e-Government in Argentina (blog, 2016)

e-Government in Argentina

Since the mid-1990’s, with the widespread use of Internet technology, governments started to modernize their administrations. With reference to the successful business models in e-commerce, governments focused on service delivery to citizens and businesses.

These initiatives have been labeled “e-government”, and have been implemented worldwide. Of course different accents have been made by governments, according to their economic and societal needs. Also differences in levels of sophistication are visible, due to the readiness in terms of infrastructure, skills, legal system etc.

E-government development in Argentina has been characterized by initial substantive investments in infrastructure which were privatized in all countries over a period of time, a focus on the government, informational websites and some conventional e-governments applications such as administrative services, and others, with wide variety in sophistication of service. Also at the level of the City of Buenos Aires, open data are being implemented, to serve purposes of transparency. These initiatives leave Argentina at the 41th place of the UN e-government Survey (2016).

Next steps on telecom infrastructure are prepared, since concerns are expressed about the connectivity of the country. For this effort the Macri administration has sought collaboration with South-Korea, one of the leading countries in 5G technology.

Although infrastructure is a necessary condition, e-government is not only about technology. To harvest the benefits of e-government, public sector reform is unavoidable. This public sector reform needs to focus on important topics like:

  • integration and alignment of front- and back-office;
  • skills and attitude of civil servants;
  • new ways of governance and innovation;
  • multichannel management towards the public.

In addition, a whole-of-government approach needs to be adopted. Current government  digital innovation has resulted in a more or less fragmented e-government landscape, since each government organization has its own implementation authority. Also public sector operates digitally separated from private sector. For example, banking ID’s in Argentina are only for private use, not for use in the public domain, as is the practice in several European countries.

The potential of e-government goes beyond digital service delivery and efficient burocracy. Perhaps more important, it also supports fundamental elements of good governance, such as democratic participation and inclusion,  and will contribute to openness, transparency and accountability, effectiveness and coherence of government. Although first steps are set, see for example the City of Buenos Aires, others need to follow.