To remain competitive in the digital world, states, and the bureaucratic organizations that run them, must digitalize. This transformation requires several innovations such as the creation and maintenance of digital infrastructure, the collection and maintenance of large digital databases, the assignment of unique digital identities to citizens and businesses, the digital delivery of services, and new digital-friendly regulatory regimes.

For states that are able to successfully digitalize, several benefits will materialize, including improved economic performance, decreased administrative costs, and geopolitical or military advantages.

Yet, digitalization also poses significant risks, especially risks relating to the loss of privacy due to the creation of new opportunities for (digital) surveillance. These risks can be minimized if digitalization programs follow and respect democratic values and norms.

While the United States is well-positioned to lead the world in the development of digital states, it is currently falling significantly short of its potential. Instead, it is now other geopolitical actors, especially the European Union and China, that are leading the world.

The United States

The current digital shortcomings have not always been present. During the 1990s, it was the United States that was driving the world’s interest in the digitalization of the state. This is well captured by the 1993 report “Technology for America’s Economic Growth, A New Direction to Build Economic Strength” and the subsequent significant investments that were made in the development of America’s digital infrastructure.

These investments led the United States to consistently place as a leader in international rankings. Availability of internet access improved, opportunities to engage with the government (digitally) became available, and many of the internal operations of the government digitalized. Under the Obama administration, digitalization was made a priority and the chief technology officer of the United States was created to help drive and steer digitalization within the United States…Read More!

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