Digitisation of transactional public services reduces cost, corruption — study

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

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WASHINGTON, United States (CMC) — The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) says digitisation of transaction public services could reduce red tape and corruption, and save money in Latin America and the Caribbean.

In a new report released here, the IDB said digital transactional public services take 74 per cent less time than face-to-face transactions, cost much less and reduce corruption.

“Nevertheless, in Latin America and the Caribbean, there is still little investment to offer transactions online. The result, citizens, firms and public institutions lose time, money and productivity,” the IDB noted.

The report titled “Wait No More: Red Tape and Digital Government in Latin America and the Caribbean”, notes that completing a government transaction in the region takes an average of 5.4 hours, and up to 11 hours in some countries.

It said delivering in-person transactions costs up to 40 times more than what delivering the same transaction online would cost.

But the report states only in three countries in the region – Brazil, Mexico, and Uruguay – are more than half of government transactions available online.

In the European Union, the report states 81 per cent of transactions are available to start online while in the region “the drastically reduced availability contributes to the fact that only seven per cent of people reported having done their last transaction online”.

Manager of the IDB's Institutions for Development Department, Ana María Rodríguez-Ortiz, said “this report outlines a path for reforms to simplify and digitise government transactions, focusing on the citizen experience and making strategic use of digital tools.

“These reforms promote competitiveness, trust in government and social inclusion through agile citizen-state interaction,” she added.

The report notes that only half of all transactions are completed in one interaction with the corresponding public institution, and 25 per cent require three interactions or more, “which generates a high cost when attempting to access basic services such as education, health, paying taxes or obtaining a birth certificate”.

The study finds that the cost of transactions is relatively higher for low-income people, “given that they generally have less flexibility at work and thus lose precious income when they have to spend time in line to conduct a transaction”.

It found that 30 per cent of low-income people reported having paid a bribe to conduct a transaction, compared with 25 per cent of higher-income people.

Low-income people also conduct government transactions at a lower rate than higher-income people, leading to less access to government programs and benefits.

The report states there are many obstacles to digital government transactions, “such as the fact that only 66 per cent of people in the region have a subscription to mobile broadband, and 11 per cent to fixed connection broadband”.

Only 40 per cent have a debit card, necessary for making payments online.

The report notes that few transactions that are available online can be difficult to do, even for people with high levels of education.

Forty per cent of survey respondents reported that they failed in their last attempt to conduct a government transaction online, according to the report.

Additionally, it states governments seem to make little effort to understand to the citizen experience: only six per cent of countries in the region systematically analyse the unsuccessful experiences with online transactions.

The report, therefore, recommends understanding “the true citizen experience with government transactions through surveys, direct observation or administrative data and use this information to redesign the transactions with the citizen experience in mind”.

It also urges elimination of unnecessary, redundant or obsolete transactions; and invest in broadening access to online transactions, and building digital government with tools such as interoperability platforms, digital identity and digital signature, among others.

In addition, the report recommends improvement in the quality of in-person provision of transactions through investment in qualified personnel and one-stop shops.

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