By Giulia D'Alessandro
Digital technologies played an indispensable role in holding Civil Society together as the COVID-19 pandemic emerged, supporting the provision of basic public services in the health, education, safety, and security sectors, as in-person access to such services became increasingly limited. Further, the pandemic has amplified the importance of e-government and digital technologies as essential tools for communication and collaboration between policymakers, the private sector, and societies across the globe. In general, it became clear how digital technologies contribute to national and local development, facilitate the sharing of knowledge, and enable the provision of online services and solutions in both ordinary and extraordinary circumstances.
E-governments have become the cornerstone for building effective, resilient, and inclusive institutions at all levels, as called for in Sustainable Development Goal 16, and for strengthening the implementation of Goal 17. The 2022 Survey on e-government development published by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs highlights the increasing contributions of digital transformation and digital government in accelerating the realization of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development while making sure that no one is left behind and offline in the digital age.
The Survey reflects further improvement in global trends in e-government development and the transitioning of many countries from lower to higher EGDI (E-Government Development Index) levels. In the last two years, 90% of UN Member States have established dedicated portals or spaces in their national portals to address issues and public services related to the pandemic, which have proven to be essential. Going forward, the digital government can undoubtedly help the global society tackle other planetary crises, including climate change, while preparing work through future emergencies.
The digital age is characterized by interdependence, requiring international cooperation between Governments, industries, scientific communities, academia, and Civil Society in a wide range of sectors, including trade and finance, communications, e-government, and cyber security. Most countries now have national digital government strategies, as well as some sort of legislation on cybersecurity, personal data protection, national data policy, open government data, and e-participation. Individuals and businesses are increasingly able to interact with public institutions through online platforms and access public content and data. There is a clear trend towards the full digitalization of government services, which could give users the ability to complete virtually all types of transactions entirely online. The role of e-government will continue to grow in terms of providing public services and responding to crises and emergencies. At present, however, many countries use their portals to provide information and offer only partially digitized services. Despite investments in technology achieved in many countries, the digital divide persists. Ongoing challenges continue to undermine the development efforts of least-developed countries.
Government data constitute a national public good that can be used to create public value. The growing technological capacity to process more complex data sets has made it possible for Governments to gain key insights that allow them to make e-services more efficient, inclusive, and responsive. As such, governments should work together with all stakeholders to ensure that data are gathered, managed, and utilized in ways that improve government operations and benefit all members of society.