Experts Urge PR Fiscal Board to Establish A Digital Government
SAN JUAN—Various technology leaders urged the Puerto Rico Fiscal Oversight Board, designated by the U.S. Congress to address the island’s fiscal crisis, and the incoming government administration to develop a new entity to lead a transformation for Puerto Rico as a “native digital” government that promotes transparency, efficiency and economic development.
The call to action took place during the event “The future of civil and technological government” that took place Thursday night in Piloto 151 co-working space in Old San Juan. Figures such as Tim O’ Reilly, considered one of the most influential in the new technological age, Jeniffer Pahlka, former Deputy Chief of Informatics of the White House, John Paul Farmer, past member of the innovation group of the White House and Lord Francis Maude, former minister of State for Trade and Investment, sent recorded messages with various recommendations to the board and the incoming administration.
The invited speakers highlighted the need for the board to have a team of experts in digital strategy under a model similar to the US Digital Service used by the federal government, which has achieved savings of billions of dollars through the appropriate use of the technology. David Eaves, a Harvard-affiliated public policy entrepreneur, said that a team of digital experts would allow the board to carry out its work in a radically effective manner and at reduced costs.
Tim O’Reilly, who heads O’Reilly Media, underscored the importance of having a problem-oriented mindset with a clear understanding of aspects that can significantly improve the quality of life in Puerto Rico. He indicated that the process would require a digital rediscovery that would result in a better identification of opportunities to guarantee a promising future for Puerto Rico. According to John Paul Farmer, “in the 21st century, public policy will not work if technology does not work.” He mentioned the failure of the initial launch of ‘healthcare.gov’ as an example of a multimillion dollar investment developed before the US Digital Service model. It was restructured in its entirety to deliver a service that served citizens.
Lord Francis Maude, former minister of State for Trade and Investment, who was the main sponsor for implementing the UK Digital Service (UKDS), echoed the rest of the experts’ remarks. The UKDS has been the model of choice for other countries to follow as they invest in new structures of digital services development for citizens. “The UKDS saved the government over 70 billion dollars in 5 years,” he said.
Giancarlo González, former Chief Information Officer of Puerto Rico who also participated as a speaker, said that “there is definitely a consensus on the part of world leaders, states and cities that the success of Government policy needs a new modality of understanding and execution for it to be effective. The Promesa Act can be instrumental in facilitating the creation of a team of this caliber that, together with local talent, promotes the adoption of new ways of procuring and delivering services that results in greater efficiencies, better services and future economic development opportunities. The moment is now,” he said, stressing his willingness to present a summary of an initial set of recommendations for the Fiscal Oversight Board and the incoming government.