Brazilian government investing to go digital

. Sep 03, 2019
digital bureaucracy government brazil

Bureaucracy has traditionally been a constant presence in Brazilian life, taking its toll on both citizens and companies—who spend 1,958 hours a year dealing with red-tape related to the country’s tax system. With that in mind, Economy Minister Paulo Guedes has made reducing excessive bureaucracy a key priority for the government, in a bid to increase productivity and boost the country’s still-ailing economy.

The first steps in this direction have already been taken. In August, the federal government launched a new online portal gathering every website belonging to the administration on a single hub. So far,—as the new site is called—includes pages for citizen services, the president’s office, and the sitting government’s website.

</p> <p>According to the <a href="">Economy Ministry</a>—which oversees the digitization efforts—by the end of 2020, 1,600 websites will be part of this new portal, where more than 1,000 digital services will be available to Brazilian. Data from August 2019 <a href="">shows</a> that 182 federal public bodies currently offer 3,274 services—46.5 percent of which are fully digital, and another 19.8 percent are partially digital.</p> <p>By way of, citizens will be able to find centralized information about services such as passport issuance, international vaccination cards, and almost all of the services provided by social security systems, as well as the main news involving the federal government. However, ministries will maintain their separate webpages and social networks.</p> <p>Until the end of 2020, the government expects to spend BRL 43 million on the project, but the investment is largely expected to pay for itself, as the Economy Ministry estimates savings of BRL 100 million per year on centralized maintenance and website development. Furthermore, the government is expected to save BRL 3 billion a year with the digital transformation of public services, while Brazilian citizens are also set to save BRL 3 billion.</p> <figure class="wp-block-embed-twitter wp-block-embed is-type-rich is-provider-twitter"><div class="wp-block-embed__wrapper"> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-width="550" data-dnt="true"><p lang="pt" dir="ltr">Hoje lançamos o portal ( <a href=""></a> ). Mais de 300 serviços digitalizados procurados pelos cidadãos. Mais uma iniciativa de simplificação e agilidade aos brasileiros gerando uma economia anual de cerca de R$6 bilhões. <a href="">@govbr</a> <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; Jair M. Bolsonaro (@jairbolsonaro) <a href="">August 22, 2019</a></blockquote><script async src="" charset="utf-8"></script> </div></figure> <p>Alexandre Barbosa, a senior innovation researcher at think tank ITS Rio, stressed that beyond savings, a &#8220;more digital&#8221; administration should strengthen the government itself. “If a platform works as a bridge to strengthen the relationship with society, it adds value to its offer of services and to the state, as its main function.”</p> <p>However, he believes the model should be adjusted to ensure better quality and practical benefits for users. “Though the government has a very clear agenda of digital transformation, if you go to the website, few services really add any value. Instead of making thousands of services digital, it would be better to have 10, but in a way that you can actually solve everything you need on the website, without redirecting or using it as a simple aggregator,” he told <strong>The Brazilian Report</strong>.</p> <h2>How is the situation today?</h2> <p>Last year, ITS Rio launched the so-called &#8220;Information Map,&#8221; a project showing the bureaucratic web of the Brazilian government. The map shows there are 20 digital databases dealing with subjects ranging from housing to healthcare, and none of them have any connection or information sharing between them. “Citizens pay the price. Today, administrative processes take much longer than they should, they must be repeated at different institutions and are more expensive than they should be,” says the initiative.</p> <p>Today, there are 48 different apps for bureaucratic services, from social security to voter registration. “We need a unified service. Nobody will download every government-launched app,” said Ronaldo Lemos, director of ITS Rio.</p> <figure class="wp-block-image"><img loading="lazy" width="1024" height="756" src="" alt="" class="wp-image-23348" srcset=" 1024w, 300w, 768w, 610w, 1889w" sizes="(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px" /><figcaption>ITS Rio&#8217;s Information Map</figcaption></figure> <h2>Major changes ahead</h2> <p>Measures such as are just the beginning, according to the plans of Economy Minister Paulo Guedes. In March, he <a href=",743376/guedes-avalia-que-digitalizacao-substituira-servidores-aposentados.shtml">said</a> the government wouldn’t replace the civil servants who are set to retire in the next few years—almost 50 percent of the total—opting to instead provide digital services. The idea is to slash public spending and offer better and faster services.</p> <p>Data from the now-extinct <a href="">Ministry of Planning</a>—now included under the Economy Ministry umbrella—help support this view. In 2017, every time a citizen is assisted by a human public servant, it costs an average of USD 14. If the same service is provided digitally, the cost falls to just USD 0.39, based on studies in Canada, the UK, Norway, and Australia.</p> <p>Digital transformation is set to reach other major areas of the government besides bureaucratic services. The Education Ministry has already announced that the <a href="">Enem</a>, the national university entrance exam, <a href="">will have a digital version next year</a>, aiming to go fully online by 2026. In 2018, the exam had 5.5 million candidates at a <a href="">cost</a> of BRL 466.8 million—partially compensated by BRL 163.4 million obtained through enrollment fees. In 2019, costs will exceed BRL 500 million.</p> <p>The ministry expects the change will allow the entrance exam to be applied on several occasions during the year—instead of the current system of using a single date—and use different evaluation methods, such as videos and games. Investments for the digital test versions are projected at BRL 20 million, but <a href="">savings have not been estimated</a>.</p> <h2>A comprehensive range?</h2> <p>For citizens, digital services may provide several benefits, making these tasks both cheaper, quicker, and easier. However, to be able to enjoy it, people must be connected.</p> <p>Recent <a href="">research</a> shows that internet access has consistently increased in Brazil, reaching 70 percent of the population in 2018. Though the average number is close to the 80 percent range seen in developed countries, access is lower in vulnerable parts of the population.</p> <p>The research showed that, in rural areas, 49 percent of the population is connected, while in lower socio-economic categories (Brazil&#8217;s classes D and E), access is only 48 percent.</p> <p>“These channels can make the connection between state and society more practical, easy, and transparent, but we cannot ignore that 30 percent of Brazilians don’t have access to the internet, or that we have 30 percent of functionally illiterate people,” he said. “There has to be a hybrid, multichannel transition. You have to be able to perform the service digitally, but also over the phone and in person with the same efficiency.”

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Natália Scalzaretto

Natália Scalzaretto has worked for companies such as Santander Brasil and Reuters, where she covered news ranging from commodities to technology. Before joining The Brazilian Report, she worked as an editor for Trading News, the information division from the TradersClub investor community.

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