Project Management Institute

Mexico's Digital Shift

New Initiatives Are Making It an E-Government Leader

The cumbersome process to get professionally licensed for healthcare in Mexico used to be a driver for corruption, not to mention frustration. A doctor who misplaced a license had two choices: Halt the practice for six to 12 months to navigate a bureaucratic, paper-based system, or pay off an official and expedite the process—or maybe even secure a counterfeit.

But after the government's three-month project to bring that system online—connecting government databases with university records—the process of replacing a license can now be done in a matter of minutes.

It's one of numerous projects launched recently by the government to streamline its agencies and make life easier for both residents and businesses. As a result, Mexico ranks fifth in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's (OECD) latest open data policy ranking, making it a leader among its neighbors to the south and north alike. The United States, despite its greater resources, places 12th. Mexico is also a leader among countries with a GDP comparable to its own, ranking 55th in digital maturity among 151 countries studied by McKinsey.

img

A busy street in Mexico City, Mexico

ISTOCKPHOTO

Among Mexico's standout successes is the government's project to develop gob.mx, a one-stop online portal for accessing services from professional licenses to birth certificates. It consolidates 34,000 databases from 250 government institutions and 5,400 public services. The government has also launched a new digital payment system estimated to save the government US$1.27 billion annually on wages, pensions and social transfers. The nation has the second largest government-to-person payment system in the world, using electronic bank accounts with associated debit or chip cards to deliver payments.

Power Project

Strong leadership and commitment from the top made it possible to execute such projects quickly. This was particularly beneficial because some requirements were predicated on first changing existing government regulations, says Yolanda Martínez, who spearheaded the gob.mx initiative as the national digital strategy coordinator in the Office of the President of Mexico until late 2018.

“To be in the president's office gives you quick access to everyone that has decision-making power,” says Ms. Martínez, who is now based in Santiago, Chile.

The team was also empowered to take a broad view from the start, defining the common standards that all government agencies would be able to comply with. The team also defined necessary data security and privacy protections that future initiatives would follow.

To keep end users front and center, the team created several feedback loops during project execution to collect data and measure satisfaction from the website. “We were very interested in what the citizens were thinking,” Ms. Martínez says. Even if it nailed scope, budget and schedule, a project that didn't actually appeal to and work for Mexico's citizens wouldn't have been a success.

This Way Forward

While early digitization efforts have soared, the challenge ahead is ensuring progress continues. McKinsey predicts that further improvements in digital governance would boost Mexico's GDP by 7 to 15 percent—or US$115 billion to US$240 billion—by 2025.

The government has demonstrated a desire to seek outside input and gleaned lessons learned from other government leaders. When officials asked the OECD to review the country's progress on open data in 2016, it selected South Korea and France (the top two nations in the OECD's open data rankings) to be peers in that process to help identify ways for Mexico to improve.

“A country that does a review is a country that accepts the fact that there are areas that need to be strengthened,” says Barbara Ubaldi, digital government and open data lead, OECD, Paris, France. Ms. Ubaldi has worked closely with Mexico's central administration in its digitalization initiatives through her capacity at the OECD and, prior to that, the United Nations.

img

—Barbara Ubaldi, OECD, Paris, France

She says that by establishing open data laws and positions such as chief data officers across government agencies, Mexico has made progress in ensuring that digital governance outlasts shifts in political priorities and administrations. “It's a way of producing solutions that can't be undone,” Ms. Ubaldi says. “The fact that Mexico could count on the political leadership was essential, but they also understood that was not enough.”—Ambreen Ali

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI.

Advertisement

Advertisement

Related Content

  • Pulse of the Profession

    The Innovation Imperative

    Organizations must invest in building a culture—and project teams— that can turn cutting-edge ideas into reality, according to new PMI research.

  • PM Network

    Power to Change

    By Tayel, Jess Many organizations are undergoing (or will soon undergo) a business transformation program geared toward growth and creating a competitive advantage. When successful, these programs bring about a…

  • PM Network

    Fast Forward

    Organizations and their teams will have to adapt—and quickly—if they want to maintain their competitive advantage, according to PMI's latest Pulse of the Profession®.

  • PM Network

    Binding Authority

    There's no denying it: Change is constant. But there's fierce debate over who's best equipped to manage it: project managers or change managers. Some insist that project managers are the ideal…

  • PM Network

    Time Change

    Less might be more when it comes to workweeks. Organizations that have abandoned the standard five-day, 40-hour-a-week template in favor of an abbreviated work schedule are touting higher…

Advertisement