Digital Transformation for 21st Century Government
Digital transformation requires profound social and institutional change and typically encounters powerful resistance from established institutions, vested interests, and dominant incumbents. The recalibration of the social and institutional environment to take advantage of digital transformation and its associated techno-economic paradigm was accelerated by the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic and the attendant economic contagion. There is now an accelerated drive for Caribbean Governments to move with haste to adopt 21st century government principles in order to digitally transform.
The benefits of investing in digital transformation are not automatic but require commensurate reengineering of processes as well as appropriate policy, legislation and regulatory reform. These must be driven by a champion and leadership at the highest level of government, with the political will to change existing mind-sets, inspire citizens and to coordinate ministers and the activities of their ministries. There must be a focus on a citizen-centric, “whole of government” approach to interacting with various constituents, which include citizens and business. All of these must be implemented by people who are knowledgeable, trained and prepared with the skills to maximise the use of technology in innovative ways.
The designated agency responsible for digital transformation must be able to articulate the challenges; define the objectives; design and plan appropriate programmes that would enable the objectives to be met; implement the programmes as well as monitor and measure the progress and impact. These processes will involve consultations with diverse stakeholders and must be supported by a comprehensive communication strategy that details the type and level of engagement of users, clients and beneficiaries. Periodic revisiting and appropriate adjustment of the processes will ensure the achievement of these objectives. It is also recommended that this agency reports to the Prime Minister or highest level of authority in the country so that the digital transformation initiative maintains a high priority on the national agenda.
Finally, and very importantly, appropriate systems must be implemented to mitigate the potential negative societal impacts. Provisions must be made to value and protect citizens, their personal and professional endeavours, their intellectual, digital and physical possessions and their privacy. In this regard, data protection and privacy legislation are a critical enabling component of this ecosystem.