Executive summary

Digital technologies can improve lives by boosting productivity and job creation, enhancing democratic governance and offering opportunities for more collaborative and participatory government. African Portuguese-Speaking Countries and Timor-Leste (PALOP-TL) governments, as elsewhere have made significant progress in recent years in using digital technologies to promote internal efficiency, simplify government procedures and improve public services. Nevertheless, in order to fully reap the benefits of technology and modernise their core administrative capabilities, such as collecting revenues, monitoring expenditure and managing the civil service, PALOP-TL countries must still make further progress in their digital government policies and practices. Specifically, PALOP-TL governments are encouraged to move beyond the digitisation of internal government processes to truly transform the public sector using citizen-driven approaches.

The experience of PALOP-TL countries has shown that digital transitions in developing countries are often disordered and subject to reversals. Nonetheless, they tend to towards three principal areas of investment: 1) digital solutions for the delivery of core government functions; 2) foundations for a digital government transformation; and 3) digital services for citizens and businesses.

Although PALOP-TL countries share common bonds of history, social and political change, and similarities in their structures of government, no two countries are at the same stage of digital government development. Progress is heavily influenced by the degree of political stability and institutional coherence found in each country. One set of countries (Guinea-Bissau, Sao Tome e Principe and Timor-Leste) are at an earlier stage of administrative development, and more heavily reliant on e-government approaches to enable the coherent functioning of government. Others (Angola, Cabo Verde and Mozambique) are more advanced and, in some cases poised to make a more comprehensive transition towards digital government. Despite this variation among countries, PALOP-TL face common constraints in realising digital government, ranging from problems of poor-quality infrastructure to institutional incoherence and low levels of digital literacy.

Using digital technology to enable core government functions

The experiences of PALOP-TL in the use of digital solutions to enable the delivery core government functions, are widely varied. The governments of Guinea-Bissau, Sao Tome and Principe and Timor-Leste are using digital solutions to enable the execution of core tasks around revenue collection and management, human resource audits, and basic health and education services delivery. By contrast, the governments of Angola, Cabo Verde and Mozambique are continuing to work to address persisting gaps (for example, around inter-governmental communications), and tend to be more focused on enhancing administrative efficiency, namely by addressing problems of systems interoperability.

Building the foundations for digital government

The use or adoption of information and communication technology (ICT) in public administration has occurred more rapidly and in more sustainable ways in countries where the digital transformation processes is led by or supported at the highest level of government with horizontal co-ordination and institutional arrangements, such as in Cabo Verde. However, even in countries where the digital transformation is more advanced, some of the key enablers and policy levers that are considered preconditions for ICT policy implementation and digital government have not yet been adopted.

Delivering digital services in PALOP-TL countries

Finally, progress towards digital service delivery tends to be uneven and yet this is also an area in which some PALOP-TL countries are most clearly innovating. With the exception of Guinea-Bissau, all PALOP-TL countries have established public data centres and/or data rooms that are capable of hosting, storing and managing information from different government institutions and private organisations. At the same time, PALOP-TL governments are digitising their public records and working to establish a single identity system in the medium term. These efforts, along with significant investment in developing interoperability frameworks and legal and technological measures, have yielded further innovations, such as an online one-stop shop (Porton di nos Ilha in Cabo Verde) and transactional portals (Single Electronic Window in Mozambique).

National and regional recommendations

The policy recommendations detailed in this report identify a set of priorities ranging from the formulation of digital government strategies where they do not yet exist (Guinea-Bissau) to more demanding measures, such as the development of online public services made accessible through digital authentication applications (Cabo Verde). They also set out medium to long term goals, including the development of interoperability platforms based on the state's private network (Angola), the adoption of multi-channel policies for service delivery (Mozambique), and strategies to encourage the uptake of the single identity card (Timor-Leste).

The co-operation among PALOP-TL national digital government agencies has led to a modest number of regional initiatives that could be further developed and expanded, for example, through the creation of regional digital government standards, or joint programmes for knowledge and skills development. This regional grouping should continue to serve as a source of mutual support and inspiration.

In the long term, a regional network of mutual learning and support for digital government, based on a common set of tools and actions, could not only enable and sustain effective digital government transitions, but also create the necessary conditions for the development and provision of regional services. Such services could include a PALOP-TL single digital window or cross-border services for business creation.

Given the close economic, social, cultural and institutional ties among the six countries, the development of PALOP-TL cross-border digital services could lead to further co-operation among the public sectors to support economic growth and social development in the region.

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