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Opportunities in Times of Crisis: Towards an Open and Digital State

Oportunidades en tiempos de crisis: hacia un Estado abierto y digital

César Gazzo Huck|

An open government response to the pandemic is open, inclusive and digital

This article was first published by Apolitical. Click here to read the original article.

The global emergency posed by Covid-19 marks a before and after in the way we live. It might also help us rethink how we govern. 

As expressed by the President of the Argentine Republic, Alberto Fernández, our responsibility as a government is “to serve everyone and leave no one out.” With more than half of the world’s population in preventive social isolation under the slogan #StayHome, how can the government be present if not digitally?

Today, digital governance is not a North Star that we march towards progressively; it is a reality that has thrust itself into our democratic systems and challenges us to respond urgently and effectively to the needs (pre-existing and emerging) of all citizens.

Along with Robin Hodess, one of our priorities as co-chairs of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) is to build trust in digital governance, recognizing the opportunities offered by digital systems and the challenges and risks that come with it. In a context of emergency and accelerated digitization, mainstreaming open government principles in the formulation of policies that deal with the pandemic is crucial to maintain and  generate civic trust. 

An open government to the pandemic

Addressing the pandemic from an open government approach means ensuring that processes are transparent, that information is published in a complete and timely manner, and that citizens — and everyone else — have the opportunity to get involved, and hold the state accountable for its decisions. 

The Government of Argentina is committed to providing an open response to this crisis confronting us just months after taking office. 

For this reason, we launched a specific section on Covid-19 on the official portal, where citizens can find centralized, reliable, and updated information on a daily basis. It is a space to communicate decisions, disseminate preventative measures and response protocols, and avoid the disinformation resulting from the infodemic. The site is accessed 560,000 times every day by more than 300,000 people. 

In turn, the Agency for Access to Public Information issued Resolution 70/2020, which recognizes the validity of administrative deadlines for procedures for requesting access to information and protection of personal data. While the world debates how to process requests for information in exceptional circumstances, Argentina’s Information Commissioner reaffirms that access to information is crucial to the exercise of other civic rights. 

Additionally, upholding its commitment to public accountability, the National Government, through the Ministry of Health, disseminates a daily morning and evening report with epidemiological information; and the main health authorities of the country give a daily press conference through digital platforms such as Twitter, Youtube and Facebook, complementing traditional media. 

No one can fight the pandemic alone 

If this pandemic shows us anything, it is that there is no omnipresent state that by itself can provide a comprehensive response. Effective public policies require collaboration. On the one hand, this is evident in the formation of the Expert Committee: scientists and epidemiologists who accompany the President in defining the action plan to deal with the health crisis, and participate in press conferences. 

On the other hand, there is a dimension of collaboration that today more than ever is revalued from the digital services developed by the Secretariat of Public Innovation led by Micaela Sánchez Malcolm. 

Cuidar, an application citizens can use to self-evaluate their symptoms, launched in March 2020, relies on citizen reports to collect information about where the virus spreads and allows the state to design corresponding interventions to flatten the transmission curve and monitor how the situation evolves. The app also offers the possibility of processing circulation permits throughout the country during this period of compulsory isolation. Because these digital services are created at the federal level, all jurisdictions have equitable access to key resources to overcome the pandemic. Along these lines, we launched Entre Todos in early April, a portal that centralizes initiatives and platforms on topics such as education, work, culture and entertainment that citizens propose in order to carry out tasks in isolation.

An inclusive pandemic response

An open response to the crisis must also be  inclusive. As reflected in our priorities as OGP co-chairs, an open state promotes dialogue between powers and involves local governments in that conversation. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the national Government of Argentina has coordinated its response with the provincial and municipal governments adapting to each context, while recognizing jurisdictional autonomy.

Finally, even when the pandemic relegates other public policy agendas to the background, it is worth remembering the transversality of the principles of open government. Thus, domestic processes linked to OGP do not stop, but adapt to the context through consensus. The National Open Government Roundtable of Argentina today is ranked as an area to discuss strategic definitions and solutions permeated by openness values.

The times of global crisis are challenging times, and 2020 is definitely a year of inflection. The crisis has come to catalyze changes in the way we understand the state. The emergency presents  an opportunity: that of understanding digital as a key tool and open government as a principle that runs through it to establish innovative, inclusive and participatory public policies. The transformation towards a digital state will only be effective if it generates its strategy around the principles of open government and leads us to open reform.

Comments (1)

Alcides Reply

Muy bueno el trabajo disponible del gobierno abierto los 365 dias las 24 horas. Oportunamente pensamos que Argentina pronto debe tener pronto una legilacion nacional de teletrabajo. Alcides Aguirre. TELETRABAJO Y SOCIEDAD catedra libre UNLP

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