"Putting People First" is a guiding principle of the World Bank's GovTech program. It clarifies that technology will not be used as an end but to serve people and improve their lives. However, the requirements are complex and high. Public governance has a fundamental role in the change underway. The digital demands on governments are increasing. GovTech supports the digital government measures foreseeing a new approach to public sector modernization.
The World Bank's GovTech program was launched in 2018. GovTech stands for digital government technology and refers to information technology (IT) and various digital technologies.
Since then, the program has continued to evolve and expand, supporting governments worldwide to reap the benefits of digitalization and develop and improve their services to citizens. GovTech helps governments analyze and visualize data to make decisions based on facts and evidence. This enhances the quality of decisions and increases the effectiveness of government action. The objective is to improve public administration's efficiency, transparency, and responsiveness, thereby improving citizens' services and promoting economic development. Due to its structure and mandate, the World Bank focuses on helping countries develop their economies and infrastructure and strengthen their institutions. Therefore, it is advantageous that the World Bank also has a strong presence in many developing countries and can work closely with governments to address specific challenges.
GovTech has many valuable concepts and tools. However, it should be expanded to include a unified enterprise architecture approach that ensures the Government's digital objectives are implemented. An Enterprise Architecture (EA) strategy design is the link to implementing the overall government digital strategy. The EA strategy aligns the Government's IT architecture with business goals and requirements. A well-designed EA strategy defines the objectives and approaches for planning, designing, implementing, and maintaining the Government's IT architecture. The EA strategy structures and connects IT components (such as applications, data, technologies, and infrastructure) and defines their relationships. It must consider the business objectives and requirements and ensure that the government IT systems and services contribute to achieving these objectives. An EA strategy is also an incubator for synergies between the organization's different departments and business units, which must be identified and shaped. This generates the targeted efficiency and effectiveness of the Government Organizations as a whole.
That GovTech touches on the topic of EA, in general, is the GovTech concept of "Government as a Platform". This is a strategy where Government uses digital platforms and tools as a basis for service delivery that can be used by different public agencies. While adopting “Government as a Platform” requires an EA strategy to ensure that the various platforms and tools are compatible and interoperable, it falls far short of a comprehensive EA strategy.
However, the need and vital importance of a comprehensive EA strategy are not new. For example, the US federal government has an EA strategy called Federal Enterprise Architecture (FEA). FEA is a framework for developing, operating, and modernizing IT systems and infrastructures in the US federal government. It defines EA components, including business architecture, data exchange architecture, application architecture, and infrastructure architecture. In addition, the FEA supports collaboration between different US federal agencies and promotes interoperability and integration of IT systems to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of government services.
Europe is also working on standardized EA strategies. No wonder, as the EU digital cooperation needs to be continuously improved. The "EU Reference Architecture" is a general framework for developing IT systems and services throughout the European Union. The objective is to make IT systems and services interoperable and efficient across the EU.
Unfortunately, no specific EA strategy developed exclusively for GovTech focuses on implementation in target countries, for example, in Africa.
Although the "EU Reference Architecture" was not explicitly developed in the context of GovTech, it is still relevant as it can be used in developing IT systems and services in public administration to ensure that they are interoperable and efficient. The "EU reference architecture" could thus serve as a blueprint, or starting point, for a GovTech standardized EA strategy.
Enterprise Architecture (EA) is an important part of the concept of GovTech, although not as a stand-alone discipline in digital transformation. Thus, within the framework of GovTech, there are a growing number of guides and frameworks to help in the development and implementation of customized GovTech solutions. One example is the GovTech Reference Model developed by the UK government. The GovTech Reference Model is a framework designed specifically for the public sector that provides a common language and methodology for developing GovTech solutions. The model defines the different layers of the GovTech architecture and the associated processes and technologies and provides guidelines for implementing GovTech solutions. The Singapore government has developed something similar.
Now, the GovTech EA requirement is different in most countries. Nevertheless, the question arises as to what extent a standardized GovTech EA strategy would better support African countries.
A standardized GovTech EA strategy supports the development of GovTech solutions in African countries by creating a common "language", a shared vision, and standards for IT development and integration. This allows projects to be implemented faster and more effectively as they have precise EA specifications for the architecture, data models, and IT systems.
A standardized EA strategy helps to improve the interoperability and integration of systems at the national level, which is particularly beneficial in countries with limited resources and fragmentation of IT systems. This is true in Africa, where new economic alliances are emerging within African nations. When governments adopt a common EA strategy, they can also better coordinate IT systems and exploit synergies to achieve cost savings and efficiency gains.
A standardized EA strategy based on experience can help African countries address challenges related to IT and digitalization by providing guidance and a common framework. Africa's countries face similar challenges in IT and digitalization, such as a lack of skilled labor, infrastructure, and budgets. It will also help improve collaboration and interoperability between government agencies and other organizations to achieve shared objectives.
In addition, a GovTech strategy needs a variable component. It should be tailored to each African country's specific needs and requirements. For example, political and cultural conditions vary significantly from country to country and must be tailored to the country's and its citizens' needs. The technological environment is only one example. Some countries, like Uganda, are working hard on their advanced technology it-infrastructure, while others are still building it. An EA strategy must therefore be realistic and achievable. This also applies to the regulatory framework, which must align with the country's requirements and pace.
An individual GovTech EA strategy does not necessarily mean that each Government has to create its concept from scratch. However, in the context of GovTech, it makes sense for governments to adopt a standardized GovTech EA strategy to consider their country's specific needs and requirements. A modular GovTech EA strategy that addresses the specificities and needs of African nations will immediately increase the speed of implementation in the countries, which the population will undoubtedly welcome.
By Georg Bernhoeft, EA Principals Senior Consultant
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