Government Digitalisation: The Way Forward
By TTIFC, Staff Writer, December 2021
Governments across the world are embracing a wide range of new technologies to advance the digitalisation of their services. Traditional public service methods are generally fraught with several drawbacks inclusive of long lines, extensive bureaucracy and a lack of accessibility, which became more evident during the COVID-19 pandemic. This has forced many governments to implement, new digital tools to streamline their services and efficiently meet the needs of its citizens during this unprecedented event. Through this process of digitalisation, an economy is presented with a host of benefits which aids in the growth and development of its nation even after the pandemic. The benefits of government digitalisation emphasises it as the way forward for the public sector worldwide.
Economies that were already advancing in the digitalisation of their services and processes faced very little disruption during the pandemic (The Economist, 2020). For instance, Estonians still received their family benefits via direct deposit following the registration of their new-borns, while health workers were not overwhelmed by paperwork during the pandemic thanks to an already established suite of digital health records and an e-prescription service. As national lockdowns were imposed to slow the spread of the virus, more governments acknowledged that digitalisation was the way forward to ensure essential services were provided to its citizens. In Rhode Island (USA), for example, the Department of Labour and Training used cloud technologies to improve cost efficiencies and modernise its unemployment insurance contract centre to aid staff with the surge of new applications. Sweden also implemented Robotic Process Automation to process each application in less than a minute, to allow citizens to access social support quickly when they needed it the most.
The benefits of digitalisation will continue to be actualised post pandemic as it allows for greater access to government services through technological devices such as laptops, tablets and smartphones. As a large majority of the world’s population are in possession of a mobile device, individuals will experience greater access to public administration when digitised. For example, the Ministry of Finance in Trinidad and Tobago now has a digitised tax filing process known as e-tax which allows persons to file their taxes online via their mobile devices, thus reducing their transaction costs such as transportation and wait times. This can be especially beneficial to the vulnerable members of society including the elderly and the disabled, as the online system allows them to complete the process from the comfort of their homes.
Government digitalisation through the development of e-payment systems also increases security. E-payment reduces the need for individuals to handle large sums of cash when conducting financial transactions at government offices. It also provides for a simplified, and efficient environment as it enables direct transfers. For example, in India, the Direct Benefit Transfer system allows beneficiaries under various social services schemes to receive their allowance directly into their bank accounts which reduces the risk of cash or cheques being stolen from recipients.
Government digitalisation can also boost productivity and coordination amongst government entities as services become more integrated rather than continue as discrete processes (OECD, 2016). For example, the Government of Singapore has been working towards building common ‘digital and data platforms’ for the whole of government. This allows public servants to access and record citizen’s data in a safe and efficient manner. Shared data services can also allow governments to offer multiple government services on one online platform. This is evidenced by Dubai’s online public service app known as ‘DubaiNow’ which allows citizens to conveniently access government services across twelve different ministries (Citigroup, 2019). Moreover, the digitalisation of government payments also presents other economic benefits such as financial inclusion, ease of doing business and greater efficiency (PwC, 2019).
The Trinidad and Tobago International Financial Center (TTIFC) is actively supporting the Government in its push towards digitalisation of its financial transactions as the agency responsible for the development and digitalisation of the financial services sector. The TTIFC is working with the Treasury, Central Bank and various Government ministries to improve service delivery for all citizens by adopting digital tools, cashless systems and FinTech applications for the development of e-payments within the public sector. Through these initiatives, the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago will be able to experience the benefits of digitalisation first-hand.
The Economist (2020) COVID-19 is spurring the digitalisation of government. Available at: https://www.economist.com/international/2020/09/01/covid-19-is-spurring-the-digitisation-of-government
OECD (2016) Digital Government Strategies for Transforming Public Services in Welfare Areas. [pdf].
Citigroup (2019) Digitalising Government: The journey to enacting a digital agenda. [pdf]
PwC (2019) PwC’s Payments Newsletter: Digitising payments in the government sector. [pdf].