DIGITAL PARADISE

Dominican Republic 2017 | TELECOMS & IT | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Armando Garcia, Director of OPTIC, on the development of a national IT strategy, improving access to the internet, and bolstering transparency through technology.

What spurred the creation of OPTIC in 2004, and what was your role in the development of IT policy in the Dominican Republic?

OPTIC was created in September of 2004 when the government decided that a more concentrated effort was needed to direct the nation's communications and information technology. Its goal is to regulate telecoms and guarantee the development of information technologies. We use the UN's framework as a reference. One of the UN's main surveys was an e-government study conducted in 2016 that provides data that allows us to construct strategy and implement policies that will have the greatest impact in the Dominican Republic. Our overall strategy has succeeded in spurring e-services growth by more than 30%, including citizen services and tax services. The three main axes of our plan are citizen services, transparency, and participation.

How successful has PuntoGob been in allowing citizens to access public services, and what are the program's future plans?

PuntoGob is one of our most successful projects. It was designed in 2011 and implemented in 2012, and we estimate the program assists 16,500 Dominican citizens every month. This type of program has been implemented all across Latin America, especially in Brazil, and we are following the Brazilian model. Its main purpose is to enhance payment safety and reduce costs. Now, we have twelve different institutions providing 50 different services. We also plan to implement PuntoGob in Santo Domingo. We expect to have these completed in 2017.

What is the significance of allowing different government institutions to implement digital signatures?

We are pursuing two main goals in the area of digital signatures: creating a digital identity for every citizen and ensuring that public governmental services are as secure and fast as possible. The main objectives for the entire system will be to ensure and increase efficiency security, integrity, and speed. We are dedicated to reducing bureaucracy and transitioning to a paperless system. We want to cut costs across the institutions while ensuring that services are top notch. We believe that by moving to digital signatures we can boost the productivity of our citizens while reducing their dependence. We also wish to increase transparency and reduce instances of abuse. We are dedicated to service consolidation across the government, and we think digital signatures will play a key role in achieving this. OPTIC aims to become the certifying institution for all digital signatures by 2017. Avansi is one of the main private agents participating in the implementation of this project. They are a Spanish firm and are acting as a consultant on all aspects of the project. Currently, another institution that is authorized to provide certifications is the Chamber of Commerce and Production.

How does OPTIC contribute to the government's larger transparency goals?

We are the first country to have a regulatory framework around this issue in Latin America, and we belong to the association REDGEALC, an electronic government network in Latin America and South America, which includes 32 nations. This association provides a regulatory framework for our operations. One of our main efforts in terms of transparency is the NORTIC A2 best practice created in June 2013. This regulation assesses all governmental sites and was created in association with the DIGEIG. DIGEIG is a key achievement of the Medina government in its efforts to promote transparency. More than 100 governmental institutions are already certified. In order to receive this certification, an audit is performed. The most important criteria for passing this audit is the extensive use of best practices in all sites. More than 150 institutions have been certified according to this ICT framework. These standards are comprehensive, and institutions that pass have enacted a large number of changes. Additionally, NORTIC A3 will be even more responsive to the needs of the open government partnership.

What is OPTIC's vision for how the government should use technology to improve public services, transparency, and efficiency?

We consider online services to be a priority, particularly within the framework of the República Digital program. We want to increase customer satisfaction, boost institutional efficiency, expand the country's economy, expand the use of technology in public resources, and make governmental services and actions far more open and transparent. This will improve citizen trust. We want to have this transparency change the way citizens view their government, hopefully increasing their satisfaction and participation.

How will the current reforms transform the Dominican Republic, and what is your vision for Dominican society in the medium term?

In the medium term we are going to create the full field of conditions necessary to reach all citizens, bridging the gap between the most tech-savvy citizens and the least. We aim to make social networks more accessible to all citizens, and we believe the República Digital program will lead to greater levels of social inclusion. One of our other main goals is education, and we want to install broadband connections all across the country. Productivity is also key and we strive to increase it in every arena. As already mentioned, we also hope to make public services more accessible. The main long-term goal is to bring technology to every Dominican citizen, giving them the resources to access every governmental institution and thereby improving their lives.

What are OPTIC's main objectives and goals for 2017?

We hope to continue ensuring that open and transparent government prevails, and that digital technologies play a key part in this process. The continued implementation of the existing regulatory framework is of paramount importance as well. We want to facilitate the creation of a data center, because over 80% of public Dominican institutions need assistance in data management. This centralized governmental assistance is key. Another goal is to totally implement digital public services. And the final goal is opening another PuntoGob in Santo Domingo, so we can consolidate public services and streamline the interaction between citizens and the government.