GovTech Global Forum: Governance in the Digital Era

GovTech Global Forum: Governance in the Digital Era

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[Roby Senderowitsch] Great to have you all here. My name is Roby Senderowitsch. I manage our Global Public Administration Unit at the World Bank, which is responsible for this GovTech Forum, the first one that we put together. Just to take the pulse here, how is the level of energy today? High? Yes? [Applause] [Roby Senderowitsch] They told us that GovTech is always full of people with energy. I hope that is true also tomorrow afternoon. To begin with, we know that we have people from governments, raise your hands if you come from a public sector institution.

We have people from civil society, think tanks, universities. We have people from the private sector, international agencies, and World Bank staff as well. Yes, great. All of you are welcome here to Washington. I'm not the facilitator, the moderator for this event, that is my colleague Andres Falconer who's going to take over shortly. To begin this forum, I welcome my director, so be careful, he's my boss.

He does my evaluation. His name is Arturo Herrera, who is going to set us up with the forum. Thank you, Arturo. Thank you everyone for being here. [Arturo Herrera Gutiérrez] Thank you, Roby. Good morning to everyone.

Actually, I think he should have a start by saying raise your digital hand and we should have some place to actually check it in. We have a really exciting program over the next two days where we are going to see what are the modern approaches to GovTech around the world. We have an approach which is pretty much citizen centered, an approach which is very open both in engineering and architecture, but also open in the sense that most of the databases now around the world allow the private sector, NGOs, citizens to actually interact with them. It's a two-way thing and it's really the modern GovTech, it's about how to make the life of citizens easier, but that's not the way actually all this started. A few decades ago, what the primary versions of this was about is about how to make the government's life easier, not a citizen's life easier. It was about how to make in a digital way what the government was already doing, their accounting, budgeting, payments.

And that's okay, it's not bad. It was a huge thing. I'm sufficiently old so that I actually witnessed when public officers were actually paid by check or in cash, but that was not the only purpose of that.

While the ability for governments to have budgets that were processed in a digital manner, it actually also helped macro stability because that meant that governments were able to trace the level of expenditures and that was really important after the debt rises of the '80s, after the debt crisis of the '90s, and although this is not anymore a novelty, it's important now that we're seeing those pressures in many countries. This was just the first phase of what we now call GovTech. Then we moved to the e-government and that was really about starting to digitalize things and it was really a strategy that was user centered. When I came for the first time to the bank, we had a different kind of term, we were talking about digital government, which was really about how to have a double way interaction with citizens.

Now we have GovTech, and let me just mention the [inaudible], and you will see why. Which is about citizen center, Whole-of-Government Approach, and interoperability. But we often lose sight of what this means.

Let me give you an actual example of what I lived through when things were not a Whole-of-Government Approach and interoperability. Almost 20 years ago when I was a teenager, I was Finance Secretary of Mexico City and one of my main responsibilities was actually to manage the car property tax. There are 2.5 million cars in Mexico City, so under my responsibility we managed a whole

database of those cars. The key in terms of data management for the cars was the license plate, but the license plate was not issued by the Secretary of Finance, it was issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles. We have another department, another secretariat within the same government of Mexico City running a 2.5 million database for the same car. But after that pollution experience in the '90s in Mexico City it was implemented and is still in practice to have cars have to pass a pollution test twice per year. There's another database run by the Environmental Secretariat about the same car. Each car in Mexico City is struck in three different databases owned by the same government.

Now the funny part is that if you ask any of those databases how many cars are in Mexico City, you get three different answers. Very often we within think that GovTech could help to make things more efficient, but also to provide savings. We think and we are very ambitious that we could have savings of 5%, 10%, 15%.

If you think about this example, the city of Mexico is spending three times as much, 300% what they should be doing because they are running three times, they have three different teams, three different samples of databases, etc. This is a little bit why we are doing that. Behind these words, interoperability, Whole-of-Government Approach, lie very specific things that could help citizens and governments to operate in a much more efficient way. We are doing this around the world. We are doing it a moment in which the technology not only allows to do much more, but also COVID-19.

One of the very few things that came out of COVID-19 was to catalyze digital operations around the world. And to talk to you about that, about what were we doing and how were we doing that in a very complex context of multiple crises, I want to welcome our managing the Director of Operations, Anna Bjerde. [Applause] [Anna Bjerde] Great, thank you, Arturo, thank you, Roby and good morning, everybody, and congratulations for coming together. I know this was created some time ago, but it's actually your first time to be together, which is great. I'm really happy to be here, to be able to welcome you.

I want to start really by thanking our co-hosts and we have several, which I also think shows the strong commitment and interest in this topic. Let me start with the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development of Germany, the Ministry of the Interior and Safety of Korea, the state Secretariat for Economic Affairs of Switzerland, the OECD, Amazon Web Services, Digital Nations Group, and the MIT GOV/LAB. Also a special welcome to our GovTech global partners representing government, civil society organizations, the private sector and international development agencies. The theme of our discussion over the next two days, governance in a digital era, could not be more relevant to today's foremost development challenges. As we navigate through today's world, we are confronted with the impacts of numerous global shocks that have affected us all.

From climate change to high debt burdens, inflation, rising poverty and political instability, these shocks are leaving an indelible mark on our societies. Unfortunately, developing countries and the most vulnerable populations have borne the brunt of these impacts. As countries strive to get back on track to meet their development goals, the strategic value of GovTech or using technology to modernize the public sector and to enhance the quality, accessibility and accountability of service delivery will only grow.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw how governments were able to use technology to monitor hotspots and to continue delivering services, accelerating digitalization in many countries. During conflict, technology can be a lifeline to services and information. In Ukraine, for example, the Diia app is providing 21 million users with access to digital IDs and passports, birth certificates, and over 70 government services. The impact of digitalization on development and governance cannot be overstated.

While digital government alone cannot solve the institutional and governance challenges present in many countries, it presents a valuable opportunity to promote sustainability, resilience, and inclusion. Yet capacities to harness technology, to design, implement and monitor these solutions are uneven, especially among developing countries. To help build governments’ digital capacity and modernize the public sector, the World Bank launched a GovTech global partnership in 2019, bringing together governments, practitioners, development partners, civil society, and the private sector.

I'm really pleased to share that at the World Bank, we are supporting nearly 400 projects on GovTech and digitalization more broadly with commitments amounting to over $120 billion. For example, in Albania, over 500 transactional e-services are now available on the e-Albania portal, reducing the administrative burden for the government, citizens and businesses. In Argentina, 17 million people will benefit from government efforts to enhance the functionalities of the digital system by leveraging data analytics, providing training for 700,000 government staff. In the Central African Republic, core government services for public financial management and procurement have been enhanced with support from IDA are fund for the poorest countries. As part of overall efforts to support sustainable, resilient, and inclusive development, we're working to improve the inclusivity of digital technologies in the world's poorest countries. This has been a priority under IDA to make sure that poor and vulnerable people and those with disabilities can access services and participate in government affairs.

Technology can also play a role in promoting sustainability and meeting climate objectives. Paperless government accessible from anywhere and cloud-based solutions can reduce e-waste and greenhouse gases. Of course, digitalization can also bring additional challenges and risks such as cybersecurity and data protection.

Ensuring that systems and services are secure builds public trust and can increase uptake. This forum gives us an opportunity to examine the latest solutions to key development challenges, including harnessing green technology, leveraging digital technologies in fragile and conflict-affected environments, increasing digital skills, and promoting the use of data for the public sector to deliver to its citizens. I'm encouraged to see a wide spectrum of partners represented in this room today. Having strong institutions to lead, political commitment to reform, and the skills and culture to support organizational change are areas where we all have a role to play for the future of the development of GovTech.

Let us continue to work together towards building digital capacity and overcoming challenges to ensure that technology serves the public good. With this, let me wish you all the best for what promises to be a stimulating and productive forum over the next couple of days. Thank you. [Applause] [Andrés Pablo Falconer] Good morning.

Thank you, Anna, thank you, Arturo, thank you, Roby. As Roby mentioned, my name is Andrés. I'll be your master of ceremonies for the next couple of days. My job is to make sure that we keep the energy level and that we do see you through until tomorrow afternoon, so I hope you're all here.

Thank you and apologies for the delay in registration. I think that's a lesson learned for everybody that the early bird gets the breakfast. Please make sure you arrive swiftly. We have challenging transitions and a packed schedule in between sessions, so please collaborate with us to make sure that we are on track. I will review and make some announcements after the following session. We'll review the agenda and look through some housekeeping issues.

But without further ado, I would like to call on Donna Andrews, our moderator for the next panel who will call our speakers. Thank you very much. [Applause] [Donna Andrews] Good morning to everyone.

Can you hear me? Yes? Fantastic. Welcome to this inaugural GovTech Global Forum. What I might do at this point is I might ask the panelists for our first session if you could join me on stage and we will get started. As everyone is making their way to the stage, I'm the global lead for Public Institutions Reform in the governance global practice here at the World Bank and I'm delighted to be the moderator for this first plenary session. A very warm welcome to everyone here in the room at World Bank headquarters in Washington, DC.

It's fantastic to see a room full of people again. I think we've really missed this after COVID-19, so it's wonderful to see everyone and having traveled from across the globe to join us here. I'd also like to extend a very warm welcome to our global audience. We have a global audience joining us on World Bank Live. We are very glad that you've been able to connect as well from wherever you are across the world.

We want to encourage all of you to participate in our plenary session this morning. As we move through, for people who are connected with World Bank Live, you can post comments, questions to our panelists through the chat function. The World Bank GovTech team are also connected so they can answer your questions, help you with information about everything GovTech related. For our audience here in DC, we will have a Q&A section as we move through, so you can start thinking about the questions that you'd like to ask our panelists as we move through. For anyone who is joining the conversation using social media, and I'm sure in a room such as this that's almost everybody, please use the forum hashtag, which is #GovTechGlobalForum and you can continue the conversation and meet fellow participants as we move through.

The digital transformation of government has the potential to revolutionize public service delivery, streamline bureaucratic processes and facilitate data-driven policy making. It empowers citizens, providing them with access to information, promoting accountability, and fostering civic participation. However, the digital shift also poses challenges in terms of data privacy, security and the digital divide and it has the potential to exacerbate existing inequalities but also to create some new vulnerabilities. In this opening session, we really want to explore this intersection of governance and technology and the issues that are shaping the future of digital governance. This includes looking at innovative approaches to addressing these challenges, the role of government as a digital leader, and the ethical implications of technology in public administration, which is no tall order for a session which is limited in time. We have an outstanding panel who have joined us for the conversation this morning.

Let me briefly introduce them to you. I will start at the far end. We have Dominique Favre, who's an Executive Director with the World Bank. He represents constituencies of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Poland, Serbia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Switzerland.

And of course the government of Switzerland is also a co-host for our forum. Next to me, Mário Campolargo, who's the Secretary of State for digitalization and administrative modernization in the Portuguese government and also a chair of Digital Nations, which I'm sure he will talk a little bit more about. He has a long history of working with the European Commission and contributing significantly to European initiatives on interoperability, the COVID-19 digital certificate and the modernization of European public administration. In the middle we have Micaela Sánchez Malcolm who is the Secretary of Public Innovation in Argentina. She has vast experience working in academia as well as public and private sectors on digital technology issues.

Next to Mário is Carlos Centeno, who is an Associate Director of Innovation at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Governance Lab or GOV/LAB. He works at the convergence of engineering design, technology, and political behavior science to co-develop tech-enabled governance solutions. And finally, but by no means least, joining us, Charlie Anderson. She's the leader of Global Intergovernmental Organizations, Worldwide Public Sector with Amazon Web Services.

Charlie advises public sector bodies on digital transformation, including how technology and innovation drive transformation based on her extensive experience in operational law enforcement. Please join me in welcoming this fantastic panel. [Applause] [Donna Andrews] To get things kicked off, I'm going to ask Dominique to offer some short opening remarks. Dominique, floor is yours. [Dominique Favre] I don't know.

Yes, it works perfectly. Thank you very much. I'm extremely delighted to be here. Thank you, Donna for your introductory remarks and I'm very honored to sit in such a panel of course.

I am indeed the Executive Director at the board of the World Bank Group, but today I wear more my Swiss hat. I'm mostly accompanied by quite an important Swiss delegation here and I would rather speak on their behalf at the beginning. Let me first highlight that Switzerland has been partnering since many years with institutions such as the World Bank Group to support the digitalization of public institutions and services to make government and authorities more efficient and transparent and services better accessible. Technology has the potential to boost government efficiency, transparency, responsiveness, and citizen trust. However, the capacity to leverage technology for public sector transformation is uneven and typically weak in developing countries. There is a strong need for capacity building and technical assistance where we and our partners can provide support.

To advance the operations and performance of ministries of finance, tax administration, supreme audit institutions and subnational governments, it is key to a system in developing and using technologies that facilitate the collection, analysis, and distribution of data. The World Bank does so and so does Switzerland. As the distribution of data can involve foreign authorities or national companies, it is of utmost importance that simultaneously support is given aimed at strengthening the protection of citizen data. More specifically regarding GovTech, Switzerland’s support is dedicated at several levels.

First of all, at the level of international financial institutions, it supports global programs with the general objective of assisting developing countries in modernizing the public sector. This is actually what we do here by co-hosting the event today. Also, Swiss ODA provides financial support to the major global PFM initiatives and advocates for the use of new technologies to improve public finance management and citizen service delivery.

At the regional and bilateral level, Switzerland encourages the integration of technological components inspired by international best practices, for example, the use of data analytics to identify irregularities and combat tax evasion or to use the distributed blockchain registries to improve public procurement. Today's event marks an important contribution to this agenda and a milestone in our partnership with the World Bank. It is an honor for Switzerland to be co-hosting it. I'm also pleased to see many, as I mentioned, Swiss colleagues from civil society, from university, as well as from Swiss SMEs here to bring in their expertise and learn from others. In my view, we have here one of the greatest opportunities to bring together the innovation and skills from the private sector and the academia together with the needs and challenges from the public sector and the [inaudible] concerns, of course of, civil society.

Within the board of the World Bank, we always call for strong partnerships and outreach and I'm quite happy to see that we are really walking the talk here with this forum. I come to the conclusion of my… a bit welcoming remark. I hope this is fine. The experts will speak after me, but I would not like to end without having a word on safeguards. As much as I believe that new technologies have an incredible potential to support democracy and human rights and foster economic and social development, especially in developing and emerging countries, I'm also convinced that the same technologies used without adequate safeguards and solid governance frameworks may serve to repress, control, divide, discriminate and reduce freedom.

Yes, new technologies can make governments and authorities more efficient and transparent, yes, they can make public services better accessible to populations and yes, they can become real game changers to reduce bureaucracy and combat corruption, but as it is often the case great opportunities bear also quite important risks. We need to be aware to the threats that digitalization brings with. I'm extremely glad that the topic chosen for this first GovTech forum is now governance in the digital area and not just the purely technical event. I will stop here and I wish the conference a very great success. I'm convinced that this will be an opportunity to build relationships beyond the circles in which all of us normally operate.

Thank you very much. [Applause] [Donna Andrews] Thank you very much, Dominique, and I think you touched on a number of issues that I know that we're going to discuss in more detail with the panel. Thank you for being here. Unfortunately, Dominique does have another engagement that he needs to get to at some point during the panel, but thank you very much for being here and of course acknowledging the great contribution from the Swiss government as well to the forum. Just before we hear from our panelists, we have a couple of short video messages that we would like to share as well. Firstly from Dirk Meyer, the Director General for Global Health, Employment, Transformation of the Economy, Digital Technologies, Food and Nutrition Security from the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development in Germany, and also from Lily Tsai, the director and founder of the MIT Governance Lab.

Can we go to the videos, please? [Pause] [Video - Dirk Meyer] Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies, and gentlemen. I'm grateful for the opportunity to share a few words today, although my main message is simply one of thanks. My name is Dirk Meyer. As Director General of Global Health, Employment, Transformation of the Economy, Digital Technologies, Food and Nutrition Security, I am responsible for digital transformation at the German Fellow Ministry for Economic Corporation and Development.

I commend the World Bank for organizing this very first GovTech Global Forum and we are happy to support this event as a co-host. Digital transformation is top priority for us. The BMZ is promoting a digital transformation that is fair, feminist and sustainable, because one thing is certain, the digital transformation is a reality and it is happening with or without us.

The question is: do we put people at the center of the digital transformation or do we leave this process to the free play of market and geopolitical forces? The pandemic, but also Russia's war of aggression on Ukraine and ongoing cyber-attacks show us the difference between countries with interoperable and reusable digital solutions and those with siloed and weak systems. Many governments in the world face common challenges. Instead of continuously reinventing the wheel, we should learn from each other, foster reverse innovation, and share best practices. With GovStack and our partners from Estonia, ITU and the Digital Impact Alliance, we cooperate with countries globally to support a Whole-of-Government approach.

GovStack develops the global toolbox for GovTech building blocks. I hope we can join more forces with the World Bank around this global initiative. Our goal is to support the digital sovereignty of citizens, companies, and partner institutions so that they can make the decisions for their own digital futures. We deeply value your commitment to our common goals and look forward to continuing to partner with you wherever we think we can have a transformative impact together.

I'll end my remarks there except to say thank you for your partnership and your vision. [Applause] [Music] [Video - Lily L. Tsai] Hello, everyone. My name is Lilly Tsai and I am the Ford professor of political science and director of the MIT Governance Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It's great to share the stage with these distinguished guests. As the academic sponsor, we at MIT GOV/LAB are particularly interested in how GovTech can be a catalyst for better democratic governance. Democratic governance that is more transparent, more accountable, and more responsive to citizen needs.

MIT GOV/LAB is an applied research group, an ideas incubator that aims to improve democracy and governance by changing practices around corruption, government accountability and citizen voice. We partner with in-country practitioners at every stage of the research and learning process from theory building to theory testing with the goal of contributing to a solid evidence base that strengthens the overall field of practice for participatory governance. As you embark on the next two days of learning and exchange at the World Bank GovTech Forum, I'd like to pose some food for thought. Given the global challenges we are facing, economic uncertainty, political conflict, declining citizen trust in government, climate change and also what we have learned about the potential for innovation, technology and collaboration from the COVID-19 pandemic, what does the next generation of GovTech look like? How can new technologies fundamentally transform the relationship between governments and citizens for the better? And how can we work together with governments, civil society and academics like MIT GOV/LAB and others to study and test ways in which technology might improve democracy and governance? Answering these questions will require a future-thinking approach. It will also require opportunities to try out new ideas and room to fail. At MIT, we know from experience that this cycle of innovation and learning is how you have scientific breakthroughs that can change the world and we look forward to collaborating on the next generation of GovTech.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you and I wish you a thought-provoking and constructive forum on governance in the digital era. [Applause] [Donna Andrews] Wonderful. With those welcoming messages completed, let's get to the conversation with the panel.

Let me start, Mário, with you. Perhaps you can share some reflections about how technology has affected the way that governments work, and what are some of the key challenges and opportunities that arise in this digital era? [Mário Campolargo] Thank you very much, Donna. I'm very pleased to be here and thanks for the invitation. I'm also very pleased to represent the Digital Nations Group and to be co-sponsorship of this first event. But as you did in your introduction, maybe I'm not just Mário here, I'm also a long-standing official of the European Commission. I'm also State Secretary and I'm on top of that an enthusiastic and a believer that collectively, collectively I stress, we have a high degree, I would say, of responsibility in moving the discourse here of GovTech forward.

The motto of this session is particularly important and I think that both in Portugal or in Europe or in the Digital Nations context, we realize that the digitalization, acceleration of the digitalization of the government is taking shape every day in a more decisive way. But the question maybe that some of you will raise is has the technology affected the way governments work? Maybe we'll consider that not as much as I would've liked, certainly not as much as some other sectors that have been completely disrupted, but a lot. We are in a journey that started with concepts like e-government and then successfully passed to digital government and then we have disruptive technologies and using the power of data.

This is a journey that unfortunately, as some of you have already mentioned, has been fueled by the COVID-19. But also I think that we have to be fair on that by the force of leading academicians, thinkers and practitioners all around the world. I feel proud to have in the Digital Nations Group to count on a number of them, that makes really this journey irreversible. I thought as Donna said, to put forward three, let's say challenges and three opportunities that from a governmental point of view are particularly important.

Summarizing them very quickly, I think that the challenges are around access and inclusiveness, enabling a digital data-driven culture in our organizations, and thinking a bit about the human control over machines, if I may say like this. But opportunities are certainly to be able to provide public services that are tailored to the needs of the citizen. Maybe reorientating the focus of our workforce, of our public servants and certainly, last but not least, promoting the trust in democratic institutions. Obviously I will start from the needs of access and inclusiveness because not everyone in the world has access on equal footing to the opportunities of the digital age or even knows how to use the tools that we make at their disposal. We must not leave anyone behind, including populations with a disadvantage, elderly, disabled bearing, but also people that for economic or gender reasons may be put aside. Divides and inequalities of any kind are in my view inevitably backlash and we must work to ensure that this is not the case with the digital transformation of public services.

In Portugal, if you allow me for a second, we have put forward the aspect of mediation, complementing therefore the digital services with a mediator that will allow populations with some challenges to access the services that we provide and we foster a lot of gender balance in the engagement of the design and the use of these technologies. But also I must say that in the context of Digital Nations in various forms, we collectively agree on this simple motto: Leaving no one behind. However, we also agree that this is a very, very big challenge and a continuous one. Let me move to the second challenge that I wanted to share with you: Enable a change, a data-driven culture. This is absolutely fundamental.

A culture of sharing data, of overcoming silos of the public administrations by focusing on the centrality of the citizens, on its events of life should really be, in my mind, the center of all our actions. For the more public administrations, will not be able to provide all the service status society and the economy of any country may require. Therefore, both providing open data for the private sector, for the academia, to complement the public services provided by the public administrations as well as strengthening the ability, both technological and legal, to use data from private sector, especially when it has a public interest are two central challenges and they are at the core of any GovTech initiatives.

We need to persuade ourselves but also persuade our public leaders that this is absolutely important. We should also involve our servants, our public officials. They have ideas about how data can be used to improve the services. This is absolutely important. We said already piloting first, extending then the scaling up later on.

I think that is very important that, while in Europe it's certainly the case, but I think that in most of the continents we became more aware of the importance of regulations around privacy, ethical use, cybersecurity and should be in this context that we promote the use of data. And again, it will not be a surprise for you if the Digital Nations' motto for this year is better data, better society. Let me then tackle a little bit on this challenge about the relation between humans and machines. Well, we are now in the core of the exacerbation of the use of ChatGPT and other AI technologies or tools that appear in the market and appear to solve all the problems from one day to the other. But I think that it's very important that we maintain this consciousness that humans should remain on the pilot seat throughout the entire experience of a digitalization, of the companies, of the public administrations, reengineering the processes, identifying the tools, looking at the ethical aspects, etc.

There will be always space for humans to override any technology or procedures that we put in motion. I think that this is fundamental to ensure and promote trust in the system and avoid, again, societal backlashes, again, technology delivery. You will note that in the Digital Nations we are all sponsoring the idea of the human-centered approach.

Now if you allow me very briefly, there are also opportunities, very good opportunities. For me, one important is this advent of the tailor-made public services around events of life contextualizing the relations between citizens and the public administration in a bidirectional way and in a frictionless mode because we are now able to streamline most of the processes and information recast by implementing what in Europe we call, and I think generally speaking, the once-only principle in a very effective way, avoiding that the public administration requires several times the information that we already gave to them or that they may have generated in the context of their work. But this also means that we will not provide a single unified, unique service to everybody, but essentially that we can leverage the digital transformation of public services to provide them in a way that fits each citizen, in particular its needs and its context. This way, I'm sure that we will improve public services usefulness and will deliver actual public value, added public value. But we need to create opportunities to reorientate our public workforce to focus on the tasks where they're really irreplaceable.

This means that, well you will know that governments have been criticized that their services, the workforce has become monotonous, apathetic, even in some cases inhuman, not addressing really the problems. This is a great opportunity. The digital transformation may allow us to return some of the empathy and resourcefulness that comes from being human back into the public workforce.

Why? Because we can achieve this by deploying digital tools first on tasks that are repetitive and objective rather than case or context-specific or requiring a human interaction in the sequential and sometimes not easily foreseeable way. Finally, we should use technology to promote trust in democratic institutions. It has been very often mentioned that technology may erode, actually, the role of governments and produce significant institutional changes.

Even though some take a doomsday scenario approach to this issue, I'm personally particularly inclined to believe that trust is essentially an asset which you could leverage or destroy according to the way we communicate and the way we transparently make our actions and objectives clear to the citizens. Technology is maybe the tool as well as the weapon. If we have seen its toxic effects on democracies, I believe that we start grasping the opportunities for civic, ethical and democratic participation as it goes into practice. In the Digital Nations we want to reinforce the trust in the democratic institutions based on common values and the various initiatives around human rights. For example, in the digital world recently in the Latin America they signed the charter, also in the European Union, are in our view, very important underlying factors for my optimism. I would say that, like Winston Churchill said a long time ago, it's not much use being anything else.

I'm an optimist and I believe that working in this multi-stakeholder environments will push the limits of what we can do and will bring us together in defending a society that is economically viable, that is equitable and that is sustainable and that allows the humanity to progress. Thank you. [Applause] [Donna Andrews] Thank you. Thank you, Mário.

Thank you. We will, I'm sure, all carry your message of optimism, particularly over the next two days. I think there will be a huge amount of optimism generated.

Micaela, let me bring you in at this point and perhaps pose the same question to you about the impact of technology on government and some of the challenges and opportunities particularly that you're seeing in Argentina. [Micaela Sánchez Malcolm] Thank you so much, Donna, for introducing me. Thank you everyone for being here, colleagues and of course authorities from World Bank. It's an honor for Argentina and also for me being here and sharing this information, projects and programs with you.

According to what Mário said before, I think right now we have a really big opportunity to keep putting on these tables or several tables something that for us it's really important, and that is that we need to keep working on bridging some gaps. We have a lot of them. When we talk about gaps, we need to talk not only about access gap but also using gaps and of course economic, social, geographic gaps. We have different contexts and we are all together from different countries, organizations and organisms. I think it's really good to put this on the table because we also have the gender and diversity gaps. We are more than the 50% of the population in the world and we need to keep reaching places on academy, enterprises, companies, organisms, civil society organisms too and of course, public sector.

It's good to say that we are a lot of women here, but we need to be more here and in every forum. After that, I’d really like to share with you some of the principle programs on public politics that we have been working in Argentina, of course with the support of the World Bank. They're really important for us. I don't know if you know that... Of course you won't. In Argentina, every single government act is based on our digital platform.

It means that for a note or a document or a memo, a file, a resolution or a new president decreed is based on our platform. We cannot use paper. It means that we have a particular framework that says that we need to use the platform and we need to use our digital signature solution so we have transparency and we are really more efficient building files and documents. When an organism needs to start a volume process, we need to do it by system. When we have the solution, we need to use the system.

If you need to exchange information, we need and we have to do it using our platform. Right now this platform is the most important critical infrastructure in Argentina. It's the bigger one and all our data, it's in our country, in our national data center. We are building and improving also with the support of the World Bank. That's a really important politic for us, but it doesn't end on the national government.

It's a really important work on the federal and the central government. But we are also working with several states or provincial governments and also local governments. It's a really big country, Argentina. I think it's the 8th largest country in the world and we have 23 states or provincial governments and we also have more than 2,000 local governments.

There are plenty of local governments. In those places and in those governments we need to improve the use of the digital platforms and digital services. We are doing that.

We created the federal problem for digital improvement and right now we are working with 15 of the 23 provinces. That is a lot for us and we are working with hundreds of local governments. I think that it’s a really innovative way to work. It's federal, it means that we are working faster and better and we are sustainable. We are not using paper and also we are more transparent and we are a developing country.

In this kind of country, we can also work that way. That's why with the support of the World Bank and also other international organisms, we are starting to think about collaborating with the whole region. We have similar context in Latin America and I think it's time to let's work together and let's work more. I would like to share with you two more cases.

Firstly, I know we have lot of people for talking, we have also a really interesting project. The name is Mi Argentina app. It's an application that is free for all the citizens.

About 50% of the citizens in Argentina are using it. Then you have your digital ID for example, or you have your driver’s license and you have your security document on your phone and you can use it all across the country. Talking about also digital intelligence, we launched a few months ago a national chatbot.

The new staff for this chatbot is from the federal government. There is another national chatbot in the whole world. We work a lot to build our tree of answers and questions. We work with the whole federal government and we did it with a team that is 100% integrated by women from the Secretary of Public Innovation in Argentina and we are really proud of it. For this part I think I'm done and we can move forward.

Thank you so much. [Applause] [Donna Andrews] Thank you very much. So Carlos, let me bring you in at this point. You work with governments and non-government partners in trying to solve digital challenges.

What are some of the strategies that governments can adopt to ensure that they're effectively harnessing emerging technologies and also improving governance and public service delivery? [Carlos Centeno] Thank you. I'm glad Mário mentioned the academia as a potential partner for some of these things. I think by nature, technology by default, it seems to be always ahead of us and I think academia has a role to play there in bridging that gap between the known and the unknown before it gets out of hand. I think the governments here know what I'm referring to.

I'm encouraged to hear some of the advances that we're seeing with the governments that we're working in, but we still have quite a way to go. I think trust, I forgot what the statistic is, but trust has been declining. Trust in governments has been declining in the last 20 years, which is of concern. It hasn't been improving with the advances that we've been making in digital governments or digital transformation of government. I think academia can play a very important role in helping governments to harness these technologies that seem to be getting ahead of us by helping us understand what it is that is important for society, for the relationship between government, citizens and civil society to make that relationship more transparent, more accountable, more responsive. And it's difficult.

It takes design, it takes intentionality. How do you build the technology in a way that it's going to be transparent, it's going to be account and responsible. Our technology, the technology we build should reflect the society that we want to build. We're often caught, I think in the governments that we work with and I think everybody can empathize with this, is the pressures of government, the lack of resources, the expectation that everything needs to work in terms of technology immediately.

I think if we can take a step back, and I think this is where academia plays a role, take a step back and evaluate what it is that we want to design, I think that's a very important thing to look forward to when we are trying to design the governments that we want in the future, the societies that we want in the future. When I hear Micaela talk about some of the applications that they've developed in Argentina, when we work with the government of Nigeria and the Ministry of Health to develop some of these technologies, I think there is a lot of pressure to get things right away, obviously, we're using public money, but I think one of the challenges in harnessing these technologies is taking the time, taking a beat, to really experiment with these technologies before we put it out there. I think academia can be a partner for that to test what we haven't seen yet from these technologies. [Donna Andrews] Thank you.

Thank you. Charlie, from your perspective, so you are obviously working with governments a lot as well, trying to help them to solve some of these digital challenges. What are some of the strategies and recommendations that part of your work in trying to help governments to more effectively harness the technology that's available? [Charlie Anderson] I'm actually going to start with something a little bit different, Donna, if that's okay? [Donna Andrews] Sure. [Laugh] [Charlie Anderson] Mário finished with a Winston Churchill quote.

I'd like to open with Spider-Man, "With great power comes great responsibility", and tie that to culture. I've been at AWS for six years now and prior to that I was a police officer. That's really important to me. That's my foundation for how I approach things.

Within the AWS world, within the Amazon world, we live to our leadership principles, one of which is success and scale bring broad responsibility. So great power, great responsibility. If I reflect on Dominique's opening remarks around the power, the guardrails, the trust, and then the loss of trust that we see over these last 20 years, what we really need to be doing is collaborating, talking, sharing, and also thinking about trust in partnership with risk. Risk is one of the key factors. If we continue to do nothing, the risk is still there because as we've already discussed, the world is moving, technology is moving at such a pace.

So we do nothing, there is risk. We can do something, we can try something, we can try it in a small scale, we can iterate and if it doesn't work, we can stop and we can say that's not the right approach. Small iterative approaches to technology solutions. If I think to the very first question that you asked us, the digital world that we now live in and the impact that that has on governments, and it's already been reflected about Ukraine.

For the Ukrainian government, they had to make a critical policy change within days of leading up to the invasion. They had to change their policy around how they operated. As a result that government was able to build the Diia app that serves their citizens with more than 70 applications, tax registry, land registry, financial access, that app was incredibly important, is incredibly important, and will continue to be. But the government had to take a risk. They had to change something fundamentally critical in their policy to be able to do that, to serve their citizens and to serve their community. The impact that that has on that government and the society is massive because it's a trusting partnership, a trusting relationship, and they'll continue to iterate on that technology and that app for the future to come.

I think the really incredible thing, because it is when you think about it, during all of that conflict, the most incredible thing there was the speed at which they did that despite an invasion, despite the humanitarian crises that they were experiencing. They can only do that with incredible technology, with an open approach to embracing the technology, which may pose a risk, but when done and done properly with guardrails, with policies and everything else, better serves its society. I think for me, and listening to the panel and the conversation so far this morning, I guess the question I would ask everyone in the room is what risk would you be willing to take in order to build the trust with the citizens and the community that you serve? Because if you are not willing to take that risk and build that relationship, sadly, that trust will continue to erode. Technology is here, the innovation is happening whether we want to or not.

The reality of it is this is the world that we now live in. We take technology for granted. I'm a mother to a 15-year-old girl.

The world is scary because of technology. I don't need to teach my children how to safely cross a road. I have to teach them how to operate safely in the physical world, but also the virtual world.

They're two very different worlds, two very different sets of rules and safety mechanisms that they need to learn. All of that will continue to explode, continue to evolve at great pace. What risk would you be willing to take with whatever it is that you do to serve your customers, your citizens, your community, your people, in order to build that trust? [Donna Andrews] Thank you, Charlie. Let me take that thread of what you've started there about the risks and I guess the challenges that come.

I think in my introduction I mentioned things like data privacy, security, really the ethical use of technology as well. Maybe Carlos, I can go to you first. How is it that governments can start to balance those two things? And Charlie also talked about the element of trust within there as well. How is it that governments can balance those two things to really be able to make the most of it, but also to have those safety and the guardrails as well? [Carlos Centeno] Well, I'm not a government, but seeing and working with governments, I think when we are co-designing these technologies, they're trying to be intentional about the technology that they're building and who it's serving and what purpose it's serving and what the cost of the actual problem is, as opposed to running around with a solution, looking for a problem which is common. And by that, by understanding the values of the society they want to create and working with the people who are at the front lines, when we work with the Ministry of Health in Nigeria, with the health workers, I think they try to understand what it is they want to build first of all, and for whom and what those values are, to build that relationship and a relationship that's ethical so there's a technology that is ethical, that is transparent, that is accountable to those citizens. I think we can, in some instances, build a formula where if we want technology that responds to citizen needs, and it does so in an ethical way for example, we want to be thinking about how that technology serves in a moment of crisis like during the pandemic.

During the pandemic, we saw the cracks in the system in many places. That's because of the initial stage of the design stage, the moment when we were supposed to be intentional about what we were building, we didn't necessarily think about society as the user. Maybe we were thinking about efficiency or delivering a better service. There are components that are very important that we build into this, how the data is used, how the data is protected. We're going to be talking about, I think tomorrow, interpretability of data.

I think that's more than an opportunity, a challenge right now for a lot of governments. How do you make that work in a way that's ethical, that protects the data of citizens? It goes back to what Charlie was saying in a way that how much are you willing to risk of your own citizens to build the technology that your citizens need? I'll close with something I want to insist on is how do you build partnerships, the unorthodox partnerships that exist out there? I'm going to say academia, but there are others out there, civil society organizations, for example. But how do you build those partnerships so that you can de-risk that small trial, let's say, so that you can then take that to the population, avoiding the mistakes that you could have avoided if you were to test that? One example that I really loved of something that somebody who used to work in the Indian government told me in one of the webinars we hosted.

He said, yes, we would love to try small and then pilot and so on, but we basically have to be successful on the first try and deliver to a billion people. That's a tough order. In the private sector, you have almost a fund to experiment, fail, break past. I don't think governments can afford that politically and sometimes funding-wise.

So again, to de-risk that intentional design from the beginning, I think we need to look at unorthodox partners out there. [Donna Andrews] Mário, let me bring you on the conversation about this balance and the issue about risk, and yes, certainly Carlos, the issue around governments and the challenge with trying to start small, trying to fail, moving on to something else is not something that governments do very well, at least traditionally. But Mário, what are you seeing on these issues? [Mário Campolargo] Thank you. This is a very interesting discussion. Two examples have been given here by several of the speakers, COVID-19, and the war in Ukraine.

Let me pick up on the risk in those moments of disruption because we are almost forced, I mean, Ukraine with the fact that in most of our countries it raises a lot of thinking about can I use the publicly available cloud to gather all the information of the country? How does this actually put in question the independence of my own country? Although in one particular situation, that was the only way to make sure that that country not as a physical thing but as a virtual, digital thing, was preserved. In moments of disruption, we tend to take more risks and we need to take those things to become more organic and to be more intrinsic to the way we do. Let me take the other example, COVID-19. In Portugal, we have, for example, today an app for the National Health Service that is the most popular app.

Almost everybody virtually has it. You can fix your interview with your doctor, you can get your medical exams there. Maybe more important than this sign is that the medical exam results or the results of the exams are shared with the doctors in the hospitals in a structured way. But people can have the history of himself or herself, can ask about medicines that are regularly taken just clicking one button in the app.

Why? Because in COVID-19 there was an opening that the citizens opened naturally to that thing. If you would've dreamed about doing that without that unfortunate situation or those unfortunate situations, you'd get a lot of implication in terms of are we doing the right thing? Who can see this? Etc. Those moments of disruption have to be actually used. I hope that we take these examples to experiment. In some cases you can do experiments at small scale, I believe, Carlos.

For example, we are now experimenting with AI in one particular context. Portugal is, I would claim very advanced, for example, in having all the documents dematerialized, the driving license or anything related to your health or social service, but also your citizen card. You can use it completely dematerialized to authenticate yourself, to sign documents, etc. Now we have already, let's say one third to almost half of the population using the digital key, enabling the signature, whatever.

But we are using AI to help people navigate in the process of getting the facial recognition, to make sure that they adhere to those innovations. It's like using technology to support the adoption of technology. That can be done in small scale, but I agree with you in some cases our obligation to provide the same service to everybody forces us to go the long way. But I want to make a final comment, and I think that this is important.

Some of the digitalization of the public government operates naturally in the silos that history has preserved for us and the financial or the social security or the health are improving enormously, I suppose in all countries. The trick and the most important one where the data is particularly relevant and the interoperability, Carlos, that you mentioned is particularly important, is when you start crossing those silos. When you want to know that that lady that is pregnant and due to her economic situation, she has the right to an entitlement, that's that moment that the public administration has to anticipate and automatize the provision of this. I think it was very important the examples of Argentina also because all of those little things have to have a kind of nexus. The nexus is, like you said, the intentionality. We don't do apps for apps, we don't do a technology for technology.

We design what we want out of our country, out of our societies, and that's in this vein that we should develop. The risk that we have to incur are superseded by the focal point where we want to be. [Donna Andrews] Thank you, Mário. Now just before we go to some audience questions, Micaela, I wanted to bring you in on this as well and talk a little bit from the Argentinian context about this balance and issues about risk and about experimentation. [Micaela Sánchez Malcolm] I will not take a lot of time because we don't have too much time. I think according to Charlie said before, we need to take more risk for being more trustable.

I think you cannot trust and you cannot live with whatever you don't know. That brings me back to the access gap. I think that's the clue, we need to keep working all across the country and all across the region.

I think that's the big challenge for us. I was thinking about some tools and some politics and some solutions, based of course on the pandemic issues and challenges. We did it really fast like every country in the world. We also can start working in a different way with the whole population and I think that's a really good opening to get them. I think we need to keep working not only in awareness campaigns, for example, about cybersecurity or digitalization for everyone, the workers, the publications, the industry, but also the common people who don’t know about the risk that they're taking on internet, for example, or using platforms or getting into digital systems.

I need to start thinking about that. We need to keep thinking about that. That's a part, but we also can and need to keep working on digital access, finance inclusion, digital inclusion, courses and get people closer to technology. Not only digital platform, but also computers and equipment.

We have several gaps according to that kind of access, and I think that's important too. On the other hand, I think that the clue is keep working together not only public sector, but also the private sector. The civil society, I think it's the base to build better options and faster. [Donna Andrews] Great. Charlie, let me give you the final word before we go to some audience questions.

[Charlie Anderson] I just want to go back to the start small and go back to my bac

2023-05-06 21:59

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