Magdy Martínez-Solimán: Opening Remarks at the Panel Discussion on E- Governance – Partnerships for Achieving the SDGs

Sep 20, 2017

Excellencies, distinguished colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon.

UNDP and the Permanent Missions to the United Nations of Estonia, Namibia, Colombia and Bangladesh welcome you to this high-level discussion on the side of the 72nd General Assembly.

It is a pleasure to be here with you today to moderate this discussion.

The focus is on how e-governance can help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

Estonia, Namibia, Colombia and Bangladesh have much to share on these points. Their digital journey is particularly instructive for the SDG era.

I am honored to introduce to you our panelists this afternoon. Please join me in welcoming:

  • HE Mrs. Kersti Kaljulaid, the President of Estonia;
  • HE Mr. Tom Alweendo, Minister of Economic Planning and the Director General of National Planning Commission of Namibia;
  • HE Mr. Luis Fernando Mejía, Minister of National Planning of Colombia; and,
  • HE Mr. Zunaid Ahmed Palak, MP, Minister of State for Information and Communication Technology (ICT), of Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh.

Allow me to highlight a few lessons that we, at UNDP, have learned from our work on the ground.

First, governments are designing now and governance systems for new times, for more educated societies.

The 2030 Agenda’s vision is of a world transformed. The new agenda is bold and complex, and governments want to meet rapidly evolving challenges. New tools will be crucial, certainly, but also new ideas and strategies, and policies that match the new demands.

These “demands” include the increasing call for new governance arrangements. Societies today are more connected, better informed, and more able to mobilize and compel action from governments and stakeholders.

People want a greater role in shaping decisions that affect their lives and livelihoods. They want more responsive and accountable governments and development partners, and they stand ready to co-develop solutions to their needs.

There is a very connected societal group -millennials, youth, professionals- who appreciate open government and fast responsiveness on the broadband. People know with precision what is available to others and elsewhere.

Second, transformational change means going beyond efficiencies and effectiveness.

We have become more adept at leveraging the potential of ICTs to advance our goals.

We are continually “modernizing” the way we do things, and looking to “digitization” of information and resources for various efficiencies and effectiveness. We operate with data, feedback, statistics and large volume of information.

The transformation we envision goes beyond embracing ICTs, automation and digitization. Without transforming the way we do business, without changing bad processes and practices, we would simply be automating without improving, doing unsatisfactory things faster, for more people.

Within governments, innovations in ICTs go hand in hand with business process reforms, resulting in public services and information becoming increasingly better and more accessible. We also see improvements in transparency and accountability through ICT platforms that enable broader engagement with an increasingly ICT-Savy society.

As a result, there is more integrity; less waste of time; lower cost; and broader reach across the territory.

To be watched, the risk of de-humanizing services!

Things have dramatically changed with ICTs. As of today,  all of the 193 UN Member States have national online portals, many of which provide access to services and channels to communicate with government agencies. With mobile phones now in the hands of many, including in developing countries, the potential for expanding the reach of services and information has increased. Have we therefore increased the quantity and quality of the offer to our citizens?

All our panelists will speak on these points, and UNDP is privileged to have been part of their efforts. The publication from the e-Governance Academy we have at the door frames this new reality well, and UNDP thanks Estonia for their leadership on this frontier issue.

Now, let us hear from our panelists, and in first place, HE. Ms. Kersti Kaljulaid, President of Estonia.