Digitalisation has at times led to marked improvements for service users and providers, but the potential downsides have also frequently been evident. Key enablers of success relate to:
- The government: legal and institutional frameworks, the state’s technical capacity, digital public infrastructure, and political will.
- The user population: access to and familiarity with digital devices and networks.
- Wider infrastructure: networks of mobile and internet coverage, electricity and financial services.
In exploring different pathways, the paper’s framework distinguishes between innovations that relate to:
1) The development of core system architecture, through:
- The ‘traditional’ pathway - progressive digitalisation of pre-existing manual or in-person delivery systems
- ‘Leapfrogging’ - using novel digital approaches from the outset in contexts where traditional system architecture does not yet exist.
2) ‘Supporting technologies’: standalone components that can be added or removed without relying on, or interfering with, core architecture.
Ultimately, the digitalisation of the social protection system requires a long-term strategy to maximise potential benefits and mitigate risks and challenges. This strategy must also recognise that digitalising systems does not – and should not – mean digitalising provision for all users and in all areas of delivery. As in all aspects of digital government, in the pathway towards digitalising SPL delivery, technology should only be applied as a means to an end – with the end being better provision for service users – and not as an end in itself.