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Introducing the USAID Digital Government Model

By Guest Writer on July 13, 2022

digital government

The role of digital technology across sectors has become undeniable in recent years and it has transformed most aspects of public and private life, including government. Technology has transformed the world’s governments in three overarching ways:

  • Management of daily operations
  • Delivery of services
  • Engagement with stakeholders including individuals, businesses, and civil society.

USAID and development partners are increasingly looking to support countries in the process of adopting technologies to create public value — broadly referred to as digital government — while mitigating and avoiding significant risks. These opportunities and challenges became even more stark in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, which demonstrated the importance of digital government processes and tools.

Digital Government Benefits

Investments in digital government have the potential to help government become more:

  • Coordinated, by providing the systems and tools necessary for government bodies to work together across ministries and levels (e.g., national, provincial, municipal);
  • Efficient, by achieving fiscal savings and allowing for innovation by decreasing the time spent on administration;
  • Resilient, by supporting response to and recovery from natural disasters or other sudden social and economic changes;
  • Responsive, by increasing the ability to anticipate and respond to a range of stakeholder needs, including from individuals, the private sector, and civil society actors;
  • Accountable, by reducing opportunities for corruption and providing tools for collaborative, inclusive, accessible, and transparent policy design and service delivery; and
  • Participatory, by creating systems and tools that enable citizens and civil society to engage with governments.

The extent to which these outcomes are possible depend largely on the enabling environment, which includes democratic norms and institutional capacity, among other factors. Above all, digital initiatives undertaken by a government are part of the broader political, economic, and social context.

The same digital investments that can support democratic institutions, rights-respecting government bodies, and open societies in one context can be used to suppress political dissent, quash individual freedoms and rights, and limit competition in the marketplace. When digital government investments are undertaken by authoritarian governments, in countries affected by democratic backsliding,8 or by malign actors, those investments can serve as agents of repression and restriction.

Governments with digital systems, processes, and infrastructure in place were able to quickly scale emergency response assistance, communications, and payments. At the same time, the pandemic has accelerated many risks associated with digital tools, as state and non-state actors are spreading mis- and disinformation, exploiting personal data, and using new technology to increase surveillance and social control.

Digital Government Model

The USAID Digital Government Model provides a descriptive model as the basis for a shared understanding and vocabulary of the key components of digital government. It builds on, and is informed by, existing frameworks for digital or e-government.

This model is not intended to be prescriptive, nor is it intended to replace existing reference frameworks and documents already in use by partners. The model is a living document intended to evolve over time and complements the strong base of existing work on digital development and governance (refer to the complementary resources box).

There is no common definition in the development community of digital government, sometimes referred to as e-government, nor is there agreement on its principal components. This model describes what governments are currently investing in but does not describe what they should invest in. By suggesting a common vocabulary, this document sets the stage for future research and technical assistance across USAID on digital government under the Digital Strategy.

A lightly edited introduction from the USAID Digital Government Model 

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