Government digital services and children: pathways to digital transformation

Report by UNICEF and United Nations University (UNU-EGOV): “Digital technologies continue to change the dynamics of our economies and societies and, in so doing, have the potential to alter the character of modern government permanently. The ‘digital revolution’ has come with the promise of improved governance and more inclusive and responsive service delivery and there are now many public websites, digital platforms and applications through which governments inform and assist citizens using information and communication technologies (ICT).

A central tenet of the transition to e-government is the digitization of public health, education, social and identity management services offered by national and local governments. Digitization in these areas is undertaken to expand service access to the public and, in particular, to traditionally underserved groups. The 2020 United Nations E-Government Development Index finds that 80 per cent of 193 United Nations (UN) Member States now offer some digital content or online services for youth, women, older people, persons with disabilities, migrants and/or those living in poverty.

While these services are increasingly common in the 21st century, they have become essential during the global COVID-19 pandemic — not least, for children and families. Amidst the digital transformation of government, technology has an increasing impact on a child’s ability to enjoy the benefits of public health care, education and welfare initiatives, and the COVID-19 pandemic has now brought the potential — and challenges — of digital services for children to the fore of policy planning discussions. As a result of school closures in over 190 countries and the suspension of many vital face-to-face services, more than two-thirds of countries have introduced a national online learning platform for children during the pandemic, leading to a re-examination of the efficacy of these services for continuity of learning.

Despite this, there is surprisingly little systematic exploration of the discourse and practices that ensure that
e-government services can advance and protect the rights of children and young people…(More)”.