Uruguay will benefit from improved quality and access to electronic services from the public sector as a result of a US$12 million loan approved this month from the World Bank. The program to improve e-government services for citizens and businesses will optimize online services throughout the public administration to offer faster, user-friendly and accessible services to the population.
Currently, nearly 90 percent of the population has home or cellphone access to the internet. Of the central government’s more than 1,400 administrative procedures, approximately 600 can be started online and 400 can be carried out entirely online. This reflects Uruguay’s efforts during the last decade to reduce the digital gap and improve service delivery using information and communication technologies. Nearly all schools in the country also now have internet access and exporters can carry out procedures via a single foreign trade window.
Despite these advances, Uruguay still faces challenges with respect to digital service delivery and citizen demand. In terms of supply, efforts must continue to improve the quality of existing electronic procedures and to achieve universal coverage. Recent studies indicate that 43 percent of individuals who needed to learn about an administrative procedure preferred to go to a government office while just 27 percent chose to use the Internet.
“Uruguay continues down the path of modernization of its institutions and services offered to citizens as key components of the country’s development,” said Uruguayan finance minister Danilo Astori. “It is inconceivable to have an economic or social development process without modernizing institutions. In this project, innovation and the improved use of new information and telecommunications technologies set the standard to improve government service quality and to facilitate access for citizens and businesses,” he said.
“This project supports the government’s ambitious program to modernize the public sector to improve services for citizens and businesses while contributing to increase the transparency and efficiency of government agencies,” said Jesko Hentschel, World Bank director for Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. “Aspects such as the increase in electronic billing, new single window services and the possibility of improved communication among government agencies directly contribute to improving the quality of and access to the services offered,” he added.
The current operation will focus on three groups of beneficiaries – citizens, companies and the public sector – and will prioritize seven agencies that currently provide e-governance services: the Agency for Government Development of Electronic Management, the Society for Information and Knowledge (AGESIC), the National Research and Innovation Agency (ANII), the National Accounting Office (CGN), the Tax Authority (DGI), the Ceibal Center of the Ministry of the Economy and Finance and the Single Foreign Trade Window (VUCE). These institutions have launched reforms that offer e-government services to citizens, companies and other government agencies.
The US$12 million loan has a 17.5 years maturity, with a five-year grace period.