerging technologies, the legal framework of the country will have a significant influence. Existing, and somewhat outdated or conflicting, legal frameworks are often not conducive to responding to the changing priorities of society because they are specifically tailored towards the particular industries, technologies, processes or analogue systems that were available at its time of conception. Nevertheless, in the case of Panama, the regulator should be encouraged in its efforts to regulate services rather than specific technologies. This focus on the outcome rather than on technologies can set an important precedent for the way in which Panama is able to respond to future technological opportunities.

Cross-border services

There is no visibility in strongly promoting Panama’s digital, data and technological competencies abroad. Several areas within Panama’s economy and society offer interesting opportunities to stimulate start-ups and model transformed delivery of service whether in trade, tourism or other services based on its already established base of multinationals and its privileged connectivity. Such lessons could be shared regionally and internationally.

Although Panama is interested in the comparison of its performance against its neighbours, this has not yet extended to exploring how the country thinks about services that cross the border. This gap is particularly noticeable in the approach to immigration services. Whilst this is not perhaps a service that would be a priority when seen through the eyes of Panamanian citizens, the process by which someone receives permission to work impacts on several hundred people a day and generates significant internal effort. The 12-step process takes one to two months to complete and can only be initiated, in person, once they are physically in the country.

Panama is clearly a leader in the regional discussion on digital transformation with their presiding of the Latin America and Caribbean e-Government Network (Red GEALC) and hosting the V Ministerial Meeting of the Red GEALC in 2018, a demonstrable success. This role affords the country an opportunity to help define and shape a cross-border strategy for the Central-American region, focused on creating opportunities for non-Panamanian customers (citizens, companies and other governments) to do business, travel or exchange information in Panama. Such an approach should also champion how Panamanian citizens and businesses can be digitally active abroad.

Adopting a standards-based approach to these activities would mean that these benefits were not limited to the Central-American region. As seen in the recent Free Trade Agreement between the European Union and Japan, each party having a clear and effective approach to data protection has allowed for mutual recognition of those regimes and the opening up of particular industries to trade that might otherwise have been limited. As Panama deploys its “digital hub” strategy, develops its own data protection frameworks, builds advanced data and interconnectivity infrastructure, and expands its digital economy, the opportunity for Panama to provide services across borders could be truly global.

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Proposals for action

In light of the preceding assessments, which draw on the main findings and analysis of Chapter 4 of this review, the Panamanian government could consider implementing the following policy recommendations:

11. It is critically important for Panama to establish a design culture that places users at its heart and is driven by their needs within its institutions as well as at AIG. Such an approach will help Panama develop a joined-up, channel-agnostic approach to services that respond to the context of citizens and maximise the value of Panama’s Government as a Platform approach. Panama should consider the following actions:

a. Provide requisite training for existing public servants to root them in service design practices.

b. Deliver services as part of a calculated and planned strategic approach to providing transformed services across the government rather than sector-specific interventions taking place in isolation.

c. Adopt a bolder, more directive set of strategic activities that develop and enforce the delivery practices required to transform Panamanian government services.

12. Panama needs to be clear about how the services and technologies that have already been developed, and which are planned for the future, interact with one another and provide the means for designing a fully joined-up, whole-of-government experience for businesses, citizens and visitors. In this sense, the following recommendations should be considered:

a. Considering the success of the 311 Citizen Contact Center, PanamaTramita, the InfoPlazas and MuNet there is an opportunity to pursue a single government service delivery brand across multiple channels to consolidate and rationalise the web and physical presence of public sector institutions.

b. Develop a clear strategy for digital identity to precede the development of applications and platforms.

c. Remove any ongoing barriers to the implementation of the once-only principle by developing the existing legal framework for interoperability and the technology to support it.

13. As AIG and the Panamanian government develop their service design culture and put citizens and their needs at its heart, they will need to consider the following areas for improvement:

a. Develop an understanding of the needs of citizens that allows public sector organisations to proactively focus on solving the most important problems in order to maximise public value.

b. Provide an online manual of good service delivery practices, developed collaboratively by the different professional communities, to support the development of service design capability within the Panamanian public sector.

c. Consider developing a Service Design and Delivery Standard appropriate to guiding the activity of disparate organisations to ensure consistency of experience and quality of outcomes.

d. Develop the InfoPlazas and national Wi-Fi networks as valuable pieces of infrastructure that can support digital literacy, entrepreneurship, user research and other cross-government agendas.

14. Supporting experimentation with emerging and disruptive technologies could be a useful area to pursue in encouraging an innovative approach to the delivery of public services in Panama. Considering this, Panama should continue to:

a. Explore ways to partner with and stimulate academic and private sectors to develop a digital ecosystem that can provide the basis for anticipating and experimenting with emerging technologies to solve public sector challenges.

b. Support and strengthen technology interventions targeting tourism, ecology and trade in the context of the urgency of climate change and create and adopt an environmentally friendly policy for all public sector investment and management of procedures.

c. Shift the focus of regulation away from technologies and towards services and outcomes to ensure Panama is well placed to respond to future opportunities.

15. With the ongoing commitment to Panama as a “digital hub”, the following actions should be considered:

a. Encourage inward investment from digital, data and technology companies.

b. Continue to work with the other members of Red GEALC to help define and shape a cross-border strategy for the Latin America and Caribbean region that creates opportunities for non-Panamanian customers (citizens, companies and other governments) to do business, travel or exchange information in Panama whilst seeking the same for its citizens and businesses abroad.


[6] AIG (2019), Acerca de la AIG, (accessed on 7 March 2019).

[4] AIG (2016), Agenda Digital 2014-2019 - Panamá 4.0,

[16] Asamblea Nacional (2019), Ley 81 de 26 de marzo de 2019 - De protección de datos personales,

[18] Asamblea Nacional (2013), Ley 33 de 25 de abril de 2013.

[9] Asamblea Nacional (2012), Ley 83 de 9 de Noviembre de 2012 - Regula el uso de medios electrónicos para los tramites gubernamentales,

[15] Asamblea Nacional (2012), Ley 83 de 9 de Noviembre de 2012 - Regula el uso de medios electrónicos para los tramites gubernamentales,

[19] Asamblea Nacional (2012), Ley 83 de 9 de Noviembre de 2012 - Regula el uso de medios electrónicos para los tramites gubernamentales,

[7] Asamblea Nacional (2008), Ley 51 de 22 de julio de 2008 - Define et Regula los documentos electrónicos y las firmas electrónicas,

[10] Asamblea Nacional (2006), Ley 22 de 27 junio de 2006, que regula la contratación publica, ordenada pela Ley 61 2017,

[17] European Union (2016), Regulation (EU) 2016/679 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 April 2016 on the Protection of Natural Persons with Regard to the Processing of Personal Data and on the Free Movement of Such Data, and Repealing Directive 95/46/EC (General Data Protection Regulation) (Text with EEA Relevance),

[8] Ministerio de la Presidencia (2018), Decreto Ejecutivo n. 275 de 11 de Mayo de 2018 - Que Reglamenta los Numerales 4, 5, 6 y 10 del Artíclo 4 de la Ley 83 de 9 de noviembre de 2012,

[11] OECD (2017), Creating a Citizen-Driven Environment through Good ICT Governance – The Digital Transformation of the Public Sector: Helping Governments Respond to the Needs of Networked Societies, OECD, Paris.

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[3] OECD (2016), Government at a Glance: Latin America and the Caribbean 2017, OECD Publishing, Paris,

[5] OECD (2014), Recommendation of the Council on Digital Government Strategies, OECD/LEGAL/0406, OECD, Paris,

[12] OECD (2014), Recommendation of the Council on Digital Government Strategies, OECD/LEGAL/0406, OECD, Paris,

[2] OECD (2014), Survey on Digital Government Performance, (accessed on 16 July 2018).

[13] OECD (2014), Survey on Digital Government Performance, OECD, Paris, (accessed on 16 July 2018).

[14] Ubaldi, B., C. van Ooijen and B. Welby (2019), “A data-driven public sector: Enabling the strategic use of data for productive, inclusive and trustworthy governance”, OECD Working Papers on Public Governance, No. 33, OECD Publishing, Paris,

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Assessments and Recommendations