Assessment and recommendations

Most countries in Latin America and the Caribbean (88%) have established organisations in charge of digital government across the central or federal government, located generally within a line ministry or a special agency, and to a lesser extent in the centre of government or a co-ordinating ministry. However, not all these institutions have a sufficient set of responsibilities and mandates securing their ability to steer the implementation of digital government reforms, policies and initiatives coherently across the public sector. Only half or less of the organisations in the region responsible for digital government have decision making responsibilities such as the capacity to provide financial support, approve the development and implementation of digital transformation initiatives, mandate external reviews, or enforce standards on digital technologies across the central or federal government.

A modest majority of LAC countries (59%) have established digital government co-ordination bodies, intended as entities bringing together chief digital officers from public sector institutions, or individuals with similar roles, to align the implementation of digital government reforms and strategies.

Most of these co-ordination bodies play an advisory role and only a few have decision-making responsibilities, particularly centred around the prioritisation of digital/ICT projects investment across the central/federal government. The limited presence of these decision-making bodies across LAC countries hampers the capacity for aligning public sector institutions with major strategic objectives and for the coherent implementation of digital government policies and projects.

The LAC region has advanced in creating national and regional strategic instruments defining the vision, goals, and milestones for the implementation of digital government policies. While almost all countries (94%) have adopted national digital government strategies (NDGS), around half of the strategies analysed date from 2020 or before, highlighting the need of keeping them up to date in line with the rapidly evolving digital landscape. Regional strategic instruments for digital government are generally articulated around broader digital agendas spanning multiple countries. However, these agendas do not always encompass a comprehensive set of digital government priorities and often lack adequate monitoring mechanisms. A second challenge is securing alignment with regional priority issues, particularly in areas such as digital inclusion, given that the region still falls behind OECD average (84%) of individuals making use of internet. This includes addressing access to digital technologies and fostering the development of necessary skills both within the public sector and the population-at-large. It is noteworthy that countries align their digital government objectives with broader digital agendas and most dedicated NDGS have monitoring instruments in place.

In terms of strategic priorities, national digital government strategies and regional strategic instruments target societal objectives such as improving citizens’ well-being, increasing the efficiency of the public sector to deliver higher value, streamlining, and enhancing access to public services, or improving collaboration with and participation of citizens in policy making. Among concrete action points, national and regional strategic efforts focus on the governance of digital government and the delivery of digital services, supported by goals to increase privacy, security, digital public infrastructure (including digital identity), and public sector innovation capabilities. Most current regional instruments are not comprehensive, focusing primarily on government services, public innovation, and open data.

Furthermore, countries have advanced in developing broader digital agendas including targets on the development of connectivity, telecommunication networks, innovation and entrepreneurship, digitalisation of SMEs and emerging technologies, with less attention on skills, talent, digital inclusion, and digital government (ECLAC, 2022[1])). Nevertheless, digital development across countries in the LAC region is uneven. Such context demands greater efforts and special attention to regional inequalities while creating synergies and joint digital government agendas.

Most LAC countries (above 80%) cover in their legislations issues such as privacy and data protection, transparency and access to public sector information, digital signature, e-procurement, cybersecurity, and digital government. However, approximately half of the countries in the region have not fully kept pace with topics generally addressed by OECD countries related with advanced digital capabilities and proactive and anticipatory approaches within their legal and regulatory frameworks. These include digital identity, once-only principle, access to private sector information/data, digital by design, cloud computing, legal and/or regulatory sandboxes, artificial intelligence, emerging technologies, the right to challenge (i.e., ability to apply for exemptions from existing rules, or ability to request rules be reconsidered), among others. As a result the necessary safeguards for the correct planning, implementation, and monitoring of digital government initiatives are not sufficiency up to date in half of the region.

Strategic planning is the cornerstone for an efficient and coherent approach to digital government investments. It reflects the co-ordination and alignment of the relevant stakeholders around key policy goals and the actions required to achieve them through public investments. LAC governments still face challenges to align efforts between digital, budget and procurement authorities on digital government investment decisions in an institutional context where budget authorities lead resource allocation. As a result, there seems to be space for governments to strengthen horizontal co-ordination and collaboration in the approval process to foster alignment between key stakeholders e.g., budgeting, investment, procurement and digital authorities.

Additionally, digital government authorities in LAC countries often do not seem to have concrete and actionable mechanisms to support the coherent planning for digital government investments, including dedicated and comprehensive value proposition mechanisms, risk assessment and mitigation tools.

Furthermore, countries included in this report largely follow a traditional approach in the value proposition rather than acknowledging the specific benefits of the digital transformation, including its underlying economies of scale and network effects. Additionally, rising and pressing global challenges, such as the green transition, call for updating relevant frameworks in LAC so that multi-faceted decisions on digital investments can better contribute to the achievement of broader challenges (including social, economic, environmental and security considerations).

Countries in the region have an opportunity to leverage the approval process to enhance the management of digital investment portfolios by securing compliance with digital standards across governments, and secure alignment and co-ordination among different authorities. Evidence shows that governments in LAC are generally utilising national guidelines and directives to streamline the management and implementation of digital investments across public sector institutions. In most countries, these are non-mandatory standards that guide the implementation of digital government investments and build coherent implementation.

Regarding the procurement of digital goods and services, governments in the region often use traditional public procurement mechanisms, reflecting an existing opportunity for countries in LAC to use public procurement more strategically in digital goods and services to achieve other objectives than value-for-money. Similarly, innovative procurement mechanisms remain an exception rather than a regular practice when procuring digital goods and services in the region, despite the availability of relevant laws and regulations enabling for instance experimentation or partnerships with GovTech. Digital authorities in the region are well placed to collaborate with procurement agencies to leverage public procurement as a strategic tool and policy lever for the digital transformation of the public sector and achieving broader objectives of their digitalisation policies.

Governments in the region have not adopted dedicated monitoring and evaluation mechanisms for digital government investments. The absence of investment portfolio monitoring mechanisms has an impact on the capacity of the public sector to take strategic digital investments decision-making through reliable and timely information that identifies and informs on potential problems so that digital government and other competent authorities can act appropriately.

Evidence shows that some countries in the region have advanced in collecting insights and data on user experience in digital government investments; however, these practices are still limited in terms of coverage and purpose. These efforts are undoubtedly a necessary but insufficient condition to fully exploit the benefits of digital government to deliver better services. Despite these initial steps to collect information on user experience, countries in the region still show difficulties using and channelling this information into the formulation of future investments.

More mature digital government requires an enabling cultural environment across the public sector, for example, by accepting risk taking, fostering experimentation, building multidisciplinary teams and promoting flexible ways of working. Governments in LAC still face challenges when encouraging experimentation in the public sector due to a risk-averse culture rooted in the region's administrative and legalistic environment of the public administrations, reflected for example in burdensome and rigid auditing processes, limiting the use of innovative practices such as proof of concept and overall experimentation in the public sector. On the other hand, LAC countries have benefited from setting-up multidisciplinary teams for delivering digital projects in the public sector.

To advance in their digital maturity, governments should clearly understand and identify the skills and talents required to be able to count on a workforce adequately equipped to support the digital transformation. Skills frameworks are key policy instruments to build a shared understanding and standardisation of the skills needed to advance the digital transformation of governments. These frameworks can enable the standardisation of recruitment processes, the fine-tuning of training programmes and facilitate the identification of digital capacity gaps in public institutions. Evidence showed most LAC governments have developed skills frameworks and strategies to align and enhance training and capacity-building efforts, covering also subnational governments. Nevertheless, there is an opportunity to advance creating dedicated skill frameworks for management level and frontline service delivery public servants. The region could benefit from further collaboration between countries in the identification and development of digital skills to foster regional integration.

Governments should establish dedicated efforts to attract, develop, allocate and retain digitally competent talent across the public sector. The evidence collected shows that Latin American countries have not been able to create integrated and whole-of-government approaches to attract and recruit digital talent in the public sector. Digital government authorities are well positioned to co-operate with Civil Service authorities in defining strategies to attract and retain talent and allocate it across public sector institutions by developing integrated efforts, including dedicated instruments to support subnational governments. Finally, governments in the region introduced remote working during the COVID-19 pandemic to secure the continuity of services amidst the global disruption and there is an opportunity to adapt these flexible working schemes to attract more talent to public sector organisations.

LAC countries acknowledge the significance of data integration and interoperability across the public sector, with the COVID-19 pandemic having been a catalyst to accelerate efforts in this regard. Nevertheless, important challenges remain to be addressed, particularly regarding outdated and burdensome processes for data generation and sharing, as well as important data legacies and data maturity at the national and local level.

While some countries have solid legal foundations in areas such as data interoperability, open data, and personal data protection, others are still lagging behind. Specific to personal data protection, the right of habeas data, which gives individuals the right file a complaint against the illegitimate use of their personal data or information or is present de jure or de facto in available regulatory frameworks on personal data protection across the region. While the COVID-19 pandemic prompted some countries to update data-related regulatory frameworks coherently across the region, regulations that do not match global and regional standards or their complete absence pose a challenge for trustworthy cross-border data integration, access, and sharing.

While in some instances co-ordination among relevant stakeholders takes place at the political or decision-making level (e.g. Data Governance Boards) and in the instance of digital government co-ordination bodies, co-ordination efforts do not necessarily take place also at the technical level (e.g. among data practitioners in the public sector) or with actors outside the public sector.

In LAC, the clear attribution of data leadership roles and responsibilities across public bodies is most evident in personal data protection in line with national legislation - when available. Institutional roles on open government data are not always self-standing, thus relevant open data responsibilities are often allocated as an additional task of the officials in charge of access to public sector information. At the same time, tactical roles such as data stewards are absent from most countries or this responsibility is allocated as part of institutional leadership roles on digital government.

Also, the emergence of data-intensive technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) has further highlighted the gaps in relation to data management and data governance capacity within the public sector in the region, as also indicated in recent regional reports on AI by the OECD and other organisations in the LAC region (OECD/CAF (2022[2])).

Dedicated leadership positions in the data policy area, such as in the form of formal and stand-alone one-person roles are mostly absent from public sectors in LAC. The data leadership mandate, responsibilities or tasks are often attributed to the body in charge of the digital government agenda (e.g. digital government agencies, telecommunication ministries). The data leadership task under these bodies often has a strong focus on public sector interoperability. Furthermore, the leadership and/or mandate on personal data protection, access to public information, and open government data often fall in different bodies across LAC countries.

The adoption of national data strategies for governments are not standard practice in LAC countries. In most cases, data-related actions are included as a sub-component of digital government strategies and similar agendas or focused on specific aspects such as open government data. National data strategies often translate more into several policy tools and strategies in areas such as interoperability, open data, digital government, personal data protection and AI rather than proving an integrated action-oriented approach within a single instrument.

At the regional level, the appetite for data integration is reflected in the actions undertaken in regional trade mechanisms such as MERCOSUR and digital government networks such as Red GEALC – the Network on E-government in Latin America and the Caribbean. Other efforts are observed in the context of the Digital Nations (with Uruguay as a member) and the UNeCLAC’s Digital Agenda for Latin America and the Caribbean (eLAC2022).

Some countries have reinforced their regulatory and institutional governance arrangements for open government data, but in recent years open data efforts have stagnated due to a lack of continuity of political support to the agenda or sustainability in the implementation of open data initiatives. Open government policies remain a driver for open data initiatives in the region. Whereas open data stands as a key component of anti-corruption initiatives in the region, further work is needed to connect it to other policy challenges including the fight against climate change, the use of AI in the public sector, and the inclusion and protection of vulnerable groups.

Progress in implementation of open data policies and impact assessment remain a challenge. Also, the practice of exploring public-private partnerships to increase data re-use and identify data demand is uneven across countries. Lastly, open data efforts at the local level are growing but still incipient.

LAC countries are still in the process of building or consolidating regulatory and institutional arrangements for personal data protection and privacy. Some LAC countries are still struggling to provide citizens with tools they can use to know how their data is being used, for what purpose and by whom within the public sector.

Also, the COVID-19 pandemic and the accelerated shift towards digitalisation of public services has brought data security to the forefront of the policy agenda, but LAC countries need to take a more proactive and preventive approach to the management of digital risks. Data ethics is a growing area, which has so far been largely understood only as related to personal data protection.

The public services agenda (efforts conducive to improve access, responsiveness, proactiveness and human-centricity of government services) is gaining increased political momentum and support in LAC following the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite progress in the digitalisation of public service delivery through different channels and in user adoption, LAC governments should develop a forward-looking strategic approach that supports whole-of-government and omni-channel public service transformation to address remaining challenges. These include a limited availability of adequate policy frameworks and limited mandates and responsibilities related to the services agenda. Co-ordination mechanisms to support a coherent and integrated approach to designing and delivering services around users and their needs both at central and local levels are not the norm, as opposed to a silo-based and analogue-oriented digitisation.

Most LAC governments have adopted multi-channel service delivery strategies (intended as services available through different channels yet offering a different user experience) - in contrast to a few that offer government services under an omni-channel approach (that focuses on providing the same quality of seamless user journeys across multiple channels). The predominant multi-channel approach in LAC is a missed opportunity to increase convenience and responsiveness for users to complete public services from an end-to-end perspective. This is particularly sensitive as delivering equal service quality across all channels is essential for an inclusive digital transformation of the public sector in the region considering existing social and economic inequality and exclusion across territories. Digital means have become a core delivery channel, but there are still limitations to offer a fully end-to-end and complete experience to users through existing platforms despite the rapid increase in the number of analogue processes being available through digital means.

The ultimate goal of public service delivery is to solve users' end-problems. However, LAC governments are still largely oriented towards designing and delivering public services driven by public sector bureaucracy and regulatory requirements (government-centric approach), constraining the public sector's ability to understand and meet user needs. The existing dominant legalistic culture, also applied to public service transformation, has caused limited advancements in digital government maturity in the past decades. The legalistic approach to service design and delivery is reflected in the limited understanding and capacities for service design and user research, and has acted as barrier to fully embrace a user-driven approach for the digital transformation of public services in LAC. As a consequence, LAC governments often follow a top-down approach (interpretation rather than understanding of user needs) and an inward-looking mindset (oriented to bureaucracy rather than users) when transforming public services.

Delivering responsive and convenient public services to users requires continuous improvement and a systematic approach to capture service performance and user opinions and satisfaction through feedback loops. LAC countries do not have a consistent and comprehensive approach to collect, analyse and use public service performance data, relying largely on basic indicators that restrict public sector capacity to transform services informed by their delivery performance. Efforts to measure and apply user satisfaction into service improvement remain limited, mostly focused on collecting data that do not inform service improvement in a consistent way and are often disconnected from the broader service delivery policy.

A whole-of-government approach to public service design and delivery includes developing common and actionable mechanisms to assist service teams when digitally transforming a service. Due to the dominant legal culture, the majority of existing standards and supporting means are framed within existing regulatory frameworks in the region. While relevant, they do not provide actionable guidance for the effective design and delivery of public services. Advancing the development of guidelines for user research and service design would be particularly relevant to help mitigate the existing legal-oriented and limited human-centric mindset driving the public service agenda in LAC.

Regarding specific capacities to digitally transform public services, most LAC countries are investing in ensuring in-house capability to design and operate services, as well as to outsource with traditional external suppliers. To a lesser extent, governments in the region are building on existing development capabilities from other public sector institutions (e.g., reusing their solutions). Leveraging the expertise of start-ups, entrepreneurs, or innovators through GovTech partnerships remain limited across the region, reducing access to new and more innovative suppliers or partners to contribute to the digitalisation of government services.

A whole-of-government approach to service design and delivery builds on the premise that public sector institutions can have access to common digital tools and enablers that facilitate effective collaboration and integration in service delivery. While LAC countries are advancing the development of digital public infrastructure (DPI) such as cloud, data interoperability, digital payments, digital notification, or digital identity, there is an untapped opportunity to advance regional discussions on digital public goods (DPGs) that require further regional co-operation and sharing of practices. There is a limited development of open-source solutions in LAC, with the missed opportunity to advance towards common tools that may respond to similar legal and cultural frameworks, such as digital notification or citizen folder solutions.

Only a slight majority of digital government leaders in LAC find that the public service in their country is innovative. OECD Observatory of Public Sector Innovation’s evidence shows that LAC governments are taking bold steps to innovate, most strongly favouring mission-oriented innovation (or setting a clear outcome and overarching objective for achieving a specific mission) and also tending to embrace adaptive innovation (or testing and trying new approaches in order to respond to a changing operating environment). In contrast, governments’ efforts are weaker in enhancement-oriented innovation (or upgrading practices, achieving efficiencies and better results, and building on existing structures) and the weakest in anticipatory innovation (or exploring and engaging with emergent issues that might shape future priorities and future commitments). This hampers the ability of the public sector to take actions towards proactively anticipating public issues and finding innovative ways to address them.

LAC governments generally place a strong emphasis on innovation within their digital government strategies. Some have also developed digital innovation and artificial intelligence strategies specifically for the public sector. However, broad public sector innovation strategies have been less pronounced, although certain governments, particularly municipalities, are outstanding actors in government innovation. Nonetheless, the absence of strategies may pose challenges for LAC governments in adopting a systems approach to innovation and linking their overall innovation efforts to their digital strategy and digital innovation goals.

Seven LAC governments (41%) have adhered to the OECD Declaration on Public Sector Innovation, formally recognising the importance of innovation as a strategic capability of government to modernise state administrations and achieve policy goals, and actively implementing initiatives to operationalize its principles. However, the number of adhering countries in the region remains a minority. By becoming adherents to the Declaration, countries can indicate their commitment and alignment with internationally recognised principles and actions to embrace and enhance innovation.

The findings from the OECD-CAF LAC Digital Government Agency Survey, based on the perceptions of digital government officials as to whether public servants in their countries have the core skills outlined in the OECD skills model for public sector innovation, suggest that the foundational enablers of innovative capacities and culture are not currently in place in the region. However, the relatively high scores for curiosity hint that public servants want to try new things and innovate, but that they do not always have the know-how and empowerment to move forward. More specifically, LAC governments have increasingly developed training and capacity building components to help strengthen some of their innovation skills, especially when it comes to data literacy, user-centricity, and iteration. Other skills like storytelling appear to be less of a focus, according to the perceptions of digital government officials.

LAC governments are exploring the use mostly of artificial intelligence in the public sector as documented extensively in previous reports (OECD/CAF, 2022[2]), while showing some interest for other innovative and emerging technologies, particularly big data analytics, internet of things, and blockchain. Only a few governments reported that they have strategies around other forms of emerging technology (not AI) and there is low level of evidence of actual efforts in implementing them.

Better collaboration with start-ups and exploring public-private partnerships have been identified as particular priorities and challenges in LAC to promote better uptake of emerging technologies and greater agility and innovation in government. The region has already been taking bold steps in promoting awareness and interest in GovTech startups, showing the most significant expansion at the sub-national level in cities such as Córdoba, Argentina, Sao Paulo, Brazil, or Bogotá, Colombia. Many GovTech solutions leverage government data to develop services based on artificial intelligence solutions.

At the national level there has been less prevalence, limiting opportunities for a systemic approach to GovTech and potentially hindering the ability of start-ups to obtain funding and scale up. After evaluating several key GovTech enablers, including start-up investment, data infrastructures, innovation spaces, and public procurement, LAC governments exhibit comparatively slower progress at the public policy level. This pertains particularly to the limited development of strategies and the absence of dedicated entities responsible for coordinating GovTech efforts.


[1] ECLAC (2022), A Digital Path for Sustainable Development in Latin America and the Caribbean, Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, (accessed on 14 January 2023).

[2] OECD/CAF (2022), The Strategic and Responsible Use of Artificial Intelligence in the Public Sector of Latin America and the Caribbean, OECD Public Governance Reviews, OECD Publishing, Paris,

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