Digital government in Chile: Towards People-Driven Approaches
Published on November 25, 2021
E-government has massively advanced in Chile in recent years. Chile is not a leader in the region; however, it is in the top three countries in South America, behind Uruguay and Argentina, according to the EDGI Index 2020. Its achievements in digital government have helped the country better manage and maintain its bureaucracy and administrative procedures while expanding access to information and contributing to governmental transparency and accountability. The country has invested in digital infrastructure and ramping up government-related online services to make them more convenient, transparent, accessible, and accountable.
In today’s fast-paced world, digital technologies constantly evolve to meet people’s growing expectations for convenience and accessibility. In fact, e-government is emerging as a key tool for empowering citizens and communities while facilitating increased efficiency and transparency in governmental operations. As more and more countries continue developing their own online platforms, we want to take a closer look at some of these efforts — particularly those outside of Europe or North America.
Today we’ll examine Chile’s approach to digital government, including its working with its people, industries, and businesses to move toward greater interconnectivity on an international scale.
Chile’s e-government landscape
Regarding ICT development strategies, Chile has always had a proactive attitude. The government decided to deregulate the telecom industry in the early 1990s to foster development. In 2010, a Digital Agenda was introduced, including 34 initiatives divided into six action areas: access, e-government, education and training, ICT industries, businesses, and legal and regulatory framework.
When Piñera took office in 2010, he focused on improving services and their delivery for the Chilean people. For this reason, the President created a Committee led by the former MDGU (now the Digital Government Division) tasked with improving access to public services.
In January 2012, President Sebastián Piñera signed a new decree that reorganized and expanded services through e-government. Three factors led to this change. First, e-government had become an essential part of ongoing structural reforms that began under former President Ricardo Lagos (2000–2006). Second, Chile has made great strides in digital literacy. And third, it became clear to policymakers that current e-government structures could not efficiently serve citizens or deliver on policy objectives due to limited budgets and technological capacity.
Achievements of e-government in Chile
In the 2020 UN E-Government Survey, Chile (along with some other countries as well) was applauded for significantly improving its EGDI values between 2018 (ranking 42nd) and 2020 (ranking 34th). The progress made reflects sustained efforts to create and implement comprehensive national e-government strategies, the evolution of supportive legal frameworks, and high levels of cooperation with regional and international actors in relevant digital fields.
The Chilean government has been making continuous progress in its efforts to design and implement comprehensive national e-government strategies. This is evident from the evolution of supportive legal frameworks, as well as from high levels of cooperation with regional and international actors in relevant digital fields.
Like many countries, Chile has consolidated its services into one integrated service system – ChileAtiende. Improved access to all public offices is possible thanks to the development of this integrated system for accessing public services. The platform puts its users in touch with the local offices to attend face-to-face appointments or ask for documents to be delivered by mail or email. It provides services for 25 government institutions and reached a 57% net user satisfaction rate in the standardised measurement in 2020.
However, the country’s achievements have not gone unnoticed despite some hiccups along the way. Among the factors driving e-government development in Chile are improved telecommunications infrastructure and high penetration of mobile devices and the Internet. Chile is also fully committed to supporting international and regional cooperation in digital government development. For instance, in 2019, Chile participated in the OECD E-Leaders Network and contributed to the Digital Agenda for Latin America and the Caribbean (eLAC).
Finding a balance between efficiency and citizen participation is not easy. But it’s important to try. Governments across Latin America and beyond can learn from Chile to better understand how they can take steps toward digital transformation while promoting transparency and accountability at every level of governance.
However, there are still some obstacles to overcome. For instance, lack of promotion and awareness of online services is a key barrier to adopting digital services. This also reflects the need for a dedicated strategy for digital services rationalisation, which oversees the national services offered and which specific mechanisms are needed to expand their coverage and use. Moreover, concepts such as” digital by design”, “Government as a Platform”, and a “data-driven public sector” need to be embedded for achieving internal efficiencies, delivering better value to all citizens, and avoiding discrimination.
About the Author
Mohammad J Sear is focused on bringing purpose to digital in government.
He has obtained his leadership training from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, USA and holds an MBA from the University of Leicester, UK.
After a successful 12+ years career in the UK government during the premiership of three Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher, John Major and Tony Blair, Mohammad moved to the private sector and has now for 20+ years been advising government organizations in the UK, Middle East, Australasia and South Asia on strategic challenges and digital transformation.
He is currently working for Ernst & Young (EY) and leading the Digital Government practice efforts across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), and is also a Digital Government and Innovation lecturer at the Paris School of International Affairs, Sciences Po, France.
As a thought-leader some of the articles he has authored include: “Digital is great but exclusion isn’t – make data work for driving better digital inclusion” published in Harvard Business Review, “Holistic Digital Government” published in the MIT Technology Review, “Want To Make Citizens Happy – Put Experience First” published in Forbes Middle East.
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