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Latin america laying foundation for e-government

11 February 2014


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Some Latin American countries are slowly laying the foundation to adopt the more efficient and faster e-government. Representatives from Costa Rica, Dominican Republic and Chile shared their experiences and thoughts on the topic “Innovation in Government Services: Experiences from Latin America”.

The special workshop session, organized in cooperation with the Latin American Centre for Cooperation & Development, highlights the critical success factors and key takeaways from public sector developments and reforms across Latin America.
Costa Rica Minister for National Planning and Economic Policy H.E. Roberto J. Gallardo Nuñez, Dominican Republic Minister for Public Administration H.E. Ramón Ventura Camejo and Mr. Álvaro Ramírez-Alujas, Professor at University of Chile’s Institute of Public Affairs, exchanged thoughts on the subject of government innovation in their respective jurisdictions; witg H.E. Sultan Al Mansouri, Minister of Economy of the UAE as moderator.

H.E. Roberto J. Gallardo Nuñez, Minister for National Planning and Economic Policy of Costa Rica, disclosed his country’s efforts in harnessing the public sector in providing a smart government to its citizens.

Despite the challenges that the government face on areas that have poor infrastructure, more than 100 out of 329 government institutions in the country are now using the new digital system to make their services more efficient to the public.

The new digital system developed publishes all government operations online while providing SMS alerts to citizens in order to promote transparency and better communication between citizens and government. It also lessens the congestions in cities by providing government services to citizens online.
More rural areas are also being developed to city-like settings so residents could have the conveniences found in cosmopolitan areas.

“Our life expectancy is getting up,” Nuñez said. The government is also aggressively pushing to diversify Costa Rica’s economy to improve the quality of life among residents.

World Bank still considers Costa Rica a developing country with a GDP of only $12,606 per capita. Its poverty rate stood at over 23 percent as of 2012. The country’s economy is largely driven by the production and export of coffee. 
Despite its economic challenges, Costa Rica had gone through dramatic transformations in embracing the digital government system.

Nuñez concluded that technology is something that we have to learn to embrace. In order to provide a good e-government, an integration of listening to the needs of citizens and the use of modern technology should go hand-in-hand.

A paradigm shift on how governments in Latin America conduct their services to the public is also apparent elsewhere in the region, according to H.E. Ramón Ventura Camejo Dominican Republic, which the US classified as the second largest economy in Central America and the Caribbean with a GDP of $987 billion as of 2012, is also undergoing transformation. “Our continent has changed and continues to change. We are much more active now. We have been doing well now but we still have some problems to solve,” said Camejo.

He said technology will make life so much easier for many Latin Americans just like what people in the UAE, Britain and in other rich countries in the world are experiencing.

Camejo said that a transparent information system is one of the key success factors for the innovation of government services. He pointed out that this system allows the collection of information and the creation of a broad database to be developed from time to time in order to have a transparent e-government.

It is clear that the Dominican Republic has to encourage competition and the development of decision-making mechanism in order to improve performance and access to citizens through the provision of information for the management of government affairs to the public and the dissemination of these data for citizens to be familiar with the e-government.

Mr. Álvaro Ramírez-Alujas, Professor at University of Chile’s Institute of Public Affairs, pointed out the challenges facing Chile. The first challenge facing his country is to bring about change, stressing that the state cannot solve problems alone and they need the cooperation of citizens in developing solutions and apt services. Another challenge that the local government is facing is the management of e-government. They have adopted a strategy to develop a system that will encourage the participation of citizens in creating innovative solutions.

Ramírez-Alujas concluded that the Latin American countries face a common challenge with respect and openness stressing the need for the participation of all parties to solve problems and provide services to achieve real success.