2023 Year in Review: breaking down barriers to sustainable digital public infrastructure
The GovStack initiative began in 2020 when four organizations (Estonia, GIZ, ITU, and the Digital Impact Alliance) came together with a common goal – to accelerate national digital transformation for the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Three years later, we are making progress towards this goal, bridging the open-source software and technical policymaking communities to establish tools and standards for the digitalization of the public sector.
As the year closes, we are looking back on our major accomplishments from 2023 and we share some of our aspirations for 2024.
This year, the technical working groups were busy collaborating to define and document the fundamental specifications for reusable and interoperable digital components, which we collectively refer to as Building Blocks. In June, we published the version 1.0 publication of the GovStack Framework which included Wave 1 & 2 Building Blocks, associated Reference Use Cases and Core Workflows. Most recently, we expanded the GovSpecs toolkit with the 24Q23 publication of 3 additional Building Blocks, 10 reference use cases, and new UI/UX guidelines. This brings the total count for GovSpecs to 12 building blocks, 14 reference use cases, and 3 guidelines.
We are thrilled to see GovSpecs gaining traction. This year saw 7,200 users view the specifications on GitBook. Much of the work is a collaborative effort across a global community of experts, with comments and fixes being filed via our JIRA issue management system. In 2023, the building block working groups closed over 500 JIRA tickets.
The GovSpecs are most valuable in their application to the evaluation of existing digital public goods. Working towards our end-goal of evaluating products for compliance with the specifications, the testing team implemented 110 tests across 7 different building blocks.
The progress made on GovSpecs feeds directly into the work happening with GovTest. The GovTest sandbox was ideated to make the GovStack approach tangible via a reference implementation, or an isolated, safe environment that simulates a small governmental e-service system. The biggest challenge was to get the very complex but fundamental Building Blocks like Identity, Payments, and Information Mediator into a standardized deployment and hosting environment. This year, we launched the first 2 use cases enabled by Building Blocks and integrated 5 digital public goods into one interoperable system.
The sandbox follows the GovStack architectural approach centered around APIs and microservices to help unlock monolithic legacy systems and increase the speed of IT project delivery, leading to more effective and cost-efficient digital governments. In 2024, the GovTest team is looking forward to extending the range of demos and reusable assets on offer. Visit the Sandbox to learn more and start using the GovTest sandbox!
GovStack provides a global knowledge hub for digital e–government, supporting countries on their digital transformation journeys. We offer tools, support, strategic guidance and communities of practice. Throughout 2023, we have ramped up efforts to make it easier for technologists and government officials to build and implement digital services. GovLearn is one key piece of this puzzle. In addition to the Communities of Practice, we are building an online Knowledge Hub on Atingi where we will host 3 e-learning courses on the Information Mediator Building block, the Identity Building Block, and GovStack 101. The recent Women in GovTech Challenge was also built around Atingi, with lecture materials, videos, presentations, and quizzes available on the platform.
We built GovExchange to make it easier to follow a whole-of-government digital strategy by aggregating tools, products, use cases, and resources from the GovStack community and other trusted sources. Building on the SDG Digital Investment Framework, the Exchange connects building blocks, digital public goods, workflows, and use cases, and serves up supporting tools and resources. This year, we have continued to iterate and improve the platform with new features – specifically, the Vendor Storefront and the RFP Radar. These latest features make the platform a place where those in need of digital solutions can more quickly connect to products and service providers. It is our hope that this work will facilitate faster and smarter digital technology investments for governments.
In bringing together both GovStack developed resources, as well as helpful content from across the digital public infrastructure ecosystem, we hope to empower government technology users with the information they need to do their jobs better.
Visit the Exchange to explore digital government products, find use cases, and more.
GovStack works with countries to support the implementation of the building block approach to prototype government e-services. We offer a range of service packages for countries depending on where they are in their digital development journey, and we build on regional collaboration mechanisms to scale adoption. It is exciting to see increased interest year over year from countries all around the world.
In 2023, we worked alongside countries to advance their digital transformations with the following activities:
- In Egypt we hosted a 10-day deep dive with 150+ participants to define Egyptian needs and requirements and develop an implementation roadmap for GovStack adoption. Egypt is in the process of restructuring several of its government platforms to be more aligned with the building block approach – focused on interoperable and secure digital services – making them one of the key GovStack champions in the region.
- Rwanda: Rwanda has implemented with Irembo a citizen portal platform which uses the GovStack principles based on the service registry building block. The Irembo team is considering the extension of this platform using the workflow as well as consent management building block. In addition the Extended Producer Responsibility use case to enhance e-waste collection was identified for implementation using the combination of all aforementioned building blocks.
- Ukraine: This year saw the kickstart of the EU-wide tender for the development of a GovStack compliant prototype of their Diia.Engine. It was also an honor to welcome Valeriya Ionan, Deputy Minister for Digital Transformation in Ukraine, to Berlin. During her visit, Miss Valeriya emphasized the significance of the collaboration between GovStack and the Ministry of Digital Transformation of Ukraine.
- Papua New Guinea: In their commitment to providing inclusive, efficient, and high-quality service delivery to enhance citizens’ interactions with government agencies, Papua New Guinea is developing its digital identity framework using the GovStack Identity building block as a reference.
Under the Initiative for Digital Government and Cybersecurity (IDGC) in the Horn of Africa – a Team Europe approach together with Germany, France, and Spain co-financed by the European Union and the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ):
- Dijoubti: GovStack is supporting the implementation of an e-cabinet and the digitization of construction permits to foster efficient information sharing. The service design process has been completed successfully for both use cases and an open call for digital products was launched to complement the Djibouti stack.
- Kenya: We hosted a 3-day GovStack roadshow with 100 participants from across government and the private sector.
- Somalia: Together we identified 2 national priority use cases for prototyping, including the digitalization of high school certificates and the adoption of an open-source content management system (CMS) to host their government services portal and unify the experience of citizens in accessing digital government services.
GovStack Regional Collaborations allow us to expand our presence in countries working in regional initiatives:
- Central Asia and Caucasus Countries: Kazakhstan, a digital leader in this region hosts the Regional Cooperation to leverage awareness raising and peer to peer learning within nine countries – Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, and Turkey.
- Latin America and the Caribbean: GovStack is present in this region through the work of the Latin American Network for the Development of eGovernment (RedGEALC) serving 26 member states of the InterAmerican Development Bank as part of the public software working group agenda.
- Smart Africa: GovStack experts actively participate in the working group formed to develop the eHealth blueprint of the African Region.
With each country, we have worked together to narrow in on priority use cases for digital service work. We are in the process of designing services for 3 completed use cases: e-cabinet, construction permits, and case management. In addition to the countries where we already work, we hosted 14 introductory training sessions to introduce the GovStack approach in countries like Senegal, India, and Laos as well as via founding partners regional events, like the ITU Regional Development Forums, GIZ GovTech Campus gatherings, Estonia Technical Communities Gatherings, and Digital Impact Alliance DPI awareness activities.
Our biggest learning in working with countries in 2023? Countries learn best from each other!
In 2024, we are looking forward to advancing full-fledged use case development, deep dive trainings, and even a hack-a-thon in the Horn of Africa. In Egypt, we will continue capacity development measures on the whole-of-government approach and open-source products for the digital ecosystem into 2024. We will be working with Ukraine to finish the prototype and add it to the GovTest sandbox, and in Rwanda we expect to launch the Content Management and Consent Building Blocks.
After a consultation process with the Digital Government Academic Community, the GovStack Research Strategy was published end of 2023. Following this strategy, we published 2 research papers in the Applied Human Factors and Ergonomics and the Affiliated Conference held in July. Dive into our research:
We here at GovStack are passionate about enabling human-centered digital services that empower individuals and improve well-being. And gender is a key axis for inclusivity. We believe it is imperative to consider a gender-responsive intersectional lens when conceiving, designing and deploying digital public services. That’s why we published a whitepaper laying out the tools, approaches, and best practices for designing gender-inclusive digital public services. Read the v1.0 of the whitepaper The Design of Inclusive Digital Public Services with an Intersectional Gender Lens and lend your feedback and expertise to this important conversation.
As we work to align the global community around common standards for digital public infrastructure, we want to promote and uplift those countries who are leading the way. That’s why we were so excited to award the first-ever GovStack WSIS Special Prize for Digital Service Design. With over 50 award entries, it was a difficult task to narrow down the top 10 finalists. We were honored to award the top prize to the e-Governance Agency of Moldova for their Front-Office Digitization Framework. For more on real-life service scenarios, check out the 13 Digital Leaders Spotlights and the 9 global showcase case studies published this year.
Additionally, in 2023 we launched the Women in GovTech Challenge– which includes 139 participants from 5 continents. The program will build the skills and competencies needed for creating digital services, as participants work to launch a real digital government service using the building block approach.
In 2024, we are looking forward to amplifying and evangelizing the GovStack Framework. We hope to get the framework in front of even more global experts to refine its usefulness and application to real-world challenges. To accomplish this mission, we plan to organize the first-ever GovStack Global Event, co-organized with the global digital government ecosystem.
Join us in 2024
GovStack’s mission is ambitious – to empower public and private organizations to make the most of the digital world by providing them with the tools and knowledge needed to successfully scale the digitalization of public services. We are proud to pursue this mission alongside a community of experts from all over the world.
Moving into 2024, we invite the global community to come along for the journey with us. Join our mailing list to receive our quarterly newsletter with updates across our many areas of work, plus opportunities to get involved.
Ready to dive in head-first? Review and contribute to the GovSpecs.