Advances made over the last year and particularly during the Covid-19 outbreak positioned Brazil as one of the fast-movers in digital government globally, according to the latest United Nations E‑Government Survey.
Brazil is one of the 18 countries in the Americas that ranked in the "very high" group of the report's E-Government Development Index (EGDI) group for the first time, along with Argentina, Chile and Costa Rica.
"The pandemic has renewed and anchored the role of digital government - both in its conventional delivery of digital services as well as new innovative efforts in managing the crisis," said the under-secretary-general for economic and social affairs at the UN, Liu Zhenmin.
The report considers the new tools out in place to tackle the pandemic, such as dedicated Covid-19 information portals, hackathons, e-services for the supply of medical goods, virtual medical appointments, self-diagnosis apps and e-permits for curfews, as well as tracking and tracing apps, and apps for working and remote learning.
Brazil's citizen services portal has gone live in September 2019, after its announcement a few months earlier, in April. By December 2020, it is expected that all the 1,600 government sites will be integrated onto the new platform. With the emergence of the pandemic months later, the country saw a spike in the uptake of e-gov services and the portfolio of offerings has expanded further during the crisis.
Commenting on the countries that are progressing quickly in their e-government agendas, the UN report noted that Brazil has prioritized the digital transformation of both the government and the economy. It highlights the country's digital governance strategy, which underpins public sector digital transformation, as well as the Brazilian digital transformation strategy, which relates to the transformation of the economy.
The UN survey report also highlighted Brazil's policy frameworks for digital inclusion and participation through consultations with individuals and civil society, and that the country has improved access to public data and information. It adds that Brazil has also been active in the International Digital Cooperation project with the E-Governance Academy in Estonia.
Despite the gains and investments in e-government by countries like Brazil, the UN report noted issues including the digital divide persist. The state of the national infrastructure may also be hampering progress in e-government initiatives, according to the survey.
"While e-government rankings tend to correlate with the income level of a country, financial resources are not the only critical factor in advancing digital government," said UN's Zhenmin."A country's political will, strategic leadership and commitment to advance digital services can improve its comparative ranking."
Some 45,9 million Brazilian citizens are digitally excluded, according to recently released government figures. Not having the technical knowledge required to go online was cited as one of the reasons for digital exclusion in Brazil, as well as the high price of Internet services and lack of service availability.
Overall, 65% of UN member states are at the high or very high EGDI level. The position in the ranking captures the scope and quality of online services, status of telecommunication infrastructure and existing skills to support advances in e-government.
The 2020 UN e-government ranking is led by Denmark, the Republic of Korea and Estonia, followed by Finland, Australia, Sweden, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, the United States, the Netherlands, Singapore, Iceland, Norway and Japan.