Building the GovStack approach to government

Last week, Estonia, DIAL, Germany, and ITU celebrated the launch of the GovStack website – “GovStack” is the official brand for the partnership our four organizations announced last Fall. Now, we’re developing our approach, promoting the initiative – and looking for experts to join our advisory groups. Read on for more details! 

Since early 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic began, demand from countries for support on national digital transformation and responsible data use has increased significantly. Countries across the globe have recognized the significant potential of digital to help them weather the disruptions the pandemic has brought, as well as the need to quickly adapt both nascent and mature digital government services and infrastructure. 

A recent report by DIAL and Smart Africa (another participating member of GovStack) was well-timed in this regard. The report – which summarized discussions with ten governments across Sub-Saharan Africa – outlined key problems faced by countries seeking to build a digital economy, most notably around deploying secure and interoperable digital government services in low-resource settings. 

Evolution of digital government services from 2010 to 2018 in selected countries (via Online Service Index)

There are significant challenges for countries in adopting and implementing a whole-of-government approach – building technology stacks using interoperable platforms that work across government ministries to enable joined-up digital responses and initiatives.  Despite significant progress in digital government overall (see picture above), growth in the adoption of such approaches, as well as their accompanying infrastructure and architecture, has often been relegated to leading digital governments and/or high-income countries. This makes it harder for countries to build national capacity across government and build the core infrastructure of a digital economy. We hope that GovStack will help change this. 

We believe the GovStack approach presents an exciting opportunity to build a much-needed common framework and strengthen technical practice around the design of reusable and interoperable digital components – referred to as “digital building blocks” – needed to help governments address these issues. In principle, digital building blocks are enterprise-ready, reusable software components, enabling similar workflows in different sectors – making it easier to build and maintain digital platforms, services, and applications.​ This approach is the latest application of the SDG Digital Investment Framework released by DIAL and ITU in 2019, and the DIAL Catalog of Digital Solutions. These two resources provide a common framework by which technology and donor actors can align around a platform-based approach to service digitalization and where they and implementers can find and compare existing technology solutions. 

While we are at the beginning of developing the GovStack approach and sketching out key building blocks (such as messaging or digital ID), we are excited by the progress being made in our collaborative. One of the potentially exciting applications of this is a growing partnership with the Horn of Africa Initiative (comprised of Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, and Sudan as partner countries) to evaluate the possibilities for GovStack to enable digital government strategy both nationally and regionally, to help overcome some of the challenges their governments are facing in digital services provision. 

To learn more, GovStack will be spotlighted at two upcoming sessions as follow. 

  • May 19th 2021 14:00–15:00 (UTC+02:00) at the World Summit on the Information Society (WISIS) on the entitled “Accelerating the Digital Transformation of Government Services – GovStack”: This panel session, presided by ITU, Smart Africa, Estonia, European Commission, BMZ and DIAL at the highest-level, will feature a dialogue on opportunities and challenges for countries working on digital government, and possible solutions and helpful approaches such as GovStack. 
  • May 18th to 20th 2021 at the 2021 e-Governance Conference (hosted by the e-Governance Academy of Estonia): initiative partner delegates will preside at the EXPO area during designated live sessions (see agenda). Look for the GovStack booth. 

Finally, so that our work can reflect the accumulated knowledge and design expertise of the technical product community, we are inviting experts on platform architecture and digital government at-large, as well as digital technology and specific solutions for development to join our growing community. We have invited an initial set of wide-ranging experts and will aim to grow our practice via a federated working model and governance to ensure the GovStack Initiative is, above all, a collaborative. 

If you are interested in joining our growing community of experts, please get in touch with the initiative directly through the GovStack website, or contact us at info@govstack.global. We look forward to hearing from you!