New America

Hardwiring Institutions for Progress: Open Source Digital Governance Platforms

Public administration

Government operating systems need an upgrade. The creation and distribution of open source digital governance platforms will power a new generation of effective institutions worldwide.

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Project Summary

Most nations rely on institutions designed in the 19th century and technology developed in the 20th century to solve the challenges in the 21st century. The results are predictable. Governments are losing $7 trillion each year due to corruption, tax avoidance, and improper payments. Institutional dysfunction underlies a broad range of societal challenges and has emerged as a primary driver of popular anger.Digital governance platforms have proven their ability to address these challenges with astonishing results, delivering unprecedented improvements in accountability, efficiency, transparency, and trust. New America’s proposal builds on the successful deployment of digital governance platforms in Estonia, India, the Republic of Georgia and West Virginia to build and deploy eight open source platforms addressing core government functions ranging from benefits and revenue management to citizen participation. Together, these 'institutions-in-a-box' will be the core of an integrated, customizable government operating system for institutions worldwide.

Problem Statement

In 2015, the World Economic Forum reached a stark conclusion: “If you want to predict the prosperity of a country, just look at its institutions.” An exhaustive analysis of over a hundred variables showed that the effectiveness of public institutions had a powerful relationship with outcomes across a broad range of development indicators. A similar joint initiative by the OECD and New America identified improving governance and the rule of law as the most critical priority among all the 169 SDG targets. The Edelman Trust Barometer survey shows that roughly 80 percent of citizens worldwide feel the system in their country is not working for them [1]. Growing frustration with the seeming inability of government institutions to meet the needs of citizens is emerging as a potent driver of popular anger. Failures in the public sector also carry major financial, administrative, and human costs. The U.S. Treasury Department makes $144 billion in improper payments annually, and the United Nations estimates annual global losses due to malfeasance, corruption and tax avoidance total $6.6 trillion[2][3]. The inefficiency of public institutions also imposes serious hardships on individuals and families. In Puerto Rico, over 60% of requests for hurricane assistance were denied due to the inadequacy of public records to support claims [4]. Historically, there were few options for pursuing system-wide improvement in the performance of public institutions outside of political reform. Digital governance platforms can now transform the way institutions serve hundreds of millions of individuals at a time.

Solution Overview

The public sector globally is suffering from a deficit of trust. New America is working with strategic partners and a coalition of government and technology leaders worldwide to build a solution: digital platforms to power 21st century governance. From extending digital benefits in New York City and increasing voting accessibility in West Virginia, to safeguarding land records in the Republic of Georgia and promoting worker rights in Mexico, we have a proven track record of strengthening institutions and enabling governments to serve their citizens more effectively [5][6]. New America will expand these and other digital government services to new jurisdictions eager to participate. In addition to creating technology platforms, the initiative is building the superstructure of knowledge, networks, and best practices necessary to deliver governance platforms successfully to hundreds of millions of users.In jurisdictions that adopt digital governance platforms, the benefits are far-reaching and profound. After creating its world-class e-governance system, Estonia -- with a population of only 1.3 million -- estimated that its citizens saved the equivalent of 800 working years annually. Accidental deaths in the country fell by more than half. Similar results in the U.S. would translate into over 200,000 working years and thousands of lives. New America will utilize established statistical and survey methodology developed by the World Bank, OECD, and Gallup to measure the success of its solutions.

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Project Funders

  • Rockefeller Foundation

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