Chapter 12. Digital government

This chapter provides guidance on how broadband-enabled central and sub-national governments can become more agile, efficient and effective in fulfilling their roles, while responding to citizen and business’ demands for greater transparency and inclusiveness in public sector operations. It outlines the expected benefits of shifting from e-government to digital government, of increasing availability of open government data and of using data as a strategic asset for improved policy making. The chapter then introduces existing measurement and impact assessment tools and approaches for these policies, both for central/federal and city governments. It also provides an overview of existing efforts in the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region to advance digital government, open government data and smart cities, and describes current trends across the OECD in these areas. Finally, it provides a number of good practices from LAC and OECD countries. These can serve as examples of forward-looking initiatives addressing the most pressing issues for the development of digital government in the region.


A key goal of this Toolkit is to promote the use of information and communications technology (ICT) by both the private and public sectors in the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region. This chapter addresses the perspective of the public sector. Generally, the framework conditions for the provision of high-speed Internet access, through the development of broadband infrastructure, should help improve the efficiency and effectiveness of government operations, policy making and public service delivery. This will benefit governments, individuals and business in all their activities. This chapter presents a set of good practices to improve public sector use of broadband and encourage more innovative, participatory and open government.

The pace of technological change in the digital economy continues to challenge governments in the LAC region and beyond. More connected and informed citizens and businesses have rising expectations about public service quality and convenience, and demand more inclusive and transparent decision-making. Governments in the region need to build strategic capacities to plan, steer and implement the use of digital technologies. Innovative and more collaborative ways must be found to meet these expectations in the context of scarce budgetary resources.

Improving public sector use of broadband and ICTs can help make public services more effective and responsive, and enhance the interaction between citizens and businesses. However, incoherent and unco-ordinated use of technologies can lead to inefficient use of resources, duplication of efforts and platforms, lack of interoperability of government information systems and data, and consequently, poor public sector performance. The digital divide and a lack of suitability for users’ needs, a lack of ICT skills in the public sector, or privacy and security measures may reduce citizens’ ability to use online channels to interact with public authorities. Governments need to overcome such obstacles to capture the full benefits of broadband and digital government.

Digital technologies can improve information disclosure, access to public sector information and improved public engagement. Strategies to increase capacities to use data more proficiently and to cover the use of ICTs should not be treated separately. By supporting a more strategic use of public sector data and information, such as through Open Government Data (OGD) policies and initiatives, digital technologies can benefit policy making, service design and innovative delivery arrangements, and enhance participation, accountability and transparency at all levels of government, whether local, regional or national.

This chapter provides clear policy objectives for governments in the LAC region, describes tools for measuring progress in achieving these objectives and analyses the context of digital government in the region. Based on this overview, it offers specific policy recommendations illustrating good practices to address outstanding issues and help governments achieve new levels of maturity in their use of digital technologies.

From e-government to digital government

E-government refers to the use of ICTs, and particularly the Internet, to achieve better governance (OECD, 2014a). Governments have increasingly put services online. However, often this has not significantly changed structures and back-office processes designed at a time when the focus was on achieving better operational efficiencies within specific policy domains. Neither has it necessarily made services and operations digital by design, for a more synergetic, co-ordinated and coherent use of technologies across the public sector. New digital technologies (e.g. social media platforms, mobile telephones/smartphones) and new approaches to using technology (e.g. open government data and big data) offer more collaborative ways of working within and across administrations, and better ways to engage with the public. This can help governments become not only more efficient and effective, but also more open, transparent and accountable to their constituents.

This new stage of maturity of digital technologies and their increasing use by governments is marking a paradigm shift from e-government to digital government. According to the OECD Recommendation of the Council on Digital Government Strategies, digital government may be defined as “the use of digital technologies, as an integrated part of governments’ modernisation strategies, to create public value. It relies on a digital government ecosystem comprised of government actors, non-governmental organisations, businesses, citizens’ associations and individuals which supports the production of and access to data, services and content through interactions with the government” (OECD, 2014a).

The major result of this shift is that digital government is no longer only about putting services online and achieving operational efficiency. Governments are embracing a whole new conception of ICTs as a core element of public sector transformation. A key mechanism for strengthening public governance, they can help make governments more open, effective and efficient. Meanwhile, they can integrate service users’ preferences into the design and delivery of public services. Digital government is about new ways of delivering public value and making services and government procedures digital by design. This requires integrating ICTs in the public sector reform agenda right from its conceptualisation.

Open Government Data

Within broader strategic frameworks for digital government, a growing number of governments have adopted policies and initiatives to design and implement OGD. This refers to the release of data collected and produced by public organisations while performing their tasks, or data commissioned with public funds. The goal is that OGD is released in open formats that allow their free use, reuse and distribution, subject only to the requirement that users attribute the data and make their work available to be shared (Ubaldi, 2013).

The amount of data produced by governments on issues of public interest has increased in recent years, and attention has been drawn to its potential not only for enhancing the transparency, accountability, integrity and performance of the public sector, but for creating economic and social value. OGD has the potential to improve the outcome of public policies, for example in education and public transport. In the education sector, for example, new programmes could be developed to increase the effectiveness of teaching by tailoring lessons to students’ records. Schools’ performance could be monitored directly by parents by providing open but anonymised data on students’ performance. Public sector data offers opportunities for new products and services, and steps could be taken to increase its availability in open and interoperable formats.

The private sector now generates massive amounts of data in its daily operations on supply chain management, the social behaviour of its customers and government regulations (Herzberg, 2014). An open data ecosystem can help bridge public, private and civil society sectors, and allow them to collaborate and exploit data to capture available synergies. For instance, large Internet companies, such as Twitter, have opened part of the data created by its network in the form of APIs (Application Programming Interfaces), allowing data reusers to combine this data with open government data to develop services and create value. Similarly, governments can use this data to perform data analytics, helping them identify social trends and calibrate public services and policies as needed. Civil society organisations can use data available in open formats to raise awareness of issues of public interest. This chapter will also address OGD policies and initiatives for LAC.

Policy objectives in the LAC region

To reap the full benefits of broadband and digital technologies, clear policy objectives are needed to guide decisions and investments made across the administration and different levels of government. An overarching governance framework is needed to identify roles, responsibilities and co-ordination mechanisms that promote the coherent use of digital technologies in the public sector, while boosting innovation and establishing the conditions for managing risk. These policy objectives are:

  • Improving the supply, quality and uptake of digital government services. Governments face increasing, multifaceted challenges both in maximising digital government policies and projects and delivering high quality public services efficiently and equitably to all segments of the population. Given the existing financial constraints, innovative responses and new schemes must be found to deliver high-quality services that improve social outcomes. Access to online broadband services, public sector information and data, and digital civic participation and engagement can help governments secure consensus and commitment in a cost-effective and transparent fashion. Paired with the appropriate institutional capacities and administrative culture, this can allow governments to take more inclusive and more informed decisions while protecting privacy and security. Broadband technologies provide an opportunity to deliver quality, inclusive and cost-effective digital services and to support evidence-based policy making, provided that key structural enablers are in place.

  • Clarifying governance and strengthening management of government information services. As public institutions reach new levels of maturity and sophistication in their use of broadband-enabled technologies, they are confronting a need to overcome the silo approach, share processes and data, integrate and work together with other units, both within their own organisation and across the public sector. This increases the pressure for co-ordination to ensure coherent and rational use of digital technologies. Public institutions should aim to overcome specific risks arising from inappropriate co-ordination and governance frameworks. An inadequate flow of information and a lack of collaboration within and across levels of government can lead to low efficiency, public sector fragmentation, an uneven level of preparedness to use ICTs and missed opportunities for value creation. Better internal co-ordination and collaboration can improve sharing of resources and integration of processes, which in turn can help enhance public sector performance.

  • Connecting government institutions to enable digital transformation. Digital government relies on key infrastructure, such as access to ICT by public institutions – and particularly broadband connectivity. The use of common authentication systems for service users can support the back-office re-engineering that makes it possible to integrate processes and share the resources required to deliver integrated digital public services. Connectivity of government institutions also provides the public sector with new and more flexible channels for interacting more directly and cost-effectively with society. Potential benefits include greater efficiency for public and private sector organisations, enhanced competitiveness, economic growth and job creation, as well as greater public sector transparency and accountability.

  • Open up government data and improve data and information reuse across the public sector. Digital government, particularly when supporting more openness in government processes, allows for an improved exchange and use of data, information and ideas among public institutions, and facilitates innovations that translate into new and more efficient services. Making data and information available, easily accessible and reusable offers governments the opportunity to engage with citizens in innovative collaboration schemes that can help create public value. In turn, non-institutional actors – such as citizens, the private sector and civil society – can more effectively participate in the design and implementation of public policies, as well as in the design and delivery of public services. Optimising open government data requires developing a dynamic open data ecosystem, enabling data producers and re-users to maximise its impact and create public value.

  • Leverage technology and innovation to organise cities more efficiently. With populations that are increasingly urban, city governments need to leverage technology and innovation to organise and govern cities in smarter ways, creating more efficient and sustainable cities and ultimately achieving a better quality of life for citizens. Smart cities focus on broad policy outcomes such as energy saving, public transport, health, safety, mobility, sustainable development and increasing the capacity to innovate in one territory, stimulating ventures and new partnerships. These efforts can be complemented by the development of digital cities, which focus on the use of digital technologies to improve service delivery, the relations between individuals and the public administration and to promote the creation of citizen networks that enable the sharing of data, information and knowledge (OECD, forthcoming).

Tools for measurement and analysis in the LAC region

Digital government performance and public sector connectivity

The use of digital technologies is increasingly considered a precondition for the performance of public services. ICTs are essential for processes and services throughout the administrative back office, from national security to tax collection and issuance of public permits. Still, the efficiency and effectiveness of delivering, using and managing ICTs within the public sector is only measured sporadically, and performance indicators are one of the weaknesses of this area of work. Creating consensus around standardised metrics or indicators and impact evaluation models can enhance comparability of data across countries and support peer-learning exercises.

Most measurement efforts tend to focus on budget and time management rather than on actual value creation. Existing international measures focus on framework conditions, such as the World Economic Forum (WEF) competitiveness index, using data from entities such as the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the World Bank, or on government supply, such as the United Nations’ e-Government Survey (Figure 12.1) and the European Commission’s revised e-government benchmark framework. The latter also includes some output- and outcome-related measures, such as uptake and user orientation.

Figure 12.1. United Nations E-Government Index (2014)

Source: UN (2014), United Nations E-Government Survey 2014,

While making useful contributions to the understanding of the international development of e-government and digital government, these indicators need to be complemented by operational insights on governments’ performance in digitising the public sector. These sets of new indicators can help measure impact not only in terms of inputs and outputs, but also in terms of outcomes.

In 2014, the OECD began to develop performance indicators, using the OECD Survey on Digital Government Performance, collecting data from OECD member countries. The survey focuses on 12 themes closely related to the OECD Recommendation of the Council on Digital Government Strategies (OECD, 2014a). It is currently in the data collection phase for the LAC region and will provide comparable data by 2016. This set of over 130 indicators includes data on service delivery, such as online service provision, mandatory use of online services, share of services available online, online public service transactions made compared to other channels, and use of user feedback in service design and delivery. An overview of online public service delivery in LAC is provided here (Figure 12.2).

Figure 12.2. Online public service delivery in LAC countries

Other performance indicators include the existence of co-ordinating units or functions, government investment in ICT infrastructure, services and human resources (HR), and measurement of direct financial benefits of ICT projects for government, citizens and businesses. However, digital technologies are diverse and cross-cutting, making it difficult to identify simple indicators of progress to capture the availability and quality of services, ICT governance and co-ordination in the public sector and overall public sector intelligence. It also presents challenges for the use of data to inform policy making, and innovation, which calls for a combination of tools.

The OECD Recommendation of the Council on Digital Government Strategies (OECD, 2014a) will be complemented by a Digital Government Policy Toolkit, of which a draft version is already available. The final version of the Toolkit will include a general overview of each principle of the Recommendation, key trends, good practices and a list of further reading. It will also include composite indicators linked to each of the principles, and a self-assessment exercise linked to each principle, to illustrate the type of policies and practices governments should use to make progress at different stages of development in the use of ICT.

At the national level, the design of performance indicators and impact assessment tools should align with digital government policy objectives. It is important to monitor and assess results at the aggregate level by key policy areas, to evaluate the results of the implementation of the digital government strategy, as well as at the micro level, to help identify the key drivers of success and failure of individual ICT projects or programmes. The methodology should clearly describe and assess inputs, activities, outputs and outcomes, so that the final impact can be determined. Outcome indicators can include time to complete procedures or access services, users’ satisfaction with public services, number of citizens participating in public decisions through digital channels, and the economic benefits for citizens as well as the public and private sector.

The development of clear business cases (BC), or similar value-proposition methodologies, can help determine responsibilities of all relevant actors and focus on expected outcomes. The use of BC methodologies can help plan, monitor and follow up on ICT projects, making it easy to adjust as necessary during implementation. Adopting the same methodology across an administration can help develop a results-oriented culture geared towards strong project management.

Finally, efforts have been made to connect government institutions, to make possible the requisite levels of integration and sharing to boost digital government performance. All the countries responding to the OECD/Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) questionnaires reported that close to 100% of central government institutions are connected to broadband. However, in certain cases, the data does not exist for local governments. Extending the monitoring effort will be critical so that local governments can provide digital public services and participate in the digital transformation. This can also broaden the focus of analysis to gauge efforts to introduce additional common enablers (e.g. “service bus” infrastructure and authentication systems for service users).

Measuring OGD implementation and effects

It is also important to reach a degree of maturity and consensus around impact assessment methodologies for open government data policies. This can help guide governments as they implement their policies and programmes and maximise value creation. Few objective measures exist at the international level to help governments understand OGD efforts and effects. The OECD has developed the OURdata Index, in its publication Government at a Glance 2015 (OECD, 2015b), which assesses governments’ efforts on three fronts: increasing data availability on the national portal; increasing data accessibility on the national portal; and providing active support for the reuse of data.1

Data accessibility and availability are necessary, but if conditions are not in place to ensure reuse of data, OGD benefits, from social, economic and good governance perspectives (e.g. transparency, integrity, accountability) may be limited. Reuse of data by the public sector, by civil society organisations, by the private sector and a host of other actors is a sine qua non for optimising open data. The OURdata Index aims to help strengthen governments’ focus on effective outcomes and to remember that the overall objective should not be increasing the availability of data, but encouraging stakeholders’ engagement in data reuse (Figure 12.3). The OURdata Index is based on the OECD methodology for measuring Open Government Data (OECD, 2015b) and on the G8 International Open Data Charter, encapsulating the first set of internationally agreed-upon set of principles on Open Data.

Figure 12.3. The Open-Useful-Reusable Government Data Index

Source: OECD (2015b), Government at a Glance 2015,

The OECD methodology covers OGD strategies, effects and challenges, which allows the Index to focus on OGD implementation. The primary source of data used to calculate the Index is data collected through government sources. As international policy commitments progress (see for example the launching of the International Open Data Charter during the UN General Assembly in September 2015) the methodology underlying the OURdata Index will be expanded. This is essential, as the OURdata Index is also intended to help governments monitor their progress in implementing their international OGD commitments and commonly agreed-upon principles. Ultimately, the index aims to help governments design and implement OGD strategies that deliver value to the public. Additional international efforts to measure OGD include the Open Data Barometer, developed by the World Web Foundation, and the Open Data Index, developed by the Open Knowledge Foundation.

Smart cities

Different initiatives exist for measuring smart city performance. Applying its conceptual framework, the IDB has developed an assessment tool for Emerging and Sustainable Cities, gathering 140 indicators from a variety of sectors that help the IDB and local governments assess the sustainability of emerging cities. Emerging cities are defined as rapidly growing intermediate size cities of 100 000 to 2 million people. This tool is particularly valuable, as it consists of a set of indicators that was especially designed and developed to be implemented in the LAC region.2

Under its Emerging and Sustainable Cities Initiative (ESCI), which aims to foster smart and sustainable development of emerging Latin American cities, the IDB has developed a conceptual framework for analysing smart development. It is based on three pillars:

  • Environmental sustainability and climate change: This includes indicators on efficiency and quality in water management and delivery, sanitation and drainage coverage and quality, waste collection coverage and quality of management, energy coverage, efficiency and sustainability, air quality, greenhouse gas emissions, noise control and vulnerability to natural disasters.

  • Comprehensive urban development: This groups indicators on urban design and planning, fairness in distribution of urban services, urban transport network efficiency, economic competitiveness and public safety. It includes indicators on connectivity (broadband, mobile phones, smartphones), levels of educational attainment and quality of infrastructure.

  • Fiscal sustainability and good governance, with a strong focus on transparency, fiscal effectiveness and sustainability: This includes indicators measuring participatory and modern public management (supported by the use of digital technologies), transparency, tax and financial autonomy, quality of public spending, contingent liabilities and sustainability of municipal debt.

Overview of the situation in the LAC region

The LAC region has seen substantial change in the past two decades, including a growing middle class, rising levels of education, increased Internet usage and burgeoning mobile penetration (Figure 12.4).

Figure 12.4. Middle-class use of ICT and average years of schooling in Latin America and the Caribbean

Note: Middle class is represented as % of population with middle class income of USD10 to USD 50 PPP.

Source: OECD based on data by IDB (2015), Sociometro-BID (database),,6981.html; World Bank (2015), World Development Indicators (database),

Rising connectivity across the LAC region is changing how people interact in social, economic and civic spheres. Their expectations for the delivery of public services and in how they can interact with the delivery of these services are increasing. As a result, at a time of growing fiscal pressure on LAC governments, public authorities are expected to tackle increasingly complex issues for which they may not have sufficient information, adequate resources or capacities, and are expected to improve public sector productivity to deal with these growing demands. Governments thus need to use technology and data more strategically. To achieve these goals, public sectors across the LAC region need to build a shared view of how digital government is supposed to work, improve collaboration and co-ordination across institutions, and enhance public engagement and participation mechanisms to leverage data, knowledge and talent from their communities.

Given the need to digitise the delivery of public services, countries in the LAC region face relatively low levels of trust in government institutions (Figure 12.5). This is partly due to the perception of inadequate levels of transparency, accountability, performance and openness in government institutions. Digital technologies provide an opportunity for LAC governments to regain public trust and create public value. However, risks associated with their use, if not properly managed, could further erode confidence in public institutions. Security and privacy breaches and large ICT project failures could undermine government credibility and public trust (these issues are treated further in Chapters 14 and 15). Authorities cannot afford to appear unable to ensure safe and adequate use of digital technologies in the public sector, and must be able to plan investments and manage projects to drive results.

Figure 12.5. Confidence in government and perception of corruption

Notes: Confidence is measured by the percentage of the population with confidence in government. CPI is the Corruption Perception Index (on a scale from 0 to 100, where 0 indicates high perception of corruption).

Sources: Gallup (2014), World Poll 2014,; Transparency International (2014), 2014 Corruption Perceptions Index,

Digital government

Governments in the LAC region have begun to develop national agendas or strategies to increase digitisation of government processes and develop digital public service delivery and uptake. Most provide online services to their citizens and businesses. However, existing processes have often been transferred online without a substantial overhaul of back-office procedures. The design of these services can be driven by internal priorities. Development is frequently outsourced through traditional procurement arrangements that may not provide the required flexibility or adapt services to user demand.

Traditional procurement rules may limit or prevent the public sector from leveraging the skills and potential of small and highly specialised start-ups in favour of large firms. Designing effective digital services demands appropriate governance frameworks as well as institutional capacity. This includes regulatory frameworks and ICT skills in the public sector. Delivering these services requires key enablers to be in place, for example, eID or digital signatures that can provide reliable authentication mechanisms and secure access to digital services. Many countries have developed legal frameworks to support digital signatures and eID, such as Peru and Uruguay. However, many have not yet implemented these frameworks.

Service delivery in the LAC region is often designed in a silo approach, as an isolated initiative focused on the internal priorities of the delivering organisation. This fragments the online user interface of the public sector, making it harder for citizens and businesses to access online services. To address this situation, a group of leading countries, including Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay, are developing one-stop shop portals offering citizens and businesses a single access point to all digital public services. This is paving the way for a user-centred approach (Boxs 12.1 and 12.2).

Box 12.1. Peru’s service portal for citizens and businesses

As one of the leading countries in the field of digital government in the region, the government of Peru is quickly adapting to international trends in the field of service delivery. The Oficina Nacional de Gobierno Electrónico e Informática (ONGEI) has developed a service portal (Servicios Ciudadanos)1 for citizens and businesses that serves as a one-stop-shop, facilitating access to and visibility of online public services. It provides citizens and businesses a catalogue including over 800 online services and 56 mobile applications that give users access to services on the move.


In 2014, nearly all countries responding to the OECD/IDB Questionnaire reported having a strategy or policy in place to improve the access to and use of digital services. These strategies include infrastructure development plans and training programmes for citizens and businesses. Countries such as the Plurinational State of Bolivia, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Mexico and Uruguay are opting to encourage the uptake of digital services, including by making the use of online channels mandatory. Mandatory online services mostly concern forward-looking agencies such as tax revenue administrations, which are seeking to improve their internal processing of tax declarations. The intent is to maximise efficiency and tackle cultural barriers through technology. However, mandatory online services remain an obstacle for digitally excluded populations, and additional effort is needed to support their access to these services.

Box 12.2. Costa Rica’s advances in digital government

Since 2010, Costa Rica has designed goals, plans and projects to transform the state with information and communications technologies. The goal is innovation of services, to reduce bureaucratic processes and speed access to procedures and services for both citizens and businesses. Of the projects developed by the Technical Secretariat of Digital Government, the most notable are:

  • Citizen Portal,1 which aims to improve public services with a search engine designed to index all government sites. Featured services include: one-stop service, where services are provided for the processing of passports for the first time.

  • Merk-Link,2 a 100% electronic purchases integrated system designed to become the sole government procurement system, to improve transparency and efficiency in public procurement.



In certain LAC countries, a lack of resources or geographical conditions has slowed the development of infrastructure. To ensure a better distribution of digital opportunities across the country, different LAC countries have developed multi-channel strategies, while addressing structural factors that preserve existing divides. Given the high penetration of mobile telephones, a focus on “mobile government” has been considered one viable option, for example in Colombia (OECD, 2013b). However, little data is available on the effectiveness of these strategies, and few governments monitor progress with performance indicators. Public authorities should set up governance frameworks that allow for the digital transformation of the public sector. No one prescribed model for institutional and organisational frameworks can be recommended for public sector digitisation. Governance structures should establish clear roles and responsibilities based on a country’s political realities, objectives and institutional capacity. The institutional development of LAC countries has progressively led most of them to establish ICT co-ordination units at the central government level (e.g. with a government chief information officer, or CIO). Regional leaders, such as Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Uruguay, have made major efforts to improve co-ordination between the units responsible for ICT implementation. Room for improvement nevertheless remains in establishing formal co-ordination mechanisms between units within and across levels of government.

A major challenge for both OECD and LAC countries is to win the support of top civil servants and the political leadership for broadband strategies. Insufficient appreciation of the benefits of digitisation limits the ability to break down resistance to change and to mobilise the necessary resources for this transformation. Government officials tasked with promoting digitisation have the challenging task of raising awareness both within the administration and in society at large. Experience from OECD countries shows that the process of developing a national broadband strategy is a key strategic moment to gain visibility and secure commitment from all stakeholders. Engaging with them in the development phase is necessary to ensure that the different views are reflected in the final document, facilitating a broad sense of ownership and political support for digital government initiatives.

Most LAC countries have yet to develop comprehensive strategies to improve their capacity to implement digital government initiatives and support broader public sector reform. In recent years, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico and Uruguay have revised their procurement frameworks to support governments’ use of cloud technologies, app and software development and the protection of data privacy when contracting digital services. Still, most legal and regulatory frameworks for ICT procurement in the region fall short of addressing many of today’s most pressing challenges, including procuring and deploying digital technologies promptly, supporting innovation, sharing and the use of open-source software in the public sector. LAC countries often lack information about their existing assets, which undermines their capacity to identify their needs and make rational ICT investments.

Finally, the institutional capacity of governments in Latin America also faces the challenge of developing ICT skills in the public sector. This is further complicated by the gap between private and public sector salaries, which tends to push talent toward the private sector. A substantial number of governments in the region do not yet have a strategy to attract, develop and retain human resources with the skills to support the digital transformation of the public sector (Figure 12.6). Even where such strategy is place, the focus is often on training civil servants and providing financial incentives. Meanwhile, non-financial incentives are critical, especially since it is unlikely that governments will be able to compete with private-sector wages in the near future.

Figure 12.6. Countries with a strategy to attract develop and retain ICT-skilled civil servants

Connecting the public sector for digital government services

Almost half the LAC population does not yet use the Internet, compared to only 20% in OECD countries. This shows that the digital divide remains a structural factor that can reduce the benefits of digital government and the use of new tools such as cloud computing and big data analytics. Even countries with considerable economic weight, such as Peru and Mexico, have user rates below the regional average and in Chile and Uruguay, the regional leaders, barely 50% of the population are yet online (ECLAC, 2013).

Despite the high levels of connectivity of central government institutions, the availability and quality of access to the Internet and broadband in the LAC region is spotty. This is due to in part to unsuitable legal and regulatory frameworks and the barriers to entry for new providers, the lack of demand and geographical challenges, which reduce competition and service quality.

The region has seen major efforts to connect public institutions at the local level. These have often concentrated on addressing regulatory constraints and investment. The expected returns on investment, at least in the short term, often fall short, since public officials frequently lack the knowledge and skills to take advantage of access to the Internet, which demonstrates how extensive the digital divide remains. Moreover, such programmes often lack continuity and/or sustainability, often as a result of changes in government (Mariscal and Bambrilla, 2012).

Open Government Data

Governments in the LAC region are progressively recognising the importance of developing overarching open government data (OGD) strategies. A majority of the LAC countries that responded to the OECD/IDB Questionnaire reported that they have an OGD strategy in place (Figure 12.7). However, in most of these countries, open data regulations are, at least conceptually, linked to Freedom of Information Acts (FOIs), many of which were enacted before the open data movement reached government. This might suggest that the legal framework of open data needs to be updated to include considerations such as the publication of government data in open formats by default. Generally, the adoption of these OGD strategies in the region have been driven by countries that participate in and have committed to the Open Government Partnership, and which have a strong focus on its transparency and anti-corruption aspects. Moreover, some LAC countries have developed national open data portals, to improve the accessibility of central governments’ data. By December 2014, six LAC countries had national open data portals: Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico and Uruguay.

Figure 12.7. Central/federal governments with an OGD strategy or policy in place

While the value of open data in promoting transparency and accountability in the decision-making process and handling of public resources is essential, some strategies tend to overlook the economic and social value of open government data in creating an innovation ecosystem that can provide new ways of delivering public services efficiently and effectively.

Smart cities

People in the LAC region are not only increasingly connected and mobile, but also increasingly urban, which translates into new opportunities and organisational challenges. The region is the second most urbanised on the planet, increasing from a 64% urbanisation rate in 1980 to 79% in 2010 (UN, 2015).

These demographic trends and pressures concentrate talent and resources, turning cities into dynamic hubs of innovation that can achieve important economies of scale and increased competitiveness (OECD, 2013a; Fujita, Krugman and Venables, 1999). However, this does require that city governments create adequate living conditions that maximise citizens’ productivity and well-being, while managing risks. This will necessarily entail new approaches to urban planning and the use and management of resources, attracting and developing new skill sets and reinventing city governance and transport systems.

Cities in the LAC region, like others around the world, are still trying to assess what “smart” looks like. Thanks to increased awareness and concrete challenges, they are rapidly joining broader efforts to create smarter cities and developing initiatives to create sustainable and innovative urban areas. However, in general terms, major challenges remain in terms of traffic, gas emissions and ecological footprint, urban planning, government efficiency and transparency, by comparison with OECD standards.

Some cities have started to develop plans and projects to become smarter, with a view to positioning themselves as regional leaders. This is the case of Santiago, Mexico City (with its open-data initiative), Bogotá, Medellín (with its drive towards innovation), Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro and Montevideo (Box 12.3). The main challenges for smart cities initiatives are creating enabling conditions (setting up the appropriate ecosystem), including building trust across social sectors, creating institutional capacities, overcoming strong wage differentials between the public and private sectors and establishing formal mechanisms that support equal opportunity, talent and innovation.

Box 12.3. Hacking insecurity in Mexico City

Taxi service in Mexico City is an unpredictable proposition. Criminals often use vehicles camouflaged to look like licensed taxis to rob customers, with as many as 400 taxi robberies reported in 2013. Passengers have as a result preferred to opt for more expensive transport services. Mexico City’s innovation lab, Laboratorio para la Ciudad, has developed an innovative app using open government data to help tackle taxi users’ security concerns. This app allows users to enter the license number on the side of the car or snap a photo of the cab’s license plate. The app will then cross-reference with city data to determine whether it is a registered taxi. The app also includes a button that automatically alerts the police department in case the user runs into trouble.

Source: Arana (2014), “In Mexico City, an ‘experimental think tank’ for a city and its government”,

Good practices for achieving objectives in the LAC region

The Recommendation of the Council on Digital Government Strategies (OECD, 2014a) is designed to promote digital government strategies that bring governments closer to citizens and businesses (Box 12.4). The Recommendation draws on over 15 years of experience in e-government in OECD member and non-member countries and recognises the potential of digital technologies to improve public sector efficiency. It also aims to support effective public policies and create more open, innovative and participatory forms of governance. The Recommendation includes 12 principles based on three pillars, and provides a conceptual framework for analysing digital government strategies and policies. It is intended to help governments design and implement better digital government strategies, and has been used as a frame of reference to formulate the specific policy recommendations in this chapter.

Box 12.4. The OECD’s Recommendation of the Council on Digital Government Strategies

Adopted on 15 July 2014, the OECD Recommendation is a structuring element for decision makers and stakeholders that need to navigate government objectives and resources in an increasingly complex policy-making environment. Digital technologies create both opportunities and challenges for successful government reforms in any policy domain, e.g. welfare, economic development and administrative services efficiency. A set of 12 principles, grouped under three pillars, guide decision makers:

I. Engage citizens and open up government to maintain public trust.

1. Ensure greater transparency, openness and inclusiveness of government processes and operations.

2. Encourage engagement and participation of public, private and civil society stakeholders in policy making and public service design and delivery.

3. Create a data-driven culture in the public sector.

4. Reflect a risk-management approach to addressing digital security and privacy issues, and include the adoption of effective and appropriate security measures.

II. Adopt cohesive approaches to deliver public value throughout government.

5. Secure leadership and political commitment to the strategy.

6. Ensure coherent use of digital technologies across policy areas and levels of government.

7. Establish effective organisational and governance frameworks to co-ordinate the implementation of the digital strategy within and across levels of government.

8. Strengthen international co-operation with other governments.

III. Strengthen government capabilities to ensure returns on IT investments.

9. Develop clear business cases to sustain the funding and focused implementation of digital technologies projects.

10. Reinforce institutional capacities to manage and monitor projects’ implementation.

11. Procure digital technologies based on assessment of existing assets.

12. Ensure that general and sector-specific legal and regulatory frameworks allow digital opportunities to be seized.

Source: OECD (2014b), Recommendation of the Council on Digital Government Strategies,

Digital government

Governments across OECD countries are progressively shifting their approach to digital public service delivery: from government-centred (focused on increasing cost reduction, efficiency and productivity in service delivery), to user-centred (focused on anticipating users’ needs to improve administrative and personal services), and finally towards user-driven approaches (focused on fostering the digital transformation to enable governments to create increased public value).

A user-driven approach can help enhance government service delivery. It builds on the value of digital technologies to modernise the public sector by integrating digital technologies in service design and delivery, which results in shaping public policy outcomes. Experience shows that allowing such new forms of partnerships and crowd-sourcing ideas from within an administration and the society at large leads to gains in efficiency and productivity in the public sector. Many governments, in reaction to citizens’ rising expectations of public services, have moved towards increased openness, experimentation and collaboration. This has helped achieve better performance, and more efficient and simplified services. Champions of this approach in the OECD include the United Kingdom, the United States, France and Finland. Portugal and Chile offer good examples of one-stop shops to inform citizens and provide public services in an intuitive and interactive manner (Boxs 12.5 and 12.6).

Box 12.5. Portugal’s Citizen Portal

The Citizen’s Portal (Portal do Cidadão)1 is the central channel of access to electronic public services in Portugal, facilitating the relationship between citizens, business and the public administration. It serves as a single point of contact for online services provided by both central and local government, and also presents services provided by private entities. It was developed by the Portuguese Agency for Administrative Modernisation (AMA), in close co-operation with Portuguese public entities that use the Portal. It involved an extensive process of functional and technological development, with the goal of creating an efficient, interactive interface that is easy for users to navigate.

The new Portal has a new layout and updated functions, combining the features and services of the previous Citizen’s and Business Portals. It makes access to online services provided by public authorities simpler, faster and more intuitive. The portal conforms with the WCAG 2.0 AA level and is adapted for different kinds of mobile devices (e.g. smartphones, tablets, etc.) allowing access to the services at any time or place. It uses authentication with the Portuguese Digital Mobile Key (Chave Móvel Digital), which allows users to log in to the portal and access digital services with a secure and easy password.

The portal makes possible a high level of participation and collaboration, allowing users to publicly rate, comment and share their suggestions and evaluations of the services and information provided. This can be shared on social networks like Twitter or Facebook.


Source: OECD (n.d. a), “Portugal: Citizen’s Portal”,

As noted earlier, however, governments in the LAC region still need to contend with challenges in delivering digital public services. The aim is to scale up their efforts, creating a critical mass of users for a citizen-driven approach to digital government. To optimise the potential of ICT for improving public services, Latin American governments should aim to expand access for all citizens to digital services, tackling any existing forms of the digital divide while avoiding new forms of digital exclusion (see Principle 1 of the Recommendation of the Council on Digital Government Strategies [OECD, 2014a]). Including all citizens in this effort means removing cultural barriers to digital uptake, such as making sure local content is being produced, including for indigenous people (as discussed in Chapter 10). The design and accessibility of digital services should be enhanced by leveraging platforms and technologies already in use by much of the population, such as mobile phones and social media.

Box 12.6. Improving access to public services with ChileAtiende

Chile has combined efforts to reduce the digital divide while providing services through a multichannel strategy. ChileAtiende seeks to bring government closer to citizens by providing a multichannel and multiservice network for the delivery of public services (“one-stop shop”). The network includes the following channels:

  • over 200 offices geographically distributed to cover most of the population of the country, offering 91 benefits and services from 28 institutions to the public

  • Digital Channel, a website that provides information on more than 2 500 benefits and services in simple language, as well as Twitter and Facebook accounts for direct contact with citizens

  • Call Center provides information and orientation on public services and benefits

  • ChileAtiende vehicles are vans sent out to remote and rural areas to provide public services.

The project was launched in January 2012. It was inspired by the experience of Canada, Singapore and Australia, and took advantage of an opportunity to reuse previously installed capacities. The offices and Call Center are owned by the Instituto de Previsión Social (IPS, or Institute of Social Security), whose expertise is in delivering services to citizens. The website, in turn, is an evolution of ChileClic, a previous effort to concentrate information on public services online. A board was appointed to oversee the project and manage approvals.

Plans are also in place to develop infrastructure, improve access to ICT and hold regular training programmes to develop ICT skills among citizens and businesses. This experience illustrates a committed effort to address issues preventing digital service uptake in the regional context.

Source: OECD (n.d. b), “Chile: ChileAtiende”,

The rapid uptake of mobile technology in the LAC region, with nearly 120 subscriptions per 100 people, has provided governments with an additional channel to deliver and improve their services (OECD and ITU, 2011). The use of different platforms and delivery systems that reach out to a broader public should be commended and encouraged. In Peru, a national mobile payments platform provides authorities and citizens with an efficient, fast, secure and transparent way of making cash transfers (Box 12.7). Beyond specific mobile platforms for providing public services, some governments have sought to implement broader mobile government programmes within their digital government strategies, as in the case of Singapore (Box 12.8).

Box 12.7. Peru’s mobile payment platform, Bim

Inspired by the M-Pesa experience in Kenya, Peru established Bim, a national mobile payment platform based on a “coo-petition” model. Peru’s approach to financial inclusion consisted of first bringing together different stakeholders to create a national platform and then letting them compete with offers of digital financial services via mobile phones, often without the need of smartphones or data plans. The government acted as a facilitator by providing an enabling regulatory framework for this new platform. The scheme is backed by all the country’s banks and can be used across mobile operators networks.

This joint effort is helping to drive down the costs of financial services and provide governments with efficient, faster and safer payment methods. This is especially important in Peru, which has one of the LAC’s lowest levels of use of financial services. Only 29% of the population have bank accounts. Mobile telephones have become a substantial tool in Peru for bridging the differences between services available to rural and urban populations.


Box 12.8. Singapore’s Mobile Government Programme

The Mobile Government Programme is part of Singapore’s broader digital government strategy and has three key objectives for the 2011-2015 fiscal period:

  • “support and guide agencies to deliver feature-rich government mobile services (m-Services) to enhance customer experience and satisfaction

  • aggregate demand for mobile research, tools and services that help agencies in the efficient and consistent implementation of mobile services

  • improve or maintain Singapore’s standing in international rankings, through the delivery of high-quality services via the mobile channel.

Today, more than 300 mobile government information and services are available. “M-Gov” also established a whole-of-government (WOG) central short-messaging-service (SMS) platform, known as OneSMS, to facilitate the development of m-services by government agencies through demand aggregation. The programme was co-developed by the Ministry of Finance (MOF) and the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) as part of the Integrated Government 2010 (“iGov2010”) e-government master plan for 2005-10, motivated by the increasing penetration rate of mobile phones, especially smartphones and the increasing number of transactions through mobile phones, either through mobile browsers or native mobile applications.

Sources: IDA (2016), “M-Government”,; Singapore (2016), “Mobile Government”, eGov Programmes,

Additionally, digital government strategies should clearly identify a unit, body or function responsible for co-ordinating the deployment of ICTs in the public sector, with a mandate to guide change and ensure strategic coherence. According to the OECD’s draft Digital Government Toolkit, these units or bodies should also be responsible for developing common policies and standards, drive the adoption of national interoperability frameworks for data exchange and interoperability between independently operated applications, and facilitate synergies and sharing of lessons (OECD, 2015a). Co-ordination efforts should address outstanding cross-jurisdictional challenges, while preserving clear accountability for each party’s areas of responsibility (see Principles 6 and 7 of the Recommendation of the Council on Digital Government Strategies [OECD, 2014a]).

In response to new challenges and requirements that governments are facing to complete the digital transformation, new trends in governance and organisational frameworks are starting to emerge, Three approaches presented below, often combined as hybrid models, are worth noting (OECD, 2015a, forthcoming):

  • Digital transformation office model: This creates a new organisation, with the mandate to oversee and co-ordinate the use of technology to transform the operation of the administration and the delivery of services. The staff is usually recruited from the tech sector to compensate for the lack of highly technical skills in the public administration and are experts in digital technologies, tools and approaches. The aim of this approach is to improve the strategic use of data and technology within the administration, in an effort to bring “quick wins” on service quality improvement. In the long term, it may not be sustainable, since it often fails to effect deeper structural and cultural change across governments. Countries that have adopted this approach include Australia’s Digital Transformation Office and the United Kingdom’s Government Digital Service.

  • Central co-ordination model: This model seeks to create strong government-wide leadership, such as by setting up a co-ordination unit with a clear mandate and/or establishing formal positions of CIOs. The goal is that this co-ordination authority can count on enforceable levers to set policy and control approval of funding for large ICT investments. This may also include the creation of shared service organisations and centralised procurement processes for ICT under the responsibility of this co-ordination body/authority. This approach has the advantage of creating common standards across government (e.g. making the use of Business Case approaches mandatory) and potentially leveraging economies of scale. However, a focus on big-ticket items can make public administrations slower to react and limit agility in initiating pilot projects aimed at exploring innovative technologies or approaches. Countries that have adopted this approach include Denmark (OECD, 2010), Mexico (OECD, 2011), Spain (OECD, 2012) and Colombia (Box 12.9).

  • Decentralised co-ordination model: This provides greater flexibility for individual ministries to pursue projects and test different approaches in using ICT for modernisation. Often there is still a central co-ordination body and a national strategy to guide digital government activities. However, fewer mandated requirements are required of departments and no unifying senior official is designated with ultimate responsibility for the digital agenda. This approach allows greater ability for experimentation and customisation by departments, and more opportunities to engage with other levels of government, whether regional or local. However, adoption of this model runs the risk of leading to uneven implementation and may not ensure that lessons learned are effectively transmitted across all government organisations. Examples of this model include Finland (OECD, 2015c) and Chile (OECD, n.d. b).

Box 12.9. Colombia’s central co-ordination to achieve strategic goals

Colombia’s institutional framework for digital government has three strategic pillars: regulatory principles, policy guidelines and a monitoring and evaluation model. These three elements make it possible to enhance the understanding and implementation of electronic government.

The E-government Office of Colombia is a branch of the Vice Ministry of Information Technology of the Ministry of ICT, established under Decree 2618-2012. In defining policy and regulatory frameworks, the office has the following functions:

  • development of guidelines regarding e-government that support policies, strategies, and practices for public administration

  • defining policies for the rationalisation and automation of procedures, and promoting e-government service delivery in co-ordination with agencies working for administrative efficiency

  • designing and implementing the strategic plan for e-government at all government levels

  • promoting co-operation between national, regional and local authorities and relations with civil society organisations through e-government.

The e-Government office also monitors and evaluates the implementation of the strategy through a model composed of various tools, one of which is a unified report system of advances on all administrative policies in which e-government is evaluated as a transversal topic.

Source: OECD (n.d. c), “Colombia: Development of E-Government Institutional Framework”,

The models presented above provide different degrees of centralised options for governance and management of information services. It is important to keep in mind that they all have strengths and weaknesses, and some may not be appropriate for certain situations. Probably as important as fixing on one model or another is to build an appreciation of the value of sound experimentation and ensuring that the models are periodically reviewed to confirm that they align with current conditions and public objectives. The United Kingdom’s Government Digital Service appeared as an experimental model that achieved substantial progress in a relatively short period. This model is currently being replicated to some extent by other digital government leaders, such as Australia,3 the Netherlands4 and the United States.5 Chile and Portugal are also pursuing interesting experiments in combining digital government and public sector innovation to improve service delivery.

A key objective of these governance frameworks and co-ordination mechanisms is to ensure coherent use of digital technologies across levels of governments, to maximise benefits for the population. Nonetheless, achieving cross-jurisdictional co-operation in ICT, particularly in federal systems, often proves a challenging task. In certain small countries and cultures, co-ordination may be facilitated through primary relations. Making co-ordination sustainable in larger countries requires institutional maturity and formal mechanisms for co-ordination. Denmark provides an example of a country with good practices in the implementation of joint governance for its digital government strategy (Box 12.10).

Box 12.10. Denmark’s joint-governance approach to digital government

Denmark has an original and sustainable mechanism for co-ordination and commitment to the national strategy across the public sector. The Steering Committee for Cross-Government Co-operation (Styregruppen for Tværoffentlige Samarbejder, or STS) was set up in 2005 under an agreement between the government, regions and Local Government Denmark.

The STS is a cross-government co-ordinating body whose goal is to create common ground in developing digital government. The framework for collaboration is confirmed in the annual negotiations between the government and regional and municipal representatives on the budgets for the following year. The STS includes high-level representatives (at the level of permanent secretaries/managing directors) of the five most important ministries for e-government from the central government, and of the associations representing municipalities and the regions. It is responsible for determining the overarching principles and coherent framework conditions for digital government, co-ordinating initiatives across the public sector to enhance the use of resources, decide on resource allocation and determine models for digital government operations and maintenance of projects.

Source: OECD (2010), Denmark: Efficient e-Government for Smarter Public Service Delivery,

Some OECD countries have been focusing on the role of data as a strategic asset in promoting innovation and modernisation of the public sector. Some have appointed a Chief Data Officer (CDO) or other forms of data governance at the central government level. CDOs are usually charged with helping agencies improve organisational arrangements to better manage data resources. Ultimately, they are expected to make a quantifiable difference in how institutions create, store, manage, use and share data, with users both inside and outside the government, thereby improving evidence-based policy making. Examples include France, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Similarly, the introduction of “once-only principle” legislation, recognising the right of citizens and businesses to provide their information only one time, can be seen as an additional external means to improve co-ordination and data-sharing mechanisms between public authorities. Observing this principle requires a high level of systems integration, and the willingness to collaborate and cut across silos within the administration. It also calls for a level of public confidence in the institutions’ capacity to manage potential risks of privacy, security and misuse when sharing citizens’ personal data.

Institutional capacities are also critical in the sound management of government information systems. They support the planning and implementation of ICT projects as they become increasingly complex. Project complexity is growing not only in terms of budget size but also in the number and diversity of actors involved and in the choice of technologies and delivery arrangements.6 Given the increasing technological options, it is noteworthy that ICT projects have become even more challenging due to changes in the life cycles of digital technologies. This may entail the life cycle of a device or piece of equipment or, more likely, the software associated with it. ICT equipment may once have had a relatively short lifetime compared with other infrastructure provided by public authorities, and software is likely to require updates in areas such as security, for its entire working lifetime. Although the diversity of actors has increased, as public ICT projects become more complex, the more challenging it has become for some players to participate and offer their services (e.g. small bidders such as SMEs and start-ups).

To address these issues and ensure return on investments, governments need to develop clear business case methodologies linking ICT projects with overarching strategic objectives. They need also to provide sound, systematic evaluation of projects’ costs, benefits, risks and outcomes (Box 12.11). This recurring exercise should provide them with the evidence to identify key drivers of ICT project failures and successes (see Principle 9 of the Recommendation of the Council on Digital Government Strategies [OECD, 2014a]). Meanwhile, the overarching strategic objectives and systematic evaluations should make it possible to break down large projects to a smaller and more manageable size.

Box 12.11. The Danish ICT Project Model

The Danish ICT project model offers a standardised system for managing ICT projects across a government administration. With explicit reference to the United Kingdom’s ICT project model, Prince2, it provides guidelines for how to organise and manage ICT projects and delivers concrete templates for all generic products in the process. The overall phases covering all projects are shown below:


The Ministry of Finance has created a unit establishing good practices for digital government projects, including both mandatory and recommended elements. The model has helped establish a specific governance structure, for example requiring approvals of well-developed business cases, as well as ongoing approvals – so-called “stop-go” decisions – each time a project passes from one phase to the next.

In the effort to establish an overarching framework, governments are also responsible for ensuring the adoption and application of standards, guidelines and codes for procurement, as well as re-engineering, interoperability compliance and performance evaluation processes. Australia (OECD, 2015a) and Denmark (OECD, 2010) provide excellent examples of this.

These standards, however, must be flexible enough to adapt to rapidly changing digital technologies and be open to experimentation. To face the challenges of standardisation while maintaining flexibility, governments should ensure that evidence and data are collected as projects are launched and make greater use of existing data to monitor project performance.

Producing data as an asset for decision-making, not only at the technical level, but also in the highest levels of public administration, is crucial. Given the proliferation of ICT projects, governments need to adopt mechanisms to ensure that the centre of government has a comprehensive picture of its needs and assets, to avoid duplicating systems and datasets, support strategic procurement decisions and minimise project management risks.

To select the appropriate mix of technologies and skills, governments should have a good knowledge of their assets, including a skills inventory, ICT inventory and age of existing assets, to determine where they are in their life cycle. Also useful are a public services catalogue, current contracts, inter-agency agreements and a list of public sector registries. These tools can guide future investments, helping to prioritise strategic decisions on resource allocations and improve efficiency. This might include consolidation and re-engineering of processes and technologies on the back end, establishment of one-stop shops to deliver services, streamlining procurement and contracting of ICT services and enhancing products and skills development.

The use and development of applications in public ICT projects that leverage cloud computing, open government data and social media now require new procurement models that support more flexible software delivery and allow for innovative responses (see Principle 11 of the Recommendation of the Council on Digital Government Strategies [OECD, 2014a]).

To improve the procurement of digital technologies, some countries have moved towards shared IT service centres and cloud computing, and have given a single ministry or agency responsibility for certain types of data or process management (e.g. identification, authentication, registration, licensing). This has made possible more efficient sharing of resources, software, data and/or processing capacity. Belgium7 and Denmark8 provide excellent examples. Procurement rules should be adapted to improve the ways governments work with open-source software, and more specifically, with their licensing terms of use and intellectual property models.

Finally, the effective use of ICTs and appropriate management of ICT projects within governments require new skills, including the advanced use of new technologies in carrying out internal tasks, delivering services and engaging with outside actors. They also demand specific knowledge of ICT project management and use of data for policy modelling, evaluation, data analytics and data mining (Chapter 9 further discusses ICT skills).

Many countries, including those in the LAC region, have a deficit of civil servants with ICT skills. The scarcity of human capital is frequently exacerbated by the fact that government salaries can rarely compete with private-sector salaries, and by the persistent digital divide (see Principle 10 of the Recommendation of the Council on Digital Government Strategies [OECD, 2014a]). To make sure adequate skills are available in the short term, governments should leverage partnerships with the private sector, academia and non-governmental organisations. In the mid- to long term, they should put in place arrangements to develop an adequate public sector workforce, by recruiting and involving young professionals, providing professional and vocational training and setting up exchange programmes between the public sector and technology leaders in civil society or the private sector (including not only large corporations but start-ups). These initiatives should be aligned with other policies promoting workforce mobility and renewal in the public sector, to attract and retain top talent.

As the regional overview showed, experience in the LAC region suggests that improving market conditions is a necessary but insufficient condition for addressing structural limitations for digital government. Many public institutions in the region, especially local governments, are not yet connected (Mariscal and Bambrilla, 2012). One good practice is to incorporate goals in national broadband plans to connect public institutions in the country (Chapter 5 discusses broadband plans in detail). This can help improve regional connectivity, increasing demand and skills at the local level and encouraging better service delivery and policy making (Box 12.12).

Box 12.12. México Conectado

México Conectado is a federal programme initiated by the Ministry of Communication and Transport that seeks to honour the constitutional right of Mexican citizens to Internet access. The programme is co-ordinated by the central and municipal governments and offers free Internet access in public places, such as public institutions, schools, hospitals, universities, research institutions and parks.

In 2014, the programme provided Internet access to more than 65 000 institutions and public spaces, averaging over 2 000 new connected spaces in each state. Over 30 000 of these newly connected spaces are located in rural areas. By focusing on public schools and universities (73.84% of the new connected spaces), Mexico’s federal government aims to reduce the digital divide and ensure that upcoming generations acquire the skills to succeed in the digital economy.


To move the OGD agenda forward, beyond simply transparency and accountability, governments should adapt their legal and regulatory systems to the new context and focus on building an OGD ecosystem. This will help realise the full potential of OGD for promoting innovation and will help public authorities tackle persistent problems, such as reducing energy consumption and congestion and improving health assistance. If OGD is to be taken to the next level, data needs to be seen as a strategic asset, with implications for governance in the public sector. Institutional arrangements should support the whole data and information value chain. Recognising data as a strategic asset also carries responsibilities in terms of skill requirements and investments. Coherent national strategies for OGD are needed, with strong ownership across levels of government and a sense of collective commitment among civil servants. To cultivate data-driven innovation, governments need to engage with data producers, providers and users to identify and release valuable datasets. Efforts are also needed to promote the reuse of data for value creation. Effective reuse of government data requires that open data be relevant, easily accessible and re-usable by all (Box 12.13).

Box 12.13. France’s Etalab, innovating through data reuse and engagement

Etalab (, the task force of the Secrétariat général pour la modernisation de l’action publique in the office of France’s prime minister, is responsible for overseeing the development of the Open Data policy and supervising the co-ordination of cross-government implementation.

Etalab engages with reusers on social media, has open forums on the national open data platform and holds regular meetings with various stakeholders and participates in promotional events (such as “barcamps”, hackathons, etc.). France has launched a unique initiative to develop sustainable, innovative models of data reuse by entrepreneurs and civic innovators. The DataConnexions programme gathers key partners of the digital innovation ecosystem in France. These include French and international corporations, research and educational institutions, investors, business angels and digital media. The aim is to bring resources to key start-ups chosen in an ongoing series of contests. This type of event helps match data innovators with the resources they need to bring their projects to scale.

DataConnexions is considered the prime initiative for sustaining software development contests (e.g. for apps, widgets, etc.). Information sessions for companies and citizens are also organised to raise awareness. For instance the central government has co-sponsored an Open Data commission, run by the association of French software and online services enterprises. Etalab has organised open workshops on data journalism, with testimonies from top French and international journalists and editors on their work with and around public data.

Source: OECD (2015d), Open Government Data Review of Poland: Unlocking the Value of Government Data,

Governments can use different tools to promote the use of OGD for value creation. Good practices include the development of one-stop shop portals for open government data, offering a single window where data users can access the available datasets in open formats. Ideally, such datasets should be subjected to a process of quality assurance and complemented with useful metadata. Strategic use of hackathons, awards, grants and other pro-active approaches to promoting data reuse can play a decisive role in boosting innovation and value creation.

Smart cities

A smart city is often described as using ICTs to achieve a competitive and innovative economy. It is characterised by highly skilled human capital, open and participatory governance, innovative and cleaner transport and infrastructure, sustainable resource management and a high quality of life for residents (OECD, 2014b).

Some of the key challenges for building smart cities in the region include the development of strong urban planning capacities and skills, overcoming financial constraints to support the acquisition of smart technologies and infrastructure, managing rapidly growing urban populations, raising awareness of environmental issues, promoting rational use of natural resources, and creating an open culture across society that can leverage native and international talent and support innovation.

In the LAC region until now, the use of technology in the public sector has been mainly driven by an effort to improve efficiency in internal operations and move toward more transparent and accountable governance. Public authorities now need to take the next step in the use of digital technologies if they are to capture the full benefits of the digital economy and meet the challenges of increased urbanisation.

As urban planning becomes increasingly complex and data-driven, new skill sets at the local level are required to perform sophisticated urban analysis and modelling. Smart cities are relying on that evidence-based analysis of their economic activity, transport, human behaviour and resource consumption to help city governments find solutions to persistent problems. Predictive analysis gives city governments the opportunity to identify trends and intervene early to prepare for future risks, such as preparing for disaster management.

To make smart cities a reality, local governments need to develop a clear vision to improve public institutional capacities, governance models and partnerships, with the aim of supporting innovative and sustainable public service delivery. As with national digital government strategies, local governments should aim to use new technologies and data to improve public services and create participatory channels where citizens can engage in cities’ decision-making processes. Local governments need to create new governance architectures so that both new and existing knowledge and talent can be used for evidence-based policy making and better service design and delivery. Within these governance architectures, data governance models, and the corresponding skills, are crucial for supporting digital innovation ecosystems. Using open data and inclusive decision-making and governance models, for example, is considered as a key element for smart cities, since this provides citizens and entrepreneurs the input for developing new insights and finding better ways of delivering public value (Boxs 12.14 and 12.15).

Box 12.14. Singapore’s use of open data and data analytics for better urban transport

Like other metropolitan hubs, Singapore has heavy congestion at peak hours. However, it has made significant improvements using data from its smart travel cards and GPS data. This has made it possible to develop detailed models of how bus users move through the city, helping government understand traffic patterns, how citizens use the urban transport system and identify key problems with the existing bus routes.

Using this information, developers based in California developed an analytical platform to identify traffic patterns that provides precise information for mapping active trains and buses with meters, letting them know how full each one is, as well as how many commuters are at each station and what the estimated waiting times are. Analysis of this information helps the authorities decide where more buses and trains are needed or how to provide incentives for users to take different routes. The system resulted in a 13% drop in peak time travel. This experience has since been replicated in Bangalore and São Paulo to improve public transport.

Source: Hickey (2014), “How GPS and smart card data is used to reduce city congestion”,

The need for innovative solutions to persistent urban challenges has prompted local government to establish innovation units. These are usually responsible for solving complex problems through new, more collaborative approaches to service delivery and policy design and implementation. They aim to change how local governments work, and partner with external actors to maximise the effectiveness of public sector modernisation initiatives. The city labs of Buenos Aires and Mexico City are good examples of this trend.

Box 12.15. Ruta N for an innovating Medellín

The City of Medellín has conducted an interesting experiment in cultivating innovation at the local level. Ruta N1 is a joint venture of the city, the privately owned telecommunications company UNE, and Empresas Publicas de Medellín (EPM), a public enterprise owned by the city. Its objective is to promote the city’s economic development through science, technology and innovation-intensive businesses. One of the initiative’s main goals is to position Medellín as the leading innovative city in Latin America by 2021. Ruta N has developed an innovation complex that hosts, among other entities, the Global Services Centre of Hewlett-Packard. Ruta N develops different programmes and projects, including capacity building across social sectors and attracting investment in technological and innovative areas.


Source: Glickhouse (2014), “Ruta N and Transforming Medellin into an Innovation Center”,


Governments in the LAC region should strive to move from e-government to broadband-enabled digital government. The digital transformation of government entails incorporating ICTs in broader public sector modernisation efforts and rethinking operations and processes to make them digital by design. It also requires new service design and delivery methods that, through increased user engagement, help public authorities better understand user needs and preferences and deploy digital services more flexibly. To ensure return on investment, governments in the region must take steps to reduce and eliminate the digital divide and improve access to ICTs and digital services, to create a critical mass of users.

Institutional frameworks should help governments use digital technology and data in strategic ways to maximise their impact on public sector performance. While there is no “one-size-fits-all” model, governance frameworks should create units or bodies responsible for digital government. Given the appropriate policy levers and co-ordination tools, they can guide digital transformation and break down silos and cultural barriers that block open and collaborative ways of working and making decisions. Organisational frameworks should also improve the management of data. Governments can use this information throughout the policy cycle and service development process to support evidence-based decisions. Public authorities should focus on developing management tools to give central government and project managers a clear view of their existing assets, to inform strategic decisions on ICT use and investment. Finally, governments must review the gaps in their existing ICT and project management skills, and develop strategies to attract, develop and retain those with the necessary skills.

Trends in the region show that LAC governments are making progress in their use of open data for transparency and accountability. However, public sectors in the different countries should not waste the opportunity to use broadband and data to cultivate innovation that creates social and economic value. Concrete action must be taken to create a dynamic ecosystem, through regular consultation with stakeholders such as data producers, providers and reusers. Encouraging the reuse of open data and data analytics is key, as open government data is only useful insofar as it can guide policy going forward.

Rapid urbanisation in the region has confronted city governments with considerable organisational challenges in ensuring high living standards. However, it also offers a chance to reap the benefits of economies of scale, higher productivity and innovation capacity. City governments should make decisive investments in building institutional capacities. Technology can be used to collect and process data to better understand human behaviour, find innovative transport arrangements, adequately plan infrastructure and waste management, build energy-efficient cities, deliver more tailored and better services and create more equitable societies. This, in turn, will allow cities to develop and attract skilled individuals to contribute to the city’s productivity, leading to a virtuous circle. City governments in the region should move towards more open governance models and use technology strategically, to engage citizens and businesses, and share ideas, data and information that promotes innovation at the city level, where most public services are delivered.


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OECD (forthcoming), “Are All Smart Cities Digital, but not All Digital Cities Are Smart Cities?”, OECD Working Papers on Public Governance, OECD Publishing, Paris.

OECD (2015a), Draft Digital Government Toolkit, OECD Publishing, Paris,

OECD (2015b), Government at a Glance 2015, OECD Publishing, Paris,

OECD (2015c), OECD Public Governance Reviews: Estonia and Finland: Fostering Strategic Capacity across Governments and Digital Services across Borders, OECD Public Governance Reviews, OECD Publishing, Paris,

OECD (2015d), Open Government Data Review of Poland: Unlocking the Value of Government Data, OECD Digital Government Studies, OECD Publishing, Paris,

OECD (2014a), Recommendation of the Council on Digital Government Strategies, OECD Publishing, Paris,

OECD (2014b), OECD Science, Technology and Industry Outlook 2014, OECD Publishing, Paris,

OECD (2013a), “Labour productivity and employment in metropolitan areas”, in OECD Regions at a Glance 2013, OECD Publishing, Paris,

OECD (2013b), Colombia: Implementing Good Governance, OECD Public Governance Reviews, OECD Publishing, Paris,

OECD (2012), Reaping the Benefits of ICTs in Spain: Strategic Study on Communication Infrastructure and Paperless Administration, OECD Publishing, Paris,

OECD (2011), Towards More Effective and Dynamic Public Management in Mexico, OECD Public Governance Reviews, OECD Publishing, Paris,

OECD (2010), Denmark: Efficient e-Government for Smarter Public Service Delivery, OECD Publishing, Paris,

OECD (n.d. a), “Portugal: Citizen’s Portal”, Digital Government Strategies: Good Practices, OECD, Paris,

OECD (n.d. b), “Chile: ChileAtiende”, Digital Government Strategies: Good Practices, OECD, Paris,

OECD (n.d. c), “Colombia: Development of E-Government Institutional Framework”, Digital Government Strategies: Good Practices, OECD, Paris,

OECD and ITU (2011), M-Government: Mobile Technologies for Responsive Governments and Connected Societies, OECD Publishing/International Telecommunication Union, Paris,

Singapore (2016), “Mobile Government”, eGov Programmes, Sigapore Government, Singapore, (accessed on 11 January 2016).

Transparency International (2014), 2014 Corruption Perceptions Index,

Ubaldi, B. (2013), “Open Government Data: Towards Empirical Analysis of Open Government Data Initiatives”, OECD Working Papers on Public Governance, No. 22, OECD Publishing, Paris,

UN (2015), Population (database),

UN (2014), United Nations E-Government Survey 2014, United Nations, New York,

World Bank (2015), World Development Indicators (database),

Further reading

IDB (2016), Emerging and Sustainable Cities Initiative, Inter-American Development Bank,,6656.html.

OECD. (2015), Slovak Republic: Better Co-ordination for Better Policies, Services and Results, OECD Public Governance Reviews, OECD Publishing, Paris,

OECD (2009), Rethinking e-Government Services: User-Centred Approaches, OECD Publishing, Paris,


← 1. For more details:

← 2. For more details:,7641.html.

← 3. The new Digital Government Office. See

← 4. The new Digi Commissaris. See

← 5. The US Digital Service. See and “18F”

← 6. OECD countries report a significant number of large ICT projects with budgets of over USD 10 million, implemented for over three years.

← 7. Fedict Shared Services. See

← 8. Through the Danish Agency for Digitisation. See