Latin America’s opportunity to embrace digital transformation


The world today seems like something from a bleak movie script: a virus, millions of sick, thousands dead, countries with their borders closed. We’re faced with few functioning schools, rolling lockdowns, and upside-down social lives. We’re being forced to change our routines, as traditional organisations have had to transform their offices overnight so teams can work remotely. Then there’s the risk to the world economy.

We’ve all had to adapt.

Digital transformation: it’s obvious where it’s been prioritised

When all this is over (or at least we enter into a ‘new normal’), the digital transformation of governments and organisations will be one of the top priorities for leaders.

We’ve spoken a lot about the incredible international government teams who have been quickly delivering and iterating digital services that meet user needs during the pandemic. What we haven’t talked about are the organisations where there are apparent deficiencies, and a lack of investment to provide quality digital services. Sadly, their responses to the crisis have exposed them.

The gap in Latin America and the Caribbean

We still have a long way to go in Latin America and the Caribbean. Executive and judicial powers in many countries are being held back because they are 100% paper-dependent. Getting access to services means citizens or users have to visit a physical office. Public health systems have little reliable data to work with. And governments still struggle with the delivery of basic digital services to citizens.

Post crisis: a time for transformation

Digital government teams desperately need the trust and support from those leaders who are running the countries so they can go build the infrastructure to digitise services – it’s essential for developing regions where a high number of vulnerable citizens live. It can’t wait any longer. The demand created by the crisis, only increases the expectation about services and raises the awareness of privacy and data management by public organisations.

Strategy and approach

At Public Digital we believe that digital teams in organisations across Latin America and the Caribbean should, once the pandemic is under greater control, focus their efforts on the next months to help the reboot of the society and the economy.

The strategy? Prioritise work on digital services that have a direct impact on people’s social (Health and Social aid) as well as economic development. And of course, put users’ authentic needs first, not government needs, and not needs that government *believes* to be citizens’ needs.

How to do it? Times like these require teams that can work agile and fast. These principles for digital teams in the region have the objective to help them get their priorities in order:

  1. Build a team. As diverse, skilled, empathic and lean as possible.
  2. Fix your website. Stop losing time.
  3. Create a data strategy. One that you can really implement.
  4. Create a roadmap full of small steps. Those steps are fuel to your engine of change.
  5. Measure things. Adjust and measure again.
  6. It’s not about your ideas, it’s what people need. Design that way.
  7. Be empathic when you design services. You could be the one to need them.
  8. The goal is “users using your services”, not the technology behind.
  9. Stop waiting for the right moment. Do stuff now.
  10. Work in the open. Show how you do things, your success and also your mistakes.

They may look familiar – they are based on my experience working at the public sector in Argentina and inspired by Tom’s “Internet-era ways of working” which some organisations have been following for years now. We’ve seen examples of this in the digital initiatives led by the teams from Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil, Perú, Mexico, Chile and Colombia, showing that the path to the digital transformation of organisations is built with teams and political decision.

We expect more examples to rise in the next few months. Onwards!

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