slaughter89_Geoffrey A. FowlerThe Washington Post via Getty Images_covid app Geoffrey A. Fowler/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The Digital Government Agenda North America Needs

Canada, Mexico, and the United States have a chance to forge a regional agenda to position North America as a global leader in digital government services. Having already established a solid foundation for cooperation, they must now build on it.

WASHINGTON, DC – In Ukraine today and in many other conflicts around the world, the digital domain has become a battleground for cyberattacks and information warfare. Even in normal daily life, digital platforms can endanger citizens and democracies by encroaching on individual privacy, manipulating consumer attention, fostering social isolation, and nurturing extremism. But, while not downplaying these harms, we should also remind ourselves of the many good things that today’s new technologies offer.

One key digital benefit is the potential for vastly improving the delivery of government services. Estonia, where citizens can vote, pay taxes, check their medical records, apply for loans, or register new businesses online in a matter of minutes, is the poster child. North American countries are much further behind, but the COVID-19 pandemic has created opportunities for them to catch up.

Although pandemic-related lockdowns and office closures have caused a host of bureaucratic ills – including long delays in the delivery of some benefits – they also accelerated the development of digital public services. In the United States, all levels of government have introduced digital tools, from holding court proceedings via videoconference to launching virtual-education programs across the country.