Chances are you have not heard of The Digital Nations, an international forum of leading digital governments established in 2014 with the purpose to “harness the potential global power of digital technology and help one another to become even better digital governments”. If you have not come across this group, you may be surprised to know they are already impacting governments’ digital services strategies around the world.

They all just signed off on the 2021 Digital Nations Charter. If all goes well, this collaborative approach and partnering on digital topics like open-source, inclusion, skills and training, and sustainability to name a few will make a big difference in citizens’ lives globally.

Who’s included and what they are focused on

The organization has just wrapped up its 8th Ministerial Summit in the U.K. hosting members from Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Israel, Mexico, New Zealand, Portugal, Republic of Korea, United Kingdom, and Uruguay. This year’s topics focused on borderless challenges that seem to span our world including the lingering pandemic, socioeconomic inequality, and the continual highly publicized issues around climate change.

The Digital Nations’ primary mandate is collaboration, supporting each other to empower citizens to interact with their governments locally through sustainable digital transformation. Together, they landed on the priority of breaking down barriers between government and citizens, separated into three innovation pillars: Sustainable Innovation, Inclusive Innovation, and Values-Driven Innovation.

Closing the digital divide

As we have noted previously, the digital divide is a challenge faced around the world in almost every country. There is a significant gap between people who have and do not have access to the internet and technology tools (e.g. mobile devices or computers) required to access critical information and government services available online.

The Digital Nations have clearly acknowledged this responsibility, but what are they prepared to do about it? The encouraging news is that they have created four thematic groups that focus on new technology and challenges in digital government transformation and planning. Additionally, and most importantly, encouraging take-aways within digital transformation by government are in motion to create public value that is transparent to citizens and critics.

Reducing governments environmental footprint

The Canadian Government has jumped in to lead the charge on sustainable government IT services. They have started with a closer look at potential solutions to green government digital operations and are reviewing approaches around policies, sustainable procurement plans, IT initiatives, and alignment to broader strategies like Canada’s Greening Government Strategy.

As this process moves forward, the continued collaboration will occur and global policies and standards will be developed that encourage Digital Nations members and other governments to reduce their consumption of goods & materials, and resources within their IT and digital services departments.

What does it mean for digital services vendors?

The simple answer, opportunity for the right vendors who focus on the greater good, alignment with citizens, and digital services that deliver meaningful outcomes. The right vendors will be in a position to earn these substantial business opportunities. Within the framework of what the Digital Nations governments procure, will be millions of dollars in project work to modernize government around the world.

This framework will require vendors who can deliver digital solutions that ensure public confidence by citizens and government, to offer privacy of data, and promote transparency and inclusion as just a few examples. On the alternate side of this conversation, it could also be the downfall of many vendors who do not have the capabilities, skills, or experience to deliver on procured wins they manage to secure. Alignment with the Digital Nations Charter and the values and deliverables expected means vendors will not be able to “go for it” on the wrong opportunities. You can’t fit a square peg into a round hole, as the saying goes.

How will it help citizens?

The most important topic in all of this is citizen impact. How can this, truly, make a difference? First, the digital divide we touched base on above will begin to be addressed, starting the long road of closing that significant gap between people who have, and do not have, access to digital tools.

Closing the digital divide is just the beginning, and ultimately a global digital transformation that starts with these countries will result in very important citizen benefits. Imagine the perfect digital world…seamless transparency and involvement on government policy and outcomes for citizens, simple access to all government programs online from anywhere on any device, improvement in the delivery of much-needed social support programs, and so much more.

Ultimately, it's about creating a digital service that makes people's lives better at a time where citizen expectations are at an all-time high. Delivering value and meaningful digital outcomes for citizens has become a requirement for government, not an option.

Image Credit: Zoey Li / Midjourney

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