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Transforming local authority organisation

Pillar 2

Adapt and digitalize local authority organization


Gradually modernise local public action following an iterative procedure: start with a pilot project, test and refine it, before replicating or extending it.

ICT can generate efficient tools for local management (administrative or operational) which may be inexpensive. The diagnosis performed at the outset must identify priority needs, existing capacities (human, technical and administrative), and lastly, easily accessible tracks for improvement.

Organise local administrative services for the transformation

Depending on the maturity of the digital sector on the territory and the local governance frameworks, a local authority may endow itself with a team dedicated to innovation and digital technology. Relying solely on the city’s IT department is a practice that has not proven successful, but the digital team should work closely with this department.

Several options for positioning the digital transformation in the organisational chart are possible:

  • confer innovation and digital transformation on the general services department or the general secretariat of the local authority: this solution has the advantage of ensuring political support for the process and guaranteeing leadership over the other departments. But a hierarchic approach to the change should be avoided as it disconnects the decision-making sphere from the realities of the staff at work;
  • create an innovation or digital department: the advantage is to procure a clearly identified department. However, this division must find its place in the organisation and ensure its interaction with the other departments to achieve a cross-disciplinary approach;
  • attach digital technology to the economic development department: private sector stakeholders, traditional or digital, will thereby be automatically involved, and the link assured between public authority and private sector. The internal transformation project could, however, be less well guided in this configuration.

Whatever the option chosen, the digital transformation must not remain in the hands of a single local government department. Political steering must also be conceived far upstream, to ensure each initiative is driven and validated by the elected representatives, in consistency with local policy as a whole. Similarly, the facilitation of the change process (informing and gathering contributions from staff) is necessary to elicit the uptake by everyone of the digital transformation project.

Suggestion box

Driving internal organisational change

  • Organise a creative day-long “sprint” that engages staff who volunteer to work as a “start-up” and submit digital solutions to be tested within the municipality.
  • Devote a small budget to having service providers develop services (applications, software) to test solutions that improve daily work practices.
  • Organise themed work groups (human resources, administrative procedures, land ownership, housing, planning, etc.) to arrange in a hierarchy the transformation actions to be undertaken.
  • Put in place a shared internal server to open municipal or local data to personnel.
  • Promote the use of digital applications for internal exchanges, meetings (collaborative platform, internal chat software, forum for sharing business line information, etc.).
  • Promote the use of digital applications for project management tools and budget programming.
  • Encourage people to join social networks and online groups, and define common digital communication rules for officers.
  • Symbolically reward the departments who improved in performance or efficiency thanks to the use of ICT.
  • Invite entrepreneurs, start-ups or universities to present their innovative methods and the possibilities afforded by digitalization.

Dematerialise local administrative procedures

The dematerialisation of administrative procedures is one of the promising aspects of digital solutions for public action, from e-administration to e-government. This is the internal facet of e-governance (Part B, 4th domain), which can improve the way local government works.


Dematerialisation of municipal procedures
Mexico, Mexico

A fruitful partnership between a town and a local NGO made it possible to initiate and train public servants for the digitalisation of procedures.

After creating a municipal service to modernise local public action and improve public management in 1990 (CGAM), the city of Mexico launched an e-administration initiative. In 2013, it was a question of dematerialising procedures, up till then a complex, non-standardised set of files on paper, infrequently updated, in order to:

  • reduce management expenditure (standardisation of procedures, no mobilisation of personnel);
  • improve service quality (avoid duplication, regular updates);
  • combat public service corruption (transparency).

PIDES Innovación Social developed the website and trained the local civil servants. This NGO composed of a dozen people, created in 2008, specialises in the development and application of strategies – digital in particular – in collaboration with the local authorities. The platform proposed by the CGAM is compatible with computers, telephones and tablet computers and was developed in two phases:

  • a period of in-house appropriation with the development of an electronic recording system for the procedures (Registro CDMX) and a procedures website (Tramites CDMX);
  • a period of opening of the platform to the general public.

Citizens can exercise control on the follow-up of their dossiers, submit official complaints about civil servants and access an electronic library concerning laws, regulations and other legal documents.

The development of a dedicated application for the electronic payment of taxes and duties (Treasury CDMX) is the next stage in change management and gradual opening of the process to the outside world.

Lessons learnt

  • In-house training and appropriation are necessary conditions for the successful digitalisation of the internal procedures of a local authority.
  • The partnership with a local specialist association allowed the municipality to implement a gradual change management strategy.

The dematerialisation of procedures leads to gains in efficiency for the local authority which can take several forms.

  • Increased revenue: extension of the tax base in informal neighbourhoods that are now inventoried thanks to digital technology; improved rate of tax and invoice collection thanks to online follow-up, etc.
  • Cost reduction: savings in paper, fuel, online archiving, etc.
  • Avoided expenses: reduction in loss and error rates and processing times, reduction in human cost through the optimising of tasks, reduced corruption, etc.

The overall aim is to improve administrative file processing time and quality. Whether for registry procedures, the monitoring of public calls for tender, paying taxes, automatic licence registration, the challenge is to gain in speed, reduce errors and be more transparent. This implies a change in the habits and procedures of the departments, hence the importance of supporting the public officers in this approach, right from the start and throughout the process. Defining simple impact and monitoring indicators could serve as an incentive to gain acceptance.

Suggestion box

Prerequisites and first steps of administrative dematerialisation


Mi Muni en Casa: online municipal services
Cartago, Costa Rica

An integral digital agenda combining a GIS GIS Geographic information system: system designed to gather, store, process, analyse, manage and display all types of spatial and geographic data for the administrative services and citizen dialogue platforms.

The city of Cartago implemented a digital strategy combining a GIS GIS Geographic information system: system designed to gather, store, process, analyse, manage and display all types of spatial and geographic data and an online municipal services interface. This municipal “integral digital agenda” combines two dimensions:

One of the first activities was the automation of the parking fine collection process in 2014. A mobile application and management software were combined to centralise tickets on the site. A team dedicated to continuous system updating was created in the municipality’s ICT department. The GIS was gradually completed with additional functionality for paying utility bills, real estate services, commercial leases, patents, etc.

The benefits are just as evident for users as for the municipality: time and money saved thanks to the online procedures and transactions; increased transparency via online account monitoring and the issuing of digital receipts; better detection of fraud and data manipulation in property declarations; better knowledge of tax payers and monitoring of bad payers.

The return on investment was swift. The whole GIS programme helped increase the municipal budget by 315% between 2006 and 2015.

Lessons learnt

  • The introduction of a multi-task GIS integrating the administrative data of several departments can be used to generate revenue for the municipality.
  • The municipality of Cartago set up a team dedicated to the digital transition to monitor the implementation of the local digital agenda.

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