BY 2030 or ten years from now, each country will have to reckon how they have supported the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2030, which was universally set and designed as a "blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all by 2030."
These next 10 years or the current decade has been tagged as a Decade of Action remaining to achieve the SDGs – the shared vision of all countries to end poverty and build a peaceful, sustainable world for all people, an ambitious decade aimed at mobilizing governments, civil society, and businesses, and citizens to take action and drive the goals to reality. A key ingredient considered is ensuring that governments around the world transform digitally and digital government transformation has a crucial role in delivering sustainable, inclusive and equitable services to everyone everywhere – leaving no one behind.
The United Nations along with innovators sees digital transformation as not just about technologies. It is, above all, about governance transformation and innovation as part of a country's overall national development vision and strategy. Developing capacities for digital government transformation is essential. This requires a holistic approach that is value-driven and institutionalized across all levels of government and society. It entails fundamental changes in the mindsets of public servants and in the way public institutions collaborate.
When is digital transformation as a nation achieved based on global standards? There are nine pillars based on the United Nations eGovernment Survey 2020. Under the first pillar which is vision, leadership, and mindset, the most important requirement is transformational leadership to drive digital government at all levels. This requires a top to bottom leadership that fully supports digital transformation in all levels of government. Digital strategy is embedded or aligned with national development strategy. Teams are aligned around data and have forward-looking, pro-active-anticipatory, innovative, digital and adaptive mindsets.
To move our country from stage one -- which is online presence, to transactional digital presence, eventually to being inter-connected and finally to fully reach digital transformation is going to be long and difficult.
In the UN eGovernment 2020 Survey, findings were considered encouraging, since it showed a significant rise in digital services in countries. One important factor is eParticipation. Of 190 countries, the Philippines ranked 57th overall. This shows that citizens are eager, free and inclined to participate in public discussions.
The survey showed that e-participation and data-centric approaches have been enhanced by countries at various levels, and the focus on building digital capacities has increased. Yet, the UN believes the progress is confronted with existing and new challenges and risks, such as cybersecurity and data privacy. Some issues also urgently need attention in several developing countries such as the lack of digital infrastructures, sustainable e-government platforms and limited resources for implementing digital government policies. While e-government has reached sophistication in leading countries, the UN cites that transforming to digital remains relatively new on national agendas of some countries.
But the heroes of 500 years ago, who continuously fought for us to have an independent nation did not live to see the day of our independence - but they fought notwithstanding. I encourage those who are fighting today for innovation, adaptability, creativity, systems thinking, harnessing technology to secure transparency and accountability, better digital literacy and use of digital strategies to improve levels of education, and health services, tools to ensure climate sustainability and promote e-participation for effective citizens engagement, promote peace and empower vulnerable sectors - please do not lose hope. We may not see the fruits of our labor today - but still let us continue to fight for an inclusive, economically developed nation of the future.
The Philippine government and every major city in this country are advised to create digital government roadmaps supported by a long-term vision, national leadership and requisite capacities. The UN calls all nations to stand the test of time and in mitigating crises, especially in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.
2020 became a year of disruption but it was also very significant for global benchmarking of e-government, as governments clearly now realize the importance and relevance of digital government. The UN Economic and Social Affairs strongly believes that digital transformation is now a critical part of the national sustainable development of many countries.