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6 Reasons Why eGovernment Succeeded in Colombia, Uruguay, and Panama

By Guest Writer on May 31, 2013

According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Information Technology Report 2013, the recent experiences of Colombia, Uruguay, and Panama confirm the theories of those who research e-government and the suspicions of those who work every day in this field. Although there is no magic formula for success in advancing ICTs in public administration, those who do succeed share some common ingredients.

wef-reportPolitical Support

The first of these common ingredients is the political support of the highest authority in the country. In all three cases analyzed, the support of the president has been instrumental in mobilizing other critical elements, such as legislative changes, institutional strategy, and budgetary allocation.

2. Human Resources

Another common ingredient in these e-government success stories is the attention paid to the qualification of human resources. This component has two equally relevant sides: the leader and the team.

Although they have not done it alone, Jose Clastornik (Uruguay), Eduardo Jaén (Panama), and Diego Molano Vega (Colombia) share a common characteristic that became crucial for the advancement of e-government in their respective countries. All three, for different reasons, are able to communicate directly with the highest authority in the government and know how to interact in their country’s political sphere. At the same time, they are each very knowledgeable about ICTs, after having had successful careers in the private sector.

3. Financial Resources

A third factor—usually a consequence of the previous two—is the availability of financial resources. In recent years, Latin America has seen too frequently how sound political speeches on the subject of ICTs failed to change the life of any citizen and never moved beyond a nice planning document adorning the bookshelf of some ministerial office or multilateral organization. On many occasions, this is because of one fundamental reason: they did not “put their money where their mouth is,” as the famous saying goes.

In those countries where ICTs do not have their own line in the national budget, years will continue to go by without solid ground being established for future socioeconomic progress. The budgets of other countries, such as Uruguay, ensure that ICTs have sufficient financial resources by allocating specific amounts to e-government in their budgets.

Although slightly less relevant and less evident than the three elements discussed above, some other aspects that have accelerated the progress of e-government in the countries studied are worth mentioning.

4. Learn from Peers

One such element is the search for international points of reference. As pointed out earlier, the organized effort to study, understand, and learn from what others have done, along with the initiative needed to visit countries that are more advanced and invite them to help, have been part of the corporate and political culture of the three countries studied. Colombia, Uruguay, and Panama have made this idea a dogma. They have participated in numerous instances of international relations and cooperation and have taken full advantage of the experience of others.

5. Business Capacity

Another important aspect that should be considered is concerned with the ICT-related business capacity installed in the country. Colombia very cleverly used its Vive Digital push to generate an emerging entrepreneurial sector in the field of ICTs. These entrepreneurs were able to grow because of the investment efforts of the government; this, in turn, ensures that Colombia has the local knowledge needed to progress Uruguay has enjoyed a thriving and exporting technology sector for the past 15 years. And Panama, with its enviable geographical location, also has a large number of ICT multinationals operating within its borders.

6. Continuity

Finally, in all three countries a certain element of continuity has been maintained in both their plans and their working teams. In some cases, the ruling party itself changed; in other cases, the ruling party remained in power. But in all three countries, a change of party or president did not mean a radical break in approach or policy. In all three, many members of the team remained in place and the majority of initiatives were continued, and the changes provided an opportunity to review the strategic approach, introduce new projects, and adapt the priority areas to ever-changing citizens’ needs and technology opportunities.

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