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Brazil’s Role in Shaping the Digital Transformation

Luanna Roncaratti discusses the main points to be addressed in digital transformation and digital government during Brazil’s G20 presidency

Brazil's presidency of the G20 has begun in earnest, with the country expecting to hold some 100 meetings throughout the year in different parts of the country.

Besides Brazil's priority issues such as poverty, sustainable development, and global governance, 2024 will see the G20 touch on a wide variety of topics, including innovation and the digital transformation — on which Brazil has plenty to teach (and learn from) the other member countries.

On this note, The Wilson Center’s Bruna Santos sat down with Luanna Roncaratti, Deputy Secretary of Digital Government at Brazil's Management and Innovation Ministry, for an in-depth interview on the main talking points to be addressed when it comes to the digital transformation and digital government.

With Brazil taking over the G20 presidency, how do you envision using the momentum of this opportunity to advance the digital transformation agenda and ensure that digital technology meets the needs of the Global South? For example, by bringing African voices to the table (the African Union is now a permanent member of the G20).

We are experiencing a unique moment in the G20, as Brazil's presidency is the third step in a cycle that began in 2022 — marked by the leadership of developing countries in the G20 — and will last until 2025. During its presidency of the G20, Brazil has proposed a clear and decisive debate on how we can move towards a fairer, more sustainable world with less poverty and inequality.

Digital technologies have brought many opportunities and hopes for a better future. But they also pose challenges, risks, and a fundamental concern that the benefits are rarely shared equitably within countries and globally, thereby deepening inequalities.

As part of the Digital Economy Working Group (DEWG), we are committed to fostering a debate on how the potential of technology can become a force for inclusive development that leaves no one behind.

One of the selected priorities of the DEWG is related to digital government and building a trusted and inclusive digital public infrastructure (DPI). This issue addresses key challenges faced by countries in the Global South and is a continuation of the path established over the last three years. Brazil's G20 presidency aims to deepen the debate on the DPI components related to digital identity and data governance. It will provide relevant insights and highlight relevant DPI cases and how they can promote digital inclusion.

How do you think Brazil will promote cooperation among economically powerful nations and major economies of the Global South to ensure effective development and consensus on Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI)?

Brazil is willing to work with different countries and international organizations to advance the discussions on DPI, and we expect to present the results in the deliverables of the G20 DEWG.

The concept of Digital Public Infrastructure, introduced by India's presidency last year, is very relevant to provide equitable access to digital services on a societal scale and to foster a business-friendly environment.

Given that lack of identification creates multiple barriers to accessing services and exercising rights, we proposed that the first component of DPI to be addressed is digital identity. It is a key enabler for digital inclusion and the effective integration of people into the digital economy. Moreover, many countries and international organizations are currently engaged in advancing the debate and exchange on this topic.

The second issue we proposed to address is the DPI component related to interoperability and national data sharing, both in the public and private sectors. This has the potential not only to improve the quality of digital services, but also to stimulate innovation and entrepreneurship throughout society.

Both topics are very relevant and are also linked to our national priorities, as we are committed to improving our digital ID, known as the account, and to transforming our national identification system, linking digital and physical documents. We are also committed to advancing our data governance and data sharing initiatives.

With this in mind, we are determined to collaborate and gain a comprehensive understanding of these issues. We will facilitate discourse and sharing of experiences, and compile a comprehensive list of best practices and use cases in a compendium of practices. We will also understand how countries are using digital identities and compile these experiences into a document of principles for digital identity governance.

In January, two teams from the Management and Innovation Ministry were shortlisted for the UN-sponsored Future of Government Awards. The Brazilian teams represent the login services, which allow the authentication of more than 155 million registered users, and the platform, aimed at federal civil servants. Is an exportable solution?

We were very happy to learn recently that the Digital Identity team won the Future of Government Awards in the Digital Advocates of the Year category. is a collection of solutions and tools that facilitate digital interactions between citizens and the government. It is the result of the federal government's continuous efforts and investments in technology, data, governance and dedicated people committed to providing better services and experiences to the Brazilian population.

The governance includes state-owned companies that have leveraged the process by operating and scaling digital government solutions, as well as facilitating dialogue and partnership with the technology ecosystem and all government agency teams that understand the urgency of the transformation and are highly committed to it.

Therefore, the Brazilian journey of digital government and solution delivery is an experience that can be shared with other countries, bringing many important lessons along the way. In this process of sharing, we are constantly looking for references in other countries to help us face the challenges we face in the development of

Our goal in the DEWG is to move towards sharing lessons and shortcuts.

States have started to issue the unified national identity card. It has a QR code and its identification number is the same as the CPF taxpayer ID. It's a project we've been hearing about for over a decade, and it's finally coming to fruition. It will make it possible to access services such as social security or the public health system in person or online. Can you talk briefly about the federal government's plans for a unique national identity for citizens? What is the roadmap for integrating local and state services into this national ID?

Our main goal with the implementation of the Citizen Identification Service and the National Identity Card (CIN) is to provide the Brazilian population with basic civil rights in the context of a digital economy. We want to harness the potential of technology to create a more inclusive approach, especially for those who face digital barriers. All citizens must be uniquely recognized and able to interact securely with the public and private sectors in digital and face-to-face transactions.

To achieve this, we have integrated the identification systems of different states using the CPF number as the key. This has increased the security of the identity issuance process and extended the reach of digital authentication tools. Our next challenge is to accelerate the issuance of IDs in all states under this new arrangement.

In addition, we are working on federal integration for state and local digital transformation. We have started discussions on the National Digital Government Strategy, which will be launched soon. This strategy will help coordinate the digital plans of the federal government, 27 states, and more than 5,500 municipalities.

One of the top priorities that emerged from this participatory process is to integrate state and municipal public services into the identification processes of the platform. We have already integrated the account as an authentication tool for services in all states and several municipalities, which means more convenience and security for citizens.

Last year, Brazil signed a cooperation agreement with the United Kingdom, renewing a partnership that began in 2020. The focus is now on privacy and security. Which countries are Brazil's main partners in this area of digital government?

We understand that information security and privacy are two aspects that are interdependent. We believe that the best way to improve the maturity and resilience of government organizations in these areas is through coordinated action within a network.

We have a very productive partnership with the United Kingdom through a Memorandum of Understanding for specific work. We also have dialogues with other countries, such as Denmark, a long-term partner on digital government.

Our participation in multilateral forums such as Mercosur, the Latin American and Caribbean eGovernment Network (GEALC Network), the Organization of American States and the OECD allows us to maintain a constant exchange with other nations.

These groups facilitate discussions and the sharing of national experiences in privacy and security, among many other topics, inspiring and supporting countries to improve their maturity and resilience at a time when cyber-attacks are becoming more frequent.

In this regard, Brazil will host the ministerial meeting of the GEALC network in the second half of 2024, which will be an important opportunity to discuss the opportunities and challenges facing the region.

It is also important to promote synergies between Latin America and the Caribbean. We have made great improvements in the multilateral recognition of digital signatures in Mercosur and Latin America, and we hope this will be an opportunity to move the discussions to new topics.

In addition to the international dialogues, we also articulate these partnerships with work to promote the maturity and resilience of government agencies throughout Brazil, a continent-sized country.

Can you give practical examples of how these partnerships work and what you have been able to create or improve through them?

In general, these partnerships allow us to increase government capabilities and contribute to a better understanding of our challenges. Currently, we have partnerships with the United Kingdom and Denmark that have contributed to the development and improvement of our services.

Let's take our partnership with the United Kingdom in particular. One of our areas of cooperation is accessibility, and one of the results was the Best Practice Guide for Digital Accessibility. Studies show that 3 percent of the Brazilian population has a visual impairment, and the guide provides recommendations on how to make websites more accessible to them.

The research involved a team from the United Kingdom and a broad team from Brazilian government and civil society to identify milestones and opportunities for creating more inclusive websites. We now have the capacity to address this challenge, and have appropriate material to share both locally and internationally.

Our collaboration with Denmark began in 2015, with the goal of innovation and digital government. Through this partnership, Danish experts are helping us improve our data infrastructure.

It also allowed Brazilian civil servants, who work with information and communication technologies, to receive training in Denmark. In the area of innovation, Denmark has supported the development of a government innovation lab called Gnova, inspired by the Danish MindLab.

On the other side of the coin, which countries have already been inspired by Brazil to create digital government solutions? Will the G20 presidency be an opportunity in this sense?

The G20 presidency is certainly an opportunity for greater visibility of the digital transformation solutions implemented in Brazil. A special opportunity not only to inspire those who may be going through the same challenges we are, but also to get feedback that can help us improve our initiatives. When we talk about what we are doing, it is also important to listen to how it can be better.

In 2023, we had bilateral dialogues with at least 15 countries on digital government initiatives, apart from multilateral forums and international organizations. Digital identity, digital signature, digital transformation of services, federal integration for digital government, and government innovation are some of the most common topics of these interactions.

It is worth highlighting the interactions we had with Germany in 2023, and the country's efforts to support the development of the National Digital Government Strategy. Germany provided consultants to help us identify best practices in digital government and governance between the federal, state, and local levels of government. The Inter-American Development Bank (IADB)

has also been a key partner in supporting the National Strategy process and has facilitated important exchanges with Latin American and Caribbean countries in general.

Finally, we must mention that we have recently started a dialogue with the African Union, sharing experiences that can help the African continent strengthen its digital government initiatives. In 2024, we expect to strengthen the dialogue with the African Union and other countries of the Global South.

Perhaps one of the most important outcomes of Brazil's G20 presidency on digital issues would be the establishment of an international framework to regulate digital platforms and create global safeguards around data. What do you see as the most important institutional responses to data governance, and how will Brazil spearhead this during the G20?

The integrity of online information is a major threat to trust in the digital economy and to social cohesion, democratic values and institutions, and human rights. Given its importance, this issue is being addressed in Brazil by the president's office.

From a digital government perspective, we promote the proper use and reuse of data as a key aspect of a successful DPI. Not only can data enable evidence-based and more effective public policies, but the proper sharing of data between different actors can also foster the development of innovative products and services. The relevance of data becomes even more important with the growing significance of artificial intelligence, which requires a lot of data to be trained correctly.

On the other hand, it's essential to have a regulatory environment that ensures the ethical use of data, preserves citizens' right to privacy, avoids predatory use of data, and takes into account the specific needs of different publics. In addition, good data governance is a challenge for government agencies, which need to reinvent themselves around ever-changing concepts. As such, capacity building is also a key success factor for government agencies that need to adapt to the data age.

The Brazilian government has been working hard to improve the use of data within its agencies. The Conecta program has been successful in promoting interoperability to improve public service delivery. A data policy will soon be launched that will provide guidance for data governance in all government agencies and entities, defining clear roles and responsibilities for the use of data, principles and actions to be implemented. There have also been efforts in the area of artificial intelligence, including open innovation challenges focused on promoting the use of AI solutions within the government.

We still have many challenges to overcome, and we expect to address them as part of our National Data Infrastructure — a set of policies and programs aimed at making the most of data within government, leading to better public services and policies.

The effective development and sustainability of an initiative like DPI also depends on the private sector and civil society. What is your vision of their commitment to digital transformation, given their representation in the G20 Engagement Groups (EGs)?

What we have seen so far is that the Brazilian presidency of the G20 is a valuable opportunity to promote dialogue between certain sectors of Brazilian society and the international community to discuss pressing issues. Groups such as the B20 and T20 show a clear intention to advance the digital transformation of government and to promote the role of government in the digital transformation of society. This leads us to expect very insightful contributions from these groups.

It is critical to engage different sectors in discussions about digital public infrastructure to ensure that effective solutions are sustainable over time. The more representation we have in the development and implementation of these solutions, the better and more inclusive they will be.

Brazil has a successful track record of using digital infrastructure to support poverty reduction and inclusive growth goals, such as social benefit program Bolsa Família and the PIX instant payment system. What are the lessons learned from these initiatives that could be applied more broadly in other countries?

We believe that Brazil has many DPIs that bridge the digital divide and can inspire the international community. In 2003, Brazil implemented a single registry for social programs (Cadúnico), a tool for identifying low-income families that has since been used as a tool for several social programs and policies, including Bolsa Família, one of the largest conditional cash transfer schemes in the world.

PIX, a government-sponsored instant payment infrastructure, is another great example of DPI. It has transformed the Brazilian economy by reducing transaction costs and promoting financial and digital inclusion. It handles USD 300 billion in transactions per month, with 150 million individual users who can conduct their financial transactions easily and at no cost.

These initiatives demonstrate the potential of DPIs to promote social and financial inclusion, contributing to progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals. Brazil is a large and diverse country, and the consistent implementation of DPIs is a powerful tool to address historical inequalities.

Looking ahead, what is your vision for the future of digital government in Brazil, and how do you see it contributing to the country's overall development and capacity for international cooperation?

We need to prioritize an inclusive approach to digital government, and we understand that the consistent implementation of DPIs can promote this. It's not just about having a government presence in digital channels, but rather the kind of government that is appropriate for the digital age we live in.

By developing Brazil's digital identity and investing in data governance and data infrastructure, we see opportunities to promote digital inclusion and secure data reuse.

In line with this vision, we aim to increase the proportion of the population using solutions, leaving no one behind. In addition, we want to continuously evolve the tools and respond to users' demands for better and easier experiences.

The federal integration of digital transformation initiatives is also crucial to our plans. An integrated digital transformation across the municipal, state and federal levels of public administration can deliver significant value to society.

Finally, we welcome international exchange and cooperation on this agenda and value the fruitful outcomes for all parties involved.

This text is part of G20 Dialogues, a project of The Brazilian Report with the Brazil Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center. Through live broadcasts, articles, and events, we will analyze Brazil’s challenges and actions at the helm of the G20.

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