The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged the majority of countries around the world. While some of the solutions proposed by governments have varied, when it comes to providing social, economic, and medical assistance, those with developed GovTech — a whole-of-government approach to public sector digitization — have generally been more efficient.
The pandemic has highlighted the importance of such systems, but, as with any crisis, it has also left many pondering: how will GovTech evolve in the future?
Experts at NRD Cos., a global IT and consulting group of companies specializing in governance and economic digital infrastructure, have elaborated on how the landscape of GovTech might look like going forward.
The importance of developing e-government systems has not been overshadowed by the pandemic. In fact, the adverse conditions have only reinforced the need for GovTech solutions, as countries seek to deliver their citizens an efficient way of accessing public services. With a deadly virus raging and travel restrictions in place, the crisis has opened up new opportunities for remote collaboration, which is no longer seen as an option, but rather as a necessary component for successful GovTech project implementation.
“As tools, processes, and software constantly improve, it has become possible to implement large-scale GovTech projects entirely remotely, regardless of location and time zones,” said Mindaugas Glodas, CEO at NRD Cos. “Of course, consulting and implementing projects remotely is significantly more complex than doing it the usual way, thus when choosing partners, countries should consider their experience in working with such projects. In any case, moving forward, remote work will stay with us even after the pandemic, as countries are becoming more aware of the benefits such methodology brings to the table.”
One such project involves Barbados, an island country in the Caribbean, which has recently agreed, even amidst the pandemic, to take the first step toward digitizing the public sector. Working together with NRD, the nation will implement a progressive e-services delivery platform entirely remotely, encouraging cooperation and data exchange between the public sector and the government by providing a directory of services and designated online spaces for citizens, businesses, and the government.
Shift to Cloud
Multiple governments around the world still rely on physical, premises-based data centers. Such centers require careful management and are vulnerable to fire, smoke, moisture, flood, pollution, and data leakages. As governments receive more and more sensitive data, storing it in bare metal servers is becoming too risky to continue.
“The limitations of legacy systems are going to encourage a shift to cloud,” said Glodas. “It is no longer safe and practical to store data on physical servers, especially when an increasing number of governments are choosing the digitization path. Going cloud is the next logical step as it provides more resilience, saves money, and stimulates innovation. This has been happening for quite some time in the private sector, but the transition in the public sector is only accelerating.”
In particular, private clouds are now on the rise. In 2018, a study predicted that governments will shift to private cloud at twice the rate of public cloud through 2021. Since then, the German federal government, the French Ministry of the Interior, and a few Swedish government agencies, among others, have transitioned to private cloud to ensure control and security.
Other countries choose similar cloud solutions. Partnering with NRD, Anguilla, a British overseas territory in the Caribbean, will have its electronic system for the commercial registry implemented on a hybrid cloud — a combination of on-premises infrastructure and private and public clouds — to ensure availability in a cost-effective way.
The private sector is crucial in the country’s fight against poverty through investment and job creation. Where an effective private sector is lacking, business registration reform has been shown to be one of the essential first steps toward improving the business environment and fostering private sector growth. The easier, faster, and cheaper the business registration process becomes, the higher number of businesses are in an economy.
“When local businesses flourish, they create jobs and generate income that can be spent and invested domestically,” said Ieva Tarailienė, head of registry practice at NRD. “And for the businesses to flourish, favorable conditions must be ensured by the government. This is where digitization can help tremendously — online business registries streamline the whole process of formally registering one's business and, at the same, time level the playing ground. As long as governments continue developing online business registration registries, it is a no-brainer that their economic segments will only improve.”
The benefits of electronic business registries are reflected in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business ranking, which often acts as a guiding light for foreign investors.