South Korea tops OECD Digital Government Index

By on 07/02/2024 | Updated on 07/02/2024
Photo by Ethan Brooke via Pexels

South Korea has topped the OECD Digital Government Index for the second time, with Denmark, the UK, Norway and Australia completing the top five.

According to the report, published last week, the Digital Government Index “assesses the efforts made by governments to establish the foundations necessary for a digital transformation of the public sector that is coherent and human-centred”.

The average score across OECD countries is 0.605 (on a scale of 0 to 1), with Korea achieving the highest score of 0.935 and Costa Rica the lowest, at 0.224.

The Index assesses digital government maturity across six ‘dimensions’ – digital by design; data-driven; government as a platform; open by default; user driven; and proactiveness – and considers strategic approach, policy levers, implementation, and monitoring for each of these.  

The 10 highest ranking countries – which include Estonia, Colombia, Ireland, France and Canada in 6th to 10th places – score in excess of 0.655 and are noted for their balanced performance across the six areas measured.  

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Flexibility, interoperability, governance  

The report notes that while the majority of member states are making great strides in public sector digitalisation, governments need to be more flexible and future-orientated “to capture the benefits of digital transformation while mitigating its risks”, and that achieving this requires greater interoperability, integration and collaboration across sectoral boundaries, levels of government and national boundaries.

It cites governance arrangements that can adapt to a rapidly changing digital environment as key to a solid foundation on which to build sustainable and long-term digital transformation, along with infrastructure such as digital identity and data sharing systems.

And it recommends that digital strategies set a “common vision and objectives” for the whole government and account for the capabilities needed to deliver quality public services.  

The OECD also acknowledges that governments are operating in a demanding and evolving digital environment but warned that while most governments intensified their efforts to digitalise during the COVID-19 pandemic, “it has become clear that accelerating the digitalisation of the public sector does not automatically lead to better outcomes”.

Oversight mechanisms, openness, and AI  

Among key findings, the report highlights that governments need to enhance the mandate and oversight mechanisms of governance arrangements to yield greater impact; that countries should prioritise enhanced data access and sharing in the public sector; and that while digital identity for accessing public services is available in most countries, further actions are needed to enable cross-sector use.

It also finds that comprehensive governance mechanisms to efficiently manage spending on digital government are not widely available across OECD countries; that members need to go further in fostering a culture of openness; that ensuring services meet users’ needs is a primary objective for governments but is not always reflected in concrete practices; and that countries could use data more effectively to anticipate user needs and provide proactive services.

On artificial intelligence, while countries have made “significant progress” in establishing strategic approaches for its use in the public sector, “they could make better use of the technology to improve government efficiency, effectiveness and responsiveness by better aligning implementation efforts with the relevant policy tools”, it said.  

Five countries omitted  

The 2023 Digital Government Index includes 33 of the OECD’s 38 member countries. Germany, Greece, Slovakia, Switzerland and the US were not ranked due to lack of relevant data.

The latest version is the first published since the Index was piloted in 2019. Though the same methodology was used in both the 2019 and 2023 Indexes, the results cannot be compared directly due to changes to the survey through which data was collected.

According to the OECD, the Index is designed to serve as a resource for policymakers to support reforms in the digital transformation of government to “increase productivity, enhance government services and improve people’s lives”.

The rankings in full

  1. South Korea
  2. Denmark
  3. The United Kingdom
  4. Norway
  5. Australia
  6. Estonia
  7. Colombia
  8. Ireland
  9. France
  10. Canada
  11. Portugal
  12. Finland
  13. Iceland
  14. Lithuania
  15. OECD average
  16. Spain
  17. Latvia
  18. Czech Republic
  19. Turkey
  20. Italy
  21. Poland
  22. Luxembourg
  23. Netherlands
  24. Austria
  25. Belgium
  26. Mexico
  27. Sweden
  28. New Zealand
  29. Slovenia
  30. Israel
  31. Hungary
  32. Japan
  33. Chile
  34. Costa Rica

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About Mia Hunt

Mia is a journalist and editor with a background in covering commercial property, having been market reports and supplements editor at trade title Property Week and deputy editor of Shopping Centre magazine, now known as Retail Destination. She has also undertaken freelance work for several publications including the preview magazine of international trade show, MAPIC, and TES Global (formerly the Times Educational Supplement) and has produced a white paper on energy efficiency in business for E.ON. Between 2014 and 2016, she was a member of the Revo Customer Experience Committee and an ACE Awards judge. Mia graduated from Kingston University with a first-class degree in journalism and was part of the team that produced The River newspaper, which won Publication of the Year at the Guardian Student Media Awards in 2010.

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