A Better Citizen Experience: Aruba’s Digital Transformation Road Map, 2020-2025
The Government of Aruba developed a dynamic policy framework based on 10 key building blocks that jointly form a road map setting the direction for Aruba’s digitization strategy. The publication of the road map marks the culmination of the government’s preparatory implementation work over the past 3 years. At its core, the strategy is about meeting the needs of people within a service model that is fit for the demands of the 21st century.
We are now at the onset of what the World Economic Forum has termed the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’. Today’s rapidly changing consumer landscape and the accelerated pace of technological advancement create an opportunity for governments to build stronger and more effective institutions. It is no secret that strong and effective human-centered institutions are the backbone of economically resilient nations. The concept of economic resilience in small island economies goes beyond the traditional understanding of resilience as the ability to absorb shocks and recover from disturbances (such as the COVID-19 Pandemic). The Government of Aruba believes that the implementation of a digital transformation strategy is not only fundamental but a catalyzing factor to achieve economic resilience as a small island nation.
Our citizens expect governments to be able to accommodate their changing needs and to deliver core services digitally, 24/7, securely, and on any device. To ensure its institutions can remain relevant in this new era, preserve democracy and continue to fulfill the government’s mission of being a strong and effective human-centered institution, the Aruba Government identified improvement of its service delivery through digitalization as a key agenda priority.
The e-government agenda is the Aruba government’s most ambitious cross-ministerial project to date. To action the government’s agenda, a Chief Innovation Officer (CIO) was appointed and given the mandate to develop an e-government strategy in collaboration with stakeholders, i.e., a digital transformation policy framework and road map.
e-Government Road Map - Building a Better Citizen Experience:
The road map focuses on what needs to happen in the start-up phase for the Aruba Government to improve public service delivery. What is more, the road map provides guiding principles and actions to develop a robust e-government model, empower citizens, and give public employees the necessary skills to help transform government and design a better citizen experience. The road map also provides both a framework for gradually increasing the provision of digital services and a framework for identifying key public and private digital initiatives for the next 10 years. The main focus is to ensure the best possible use of digital technologies for the benefit of the Aruban people.
Preparatory work during the design phase:
To kick off the strategy design phase, a government-wide, quick scan digital assessment was performed in 2018 to assess the state of the government’s IT infrastructure and organization. The primary purpose of the digital assessment was to detect quick wins and to guide mid-term and long-term scoping of digital initiatives, with the long-term transition to e-government in mind. The scan was the first significant step towards crystalizing the government’s vision and asserting its commitment to transform its delivery of public services. The findings of the scan were documented in a report describing the initial strategic objectives of digital governance in Aruba and formed the basis of the government’s policy objectives for the transition to e-Government.
One of the key findings of the initial digital assessment was that digitization projects were mostly executed by individual departments. A formal, common IT or digitalization strategy was missing and generally there was no consideration of cross-departmental integrations. This created unnecessary layers of complexities or resulted in infective legacy systems. A clear takeaway from the 2018 assessment was that a long-term integral plan was needed: an e-government strategy.
Since the government committed to developing a cohesive e-government strategy in 2018, numerous milestones and quick wins were achieved, while a long-term plan was being designed in close collaboration with key stakeholders. This two-track approach allowed the e-government team and committees to define the core problems across government and gather insights on how to solve them, while simultaneously:
1. Building consensus around the e-government vision,
2. Learning about the prerequisites and resources (human, financial, regulatory, infrastructure and tools) required to become a digital government, and
3. Addressing quick wins with a long-term transition to an e-government model.
Aruba's e-Government Vision requires that in 2030, the Aruba Government is a proactive government that anticipates the citizens’ needs.
The vision can be translated into the following 3 main ambitions:
1. The Aruba Government is an effective service-centered organization.
2. Citizens of Aruba can seamlessly and securely access government services digitally at all times.
3. e-Government creates a pathway to unlock new economic value and opportunities created by the digital economy.
The implementation will be institutionalized through the set up of a Central Coordination Unit and multi-year budget.
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
The Building a Better Citizen Experience road map is an innovation in Government service delivery because it is based on human-centered design principles, focusing on the citizens' needs. For a nation to be resilient, its economy must be resilient. But a nation is not comprised of an economy, it is comprised of a population of people. It is through the continued focus on keeping people at the center of our thought and action that ensures the implementation of this e-government road map will deliver the desired benefits for our citizens. The e-government road map is not only about technology. It is about what technology will enable our people, inside and outside government. By providing flexible service delivery through digitization, we are creating the enabling infrastructure for adaptability, flexibility, and responsiveness. This is the architecture of resilience. Furthermore, the road map is a new approach and way of thinking to strengthen Aruba’s institutional quality and capacity.
What is the current status of your innovation?
The project is in the start-up phase. The first strategic objective is to build an integrated system. The basic premise of an integrated system, also referred to as the Conexion Interoperability Framework, is the development of a unified system, which combines existing databases and different autonomous digital applications into an integrated e-government system for seamless and secure data-sharing via the internet.
Interoperability pilot: In order to test and develop the necessary in-house knowledge to operate the system, an interoperability pilot project kicked off in February, 2021. The pilot consists of an initial list of five stakeholders (government departments). The pilot will allow testing of the diverse technical aspects of the platform and will give stakeholders the possibility to connect their information systems via highly secure and scalable methods to the interoperability backbone and to offer end-user access to services.
Collaborations & Partnerships
The Government collaborated closely with public and private stakeholders to develop the road map. Aruba also partnered with Estonia’s e-Governance Academy (eGA) to develop the capacity required for the design of a robust e-government model. The recommended model, together with findings from previous local studies and input from various local stakeholder platforms (government officials, private sector organizations and citizens via town halls and surveys), form the basis for the road map.
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
Firstly, data sharing amongst government departments through a secure digital platform will lead to a significant reduction of manual processing and reduction of ‘waste’, redundancies and costs. This increases productivity and efficiency and allows for more value-added work to be performed by public employees. Secondly, government services will be (re)designed and simplified to meet citizens’ needs. Lastly, economic value creation for the private sector in the form of ease of doing business.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
Results and impacts achieved during 2018-2020:
• Policy Coherence: alignment of core national policies and key stakeholders towards a common vision
• Infrastructure (hardware and software) investments were made to maintain and secure day-to-day IT operations
• Centralization of critical software that led to cost savings and increased efficiency
• Setup of national cybersecurity office and increased cybersecurity awareness within government
• Transition to digitally enabled council of ministers, saving an average of 100+ combined work hours per month
• Implementation of value-add digital services, e.g., e-Land, e-Tax, e-Books, e-Crisis, e-Justice, e-Licensing, Digital car insurance verification, Aruba Health App, e-Maps, e-Cabinet
Future (2025) key results:
• Build and launch secure interoperability framework and connect 35% of core services
• Introduce Digital ID
• Simplify (where needed) and digitize up to 50% of core services
• Introduce digital payments for 80% of core services
Challenges and Failures
The pilot faced challenges related to the implementation team and their ability to commit time to the project due to conflicting responsibilities and also working in an open/collaborative manner with stakeholders outside of the pilot. It took longer than expected to agree on the pilot team composition and project ownership. This created delays in the project. We responded by designing a robust and transparent "way of working" method that is both agile and takes into accounts all stakeholder concerns.
Conditions for Success
A supporting ecosystem is needed to enable national digital transformation. Critical enablers for the implementation of Aruba’s e-government model include:
1. Political will and leadership, sustained high-level leadership and support for digital transformation over the long-term political spectrum is essential.
2. Partnerships are key to achieving long-lasting effect. Early involvement (including expertise, investments) of the private sector has become an essential prerequisite for impactful projects.
3. Digital Payments (real-time and affordable national payments) fuel the digital transformation process.
4. Open Data, digitizing services will lead to generation of large amounts of data that can be mined to generate new insights to inform policymaking. Further, unlocking the power of government data will spur innovation across the island and improve the quality of life through the acceleration of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals.
5. Innovation labs and regulatory incubators.
This solution and strategy can be implemented by other Small Island States or small cities. Aruba will further develop and intensify its partnerships with other Caribbean nations and Small Island States, Estonia, the Netherlands, the European Union, UNDP, OECD, and the University of Aruba (in particular the SISSTEM faculty and the Aruba Institute for Good Governance & Leadership program), among others, to accelerate knowledge sharing. Further, linking Aruba’s e-government strategy to the global trend of digital government, as well as the Sustainable Development Goals, will generate a stronger understanding of e-government’s necessity and impact across the globe.
1. The implementation digital transformation is a shared responsibility of the public and private sectors and of our community at large.
2. To innovate government you must be prepared to be vulnerable. Innovating how we work requires internal work to cultivate a culture of innovation and risk-taking.
3. We need to be ready for uncertain, complex, and volatile events (such as the Covid-19 Pandemic). The best way to be ready for such events is to have a government that is supported by an enabling infrastructure to allow them to respond quickly, securely, and effectively.
4. Change-management is about releasing the public sector’s employee energy and stimulating their ideas so they can be in the driver seat of re-designing and simplifying existing services. This requires a deep mindset shift.
5. People need coaches, government employees and citizens need to be familiarized with the optimal use of digital tools. There is a significant imbalance of IT maturity.
The solution is described in detail in the e-Government Road Map included in the Materials section of this submission.