The road to digital government in Brazil
Building platforms to deliver services worth (re)using
Brazil is facing challenging times. Fiscal constraints are just part of a major set of issues, including the most pressing one: citizens have a hard time trusting the government (both at the federal and local level). To state that clearly, only 7% of Brazilians trust government, according to the Latinobárometro report 2018. At the same time, better public services are at the center of our strategy to regain confidence in government.
The Brazilian government developed a broad digital transformation strategy a few years ago and some important steps have already been taken. To start off, an initial question had to be answered: what are the services we deliver and how exactly are they delivered to citizens? It is a little bit hard to imagine, but up until December 2017, we could not answer these questions. That’s why we did a national audit of government services in 2017 so we could finally understand our numbers and scale. The federal government has around 3,000 services across about 200 public entities. We found that: we take approximately 45 days, on average, to deliver a service; only a quarter of our services do satisfaction surveys; and in the worst-case scenario, it may take more than 10 years for you to get an answer from the government. On the other hand, we also know that after we launched 400 new digital services in the first three quarters of 2019, 51% of our services are now digital. The impact of digital transformation up until this point is about to reach $1 billion Brazilian reais in annual savings for both service users and government.
These numbers show that, although we still have plenty of work to do, there is some real progress going on in Brazil. But more than numbers — and more than doing digital, we are talking about service as value delivery. We do not want the government to only operate digital services. We need services to add value to citizens. By the way, this is the whole idea behind ‘serving’.
To ‘serve better’, we believe we need to go beyond the idea of digital as online touchpoints or IT infrastructure. We’re looking at the humans behind the technology, whether it’s the civil servants who manage and provide the services, or the citizens and entrepreneurs who wish to fulfil a duty or exercise a right.
Since January 2019, our strategy was strengthened in an unprecedented way, earning a special position in the political agenda. In this new scenario, we set three main goals for the next couple of years:
1. Cost reduction (or lowering bureaucratic burdens) for citizens and entrepreneurs;
2. Greater accessibility and ease of use of public services; and
3. Increased confidence in the state.
No doubt we have some ambitious goals. And, at the Department of User Experience in Public Services we are very committed to all of them.
But to move forward, we strongly believe in what Steve Blank has evangelized over the years as ‘Goob!’ — or Get Out of the Building! That is why we are leaving our offices to ask questions, do user research, talk to managers, map user journeys, test prototypes and so on. Our team is developing models and tools to better understand our users, as well as influencing the way we approach our technology strategy and development.
Gov.br, which was launched on 31 July 2019, is a good example of how the user perspective has shaped the way we prioritize our initiatives to meet user needs. Gov.br is our flagship project to promote service uptake through user-centred service delivery. It showcases the digital transformation platform we are opening up for public agencies to use and share across different state-levels and services. Gov.br is unifying 1,500+ URLs and 100+ apps under the same umbrella for users to feel comfortable and safe searching for and using our digital channels. As you get familiar with what is happening in Brazil, you will notice that we have learned a lot from the Government Digital Service (GDS) experience with gov.uk and service components like Verify. Through Gov.br, in almost the same way gov.uk has done, we are building technology and services that help citizens achieve their goals through a centralized service portal, a single sign-on platform, a standardized satisfaction survey and a dashboard with notifications and activity history. For government entities, we are offering a brand-new Design System, an interoperability platform and a business process automation system that reduces the digitization processes that used to take years (or more) to happen down to months.
Gov.br aligns federal and state levels to cooperate and support each other’s digital transformation projects. We want everyone to be on board and build on the same platforms for a 21st-century government that all citizens trust and all public sector organisations want to (re)use.
@JoelsonVellozo is Director of User Experience at the Secretary of Digital Government in Brazil.