The issue of transparency regarding public sector procedures has become especially relevant during these tough economic times. To achieve it, governments have turned to technology to expose their agendas — often going online to offer reports and information to show constituents how taxpayer money is being spent.
In Puerto Rico, central and municipal agencies have begun steering toward “putting it all out there,” but there is still much work to be done to reach a place where everything is public.
“We believe the time has come for the government to see beyond getting through the day-to-day operations and look more toward becoming more open, more transparent, when it comes to showing what they are doing to the public,” said Leandro Fernández, solutions director of business intelligence for software applications developer Oracle Inc.
As part of this mission, Fernández participated in this year’s Oracle Day event held last week, during which he spoke to public sector officials about how the government should go about modernizing and optimizing its systems.
“We’re working on that with local government agencies, which so far have concentrated their efforts on the operational part,” he said. “We’re basically now telling them that they can now start to incorporate solutions at a number of agencies that can make important impacts on the way they deal with the public.”
For example, he mentioned the Education Department and the Office of Management and Budget as two central government agencies that have a large enough target audience that could benefit from being able to access information online.
“The truth is that creating a ‘big bang’ in the government sector regarding technology adoption is a bit complicated,” Fernández said. “We’re realists and we know that it will take time for the different agencies to adopt technology, but what’s important is that they become aware of their needs, their goals and know the direction in which they should go.”
During an interview, Fernández mentioned the example of the strategy implemented by the City of New York, after Michael Bloomberg took office in 2001. Back then, he said, the city was carrying out many initiatives that citizens had no idea about, leading city officials to begin defining those areas they believed constituents would want to know about on a daily basis.
“He then published those key processing indicators online, showing taxpayers that it was no secret how they spent public money,” the Oracle executive said, adding that while the case of New York is among the most notable, other jurisdictions have done the same, as is the case with Massachusetts.
Over the past decade, Puerto Rico’s central government agencies have taken significant steps toward offering online services, particularly making it easier for people to access electronic versions of documents required to complete given processes. The same goes for the larger municipalities, such as Caguas and Bayamón, which have also adopted the Internet as a productivity tool.
However, the fact remains that Puerto Rico still has significantly low islandwide computer usage and Internet access levels, which pose a challenge for getting more people to go online for services.