Digital Transformation Will Save Stagnating Democracies: Latin America is the Proof

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Digital democracy is not just possible, it is already here (Image credit: The Council of Europe)

Last month, I attended and was invited to give two presentations at Ecuador’s Digital Transformation conference. There, the Minister of Communications and Technology gave a speech on the country’s progress towards becoming a digital nation. She highlighted Ecuador’s position as the top-performing country in Latin America, as reported by the annual U.N. Electronic Government and annual Open Data Barometer reports.

This is starkly juxtaposed with the last article about Ecuador I reported on, where I discussed our high corruption index and low political awareness among citizens, as evidenced by the Yansuní vote. However, these phenomena, seemingly opposed, may be connected. Through the digitalization of democracy, Ecuador and the many Latin American nations in similar predicaments may be able to leapfrog past our troubles and into a brighter, more representative future.

Around the world, digital transformation and open data have become one of the most popular terms in 2023. News such as the Metaverse or ChatGPT’s first appearance has dominated the media, and digital democratization has become policy in many parts of the world.

Equally, the dangers of digital transformation have also risen to prominence. Interviewed German citizens in a DW report suggested that the country’s slow progress towards digital development was likely due to its society’s insufficient readiness on the topic, regardless of available resources. Last month, there were at least three international news regarding major data security issues. The latest one induced a loss of US governmental data, which delayed dozens of state reports.

It is undeniable that data is highly sensible and privacy is of paramount importance. However, while 157 countries have good-heartily crafted at least one law on data privacy, internal corruption and insufficient measures tackling cyberattacks can result in the leaking of crucial data.

To ensure nations use the best out of the digital transformation besetting our world, there needs to be action taken against corruption and data leaks. The impact of actions taken is reflected in digital transformation international metrics and the differences between developed and developing nations. 

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As seen in the graph above, the best-performing nations are, unsurprisingly, the Netherlands, Norway and Denmark. In contrast, the lowest-performing countries, again in a rather unsurprising fashion, are the Central African Republic, Guinea, and Libya. This difference reflects the importance of economic and governmental factors on a nation’s ability to embrace digital transformation.

For developing nations to achieve digital transformation, which expanding year after year, and appears to only grow more important by the day, countries must adopt transparent and open policies towards this new technology, and embrace the help of leading companies such as OpenAI and Meta. There is a clear correlation between a nation’s corruption index and its ability to embrace digital transformation, as hinted by the best-preforming nations and lowest-performing nations list.

As seen in the graph above, the correlation between high E-Government rankings (level of digital transformation) and corruption is nearly perfectly inverse, with the only major outlier being the People’s Republic of China. This is intuitive, as nations with more robust democratic and market systems have better infrastructure in place to integrate the economic and political impacts of digital transformation. In turn, they are more open to the creative destruction this technology brings.

In an era where bad news seemingly dominates the media every day, digital transformation stands out as an important outlier. Nations with high E-Government rankings have retained their ratings, whereas nations with average E-Government rankings have, by and large, been improving. In this realm, it seems progress has been the dominating trend, as shown in the graph below.

The Digital Transformation Balance dashboard can be found here. This metric serves as a tool that calculates every country’s development towards digital transformation. Relying on officially curated metrics, it is the best estimate the world has. If you are still interested in this topic, consider giving this dashboard a visit.

Written by Emily Ulloa

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