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This article analyzes the process of digital transformation of public services in the Brazilian federal government. Based on survey research with 85 organizations of the Brazilian federal government, 1740 public services were raised. These services were analyzed based on different factors that explain why a public service is digitizes. Based on this survey, we discussed the transition from a theory of e-government to a theory of digital transformation in governments, listing limits related to the institutional factors of choices in public policies. Evidence for Pratice: • Digital transformation does not produce a homogeneous and coherent process of public service digitization. • The strategy of digitizing public services depends on the policy area, type of public service delivery and process factors. • Coordination mechanisms need to be put in place to ensure greater coherence and effectiveness of the digital transformation process. The use of information and communication technologies in government is not exactly new. They go back to broader institutional and political trajectories. Currently, they are applied in the provision of public services, modifying the relationship between governments and society. The use of new technologies implies a revision of service processes, a centrality in the user of the service and the constitution of results oriented in the improvement with the adoption of technologies.
Digital Transformation and Public Services Delivery in Brazil
This article analyzes the process of digital transformation of public
services in the Brazilian federal government. Based on survey
research with 85 organizations of the Brazilian federal government,
1740 public services were raised. These services were analyzed based
on different factors that explain why a public service is digitizes.
Based on this survey, we discussed the transition from a theory of e-
government to a theory of digital transformation in governments,
listing limits related to the institutional factors of choices in public
Keywords: e-government; digital transformation; public services;
digital governance; digitization.
Evidence for Pratice:
Digital transformation does not produce a homogeneous and
coherent process of public service digitization.
• The strategy of digitizing public services depends on the policy area,
type of public service delivery and process factors.
Coordination mechanisms need to be put in place to ensure greater
coherence and effectiveness of the digital transformation process.
The use of information and communication technologies in government is not exactly
new. They go back to broader institutional and political trajectories. Currently, they are
applied in the provision of public services, modifying the relationship between
governments and society. The use of new technologies implies a revision of service
processes, a centrality in the user of the service and the constitution of results oriented in
the improvement with the adoption of technologies.
If the use of information and communication technologies change the relationship
between government and society, it also changes the relationship between society and
government. Digitalizing or reducing user touchpoints with bureaucracy and reviewing
processes to create machine-mediated self-services have revolutionary potential for
governments. The adoption of digital transformation policies allows new forms of
mediation and institutionalization of practices that represent a window of opportunity to
promote greater inclusion and greater efficiency and effectiveness for service delivery.
However, it is necessary to understand that digital transformation takes place in processes
of institutional change, where choices and decisions are made based on different
preferences of the actors. This choice process creates coordination problems, different
prioritization, and incoherent and unequal processes of change. Digital transformation is
not unharmed by this process. This article understands that the governance of digital
transformation matters, in order to create a coherent policy with a direct impact on the
redesign and improvement of public services.
In the first section of the article, we deal with the theory of e-government and digital
transformation. In the second section will be discussed the case of Brazil, observing the
trajectory of the digital transformation policy adopted by the Brazilian federal
government. In the third section we deal with the methodology of the survey that analyzed
1,740 services provided by the Brazilian federal government. In the fourth section we
present the research findings and, in the end, we discuss these findings based on the
process of digital transformation of public services.
Digital transformation, bureaucratic reform, and delivery public services
The construction of e-government has been revealed as a block of strategic changes in
bureaucracies. One of the fundamental objectives is to provide institutional changes and
new modalities of delivering public services to citizens and companies in order to improve
An e-government structure can change the service delivery, creating a network structure
for interconnectivity (Heeks, 2001), transparency (Anh & Bretschneider, 2011),
decentralization (La Porte, de Jong & Demchak, 2001). The concept of e-government was
established in the course of the 2000s, and has advanced in the perspective of
appropriation of new technologies for the provision of services and use of information.
E-government can be defined as the relations between governments and their consumers
- citizens, other governments and companies (Means & Schneider, 2000). It may also be
the use of technology to deliver services to users in full (Torres, Pina & Acerete, 2006).
This perspective is that the use of technologies defines e-government. The use of internet
applications can promote access to efficient service delivery (Brown & Brudney, 2003).
The concept of e-government addresses this issue from the availability of information
technology. It does not consider that the adoption of technologies and the adoption of
changes involves complex political choices that take into account different problems and
perspectives for the promotion of public policies and services. The adoption of digital
transformation processes of governments involves management choices, which are not
always linear or caused by technological factors (Janowski, 2015). Choices occur in
complex institutional contexts and involve bounded rationality and multiple uncertainties
(Simon, 1991, Jones, 2002), which should not be disregarded in the process of digital
The development of new information and communication technologies in governments
is not explained by the deterministic patterns of available technologies (Fountain, 2001).
The availability of information and communication technologies is a necessary but not
sufficient condition for the digital transformation process to follow. The choices by digital
transformation processes do not stem from the availability of technologies, but from
institutional processes that delimit and organize the choices of agents (Fountain, 2007).
Institutional changes to building digital governments have promoted potentials to
revolutionize public administrations (Margetts & Naumann, 2010). Digital technologies
provide new platforms that change the logic of public services (Dunleavy, Margetts,
Bastow, Tinkler, 2007). Bureaucratic reforms are based on a new model beyond New
Public Management. The proposed institutional changes construct a new pattern of
relationship between government and society. Institutional choices for the construction
of e-government impact the structure of the bureaucracy. But the bureaucracy also impact
the e-government structure.
E-government creates a process of change that challenges the structure of public services
in view of how they are delivered (West, 2004). A public policy of creating e-government
must account for the main barriers to its implementation, which include: (1) a culture of
risk aversion, typical of bureaucratic organizations; (2) legislative barriers; (3)
availability of resources to support the digitization process; and (4) the capacity of public
organizations to deal with process changes (Dunleavy, Evans, McGregor, 2016). New
modalities of relation between society and the bureaucracy, due to the action of e-
government, widen the margin of control over the State. E-participation modalities
promote control over government bureaucracy and broadens the instruments of
transparency and accountability (Ahn & Bretschneider, 2011).
The view that the availability of technology explains the adoption of e-government fails
to disregard the institutional factors of choice of agents. Even if an information and
communication technology is available, it will not necessarily be chosen or adopted by
governments (Balutis, 2001, Bannister & Connolly, 2011). The choices are driven by
broader institutional factors, circumscribed from a public policy perspective. These
choices face bureaucratic barriers to change, legislative difficulties, characteristics of the
services provided, preferences and personal features of target audience, and resilience of
institutional actors. Digital transformation is embedded within institutional choices,
where actors' preferences matter when digitizing and reviewing service processes and
public policies.
However, changes and processes of digital transformation have occurred, transforming
public organizations (Foley & Alonso, 2009). The results obtained from this perspective
have resulted in incremental gains to public organizations, but without changing the
broader social outcomes (Weerakkody & Dhillon, 2009, Norris & Reddick, 2013, Brown,
2015). There have been important changes to the adoption of digital public services and
the increase. But the impacts of e-government on the organizational transformation of
public administration are relatively poor and loosely defined (Nograsek & Vintar, 2014).
The advance of the literature on the relationship between the use of technologies in
government has advanced from the perspective of e-government to a perspective of digital
transformation (Bertot, Estevez & Janowski, 2016). The perspective of addressing the
issue of the use of technologies in government has advanced to consider the institutional
factors and the role that relevant actors have in the construction of policies. From this
perspective, the adoption of technologies in public services and public policies is a more
complex process, considering the institutional factors (Tassabehji, Hackney & Popovic,
2016). The changes promoted in the process of digital transformation need legitimacy and
are subject to changes of routes that can promote institutionalization,
deinstitutionalization and reinstitutionalization. In this sense, the availability of
technologies interacts with broader institutional factors that explain the success or failure
of digital transformation. (Weerakkody, Omar, El-Haddadeh, Al-Busaidy, 2016).
Changes and the adoption of digital transformation processes also depend on capacity
dynamics to promote impact on the change of services (Pedersen, 2017). Capacity
dynamics are resources - human, technological and political - that explain how
organizations integrate and promote changes in their competencies (Teece, 2007).
Dynamic capacities are structures that move the appropriation and diffusion of new
technologies in government, constituting leadership for the digital transformation of
public services (Pedersen, 2017).
The institutional choices on digitization of public services determine the digital
transformation of government. It is necessary to consider that the process of digital
transformation of public services is neither linear nor deterministic by the available
technology. Technologies and institutional processes interact in order to compose a
complex framework of digital transformation (Fountain, 2001). The digital
transformation is composed of a variability of the process of change that produces greater
or less efficiency of the digitalization of services. Institutional actors with decision-
making powers over the process of digital transformation of public services can make
choices about which services will be digitized and which will have the processes
The explanations founded in the literature on digital transformation observe the structural
factors of the transformation agenda. Understanding the process of digital transformation
in governments can have analytical gains if we consider the factors that explain the
process of policymakers choices for the digitization of public services.
Some questions emerge to explain the process of digital transformation of public services:
(1) Differences in institutional capacity and autonomy impact the digital transformation
of public services? (2) Is the digital transformation of public services impacted by the
policy area to which the service refers? (3) Do delivery categories impact the choice of
agents to digitize a public service? (4) Does the fact that service users pay fees, service
delivery time, and the need for systemic integration between organizations impacts
managers' decision to digitize public services?
In the next section will be trated the case of Brazil and the long process of digital
transformation of public services.
The case of Brazil From E-Government to Digital Transformation
Initial efforts of informatization of Brazilian public administration began in the middle of
1960. The pace and direction of informatization varied among different organizations, in
a disintegrated and not articulated way (Brasil, 1998). During 1990`s some iniciatives of
informatiozation were implemented, they were mainly focused on horizontal systems
dedicated to internal necessities of the federal government, as the system for processing
and controlling civil servants` payment and the unified registration for government’s
Besides those efforts, the strategy of building digital government in Brazil began in 2000.
The initial problem that motivated the construction of e-government policies was the issue
of internal changes in the state bureaucracy in order to adopt changes in the framework
of structuring systems. Initially, the strategy of building the digital government had many
difficulties regarding the problem of society's access to digital media (Ruediger, 2002).
Digital exclusion was at the moment one of the main challenges. There was no deliberate
strategy of digitizing public services, but a concern for the infrastructure availability in
This initial strategy sought to consolidate a pattern of infrastructure and investments and
changes in the legal framework. The current strategy was not necessarily aimed at the
citizen, but at changes in the patterns of public governance and bureaucratic reforms
(Cunha & Miranda, 2013). The creation of the Department of Electronic Government in
2004 came to meet needs regarding standards of system interoperability, creation of
communication networks and the organization of the National Electronic Government
Program. In addition, the changes began a process of transformation of public governance
with the adoption of mandatory use of electronic public procurement and the creation and
diffusion of institutional models of e-government (Medeiros & Guimarães, 2006).
In this context, the strategy was successful, providing improvements in ICT infrastructure
in government and creating the first legal frameworks that institutionalized e-government
in Brazil. The results obtained improved the infrastructure conditions. However,
strategies in technology investment have not been accompanied by changes in the
structure of the supply of public services. Citizens' interactions with bureaucracy
remained analogous, despite high technological availability. Government portals were
poorly accessible, poorly accessed, and contained less inclusive languages. These portals
were distant from reality and undemocratic with respect to concern for citizens (Pinho,
This process was only modified with the Citizen's Decree of 2009. The Citizen's Decree
was a first attempt to modify the processes of interaction between users and the
bureaucratic structure of public services. Without necessarily involving technological
changes, the Citizen’s Decree established that the public service should require the
reduction of document requirements and certifications to users. The Citizen’s Decree also
established that the government should be the provider of information, and should use
electronic means to access the information.
The Citizen’s Decree initiated the transition from an e-government perspective to a
perspective of digital transformation. The National Electronic Government Program was
extinguished and, at first, the problem was the constitution of open government. Brazil
joined the Open Government Partnership (OGP) in 2011 and began a process of greater
availability of open data. At the moment, the effects of the Brazilian electronic
government occurred in order to modify the elements of transparency and accountability
(Filgueiras, 2016).
At the moment, the provision of e-government in Brazil has been to promote broader
political participation strategies through the internet. Several experiments were carried
out in Brazil, providing new modalities of political participation (Sampaio, Maia &
Marques, 2010). Brazilian e-government has also provided new modalities for public
deliberation, such as the constitution of Portal. These initiatives of
participation and deliberation modified institutional elements of Brazilian democracy,
also expanding the margins of political conflict (Mendonça & Ercan, 2016).
Another important innovation was the adoption in 2014 of the Civil Law of the Internet.
This law seeks to regulate the neutrality of the internet and establish principles and
parameters for users, to protect the privacy of individuals. It established clearer regulatory
frameworks for the Internet in Brazil, creating parameters for the issue of electronic
identity, which is fundamental to the process of digitizing public services.
The process of digital transformation in Brazil will only gain shape after 2015. Firstly,
with the constitution of the Public Services Portal of the Federal Government. This portal
brought together all digital services in one place, making it easier for citizens to search.
Language has become more accessible and the focus has ceased to be the tecnologic
availability to be the service`s users.
The constitution of this portal in 2015 took place along with the More Simple Program,
in order to promote the review of processes and facilitation for the user of public services.
In addition, a National Strategy of Digital Governance was created, creating the
managerial mechanisms necessary to promote the service digitization process, new
operating rules and coordination of the entire process of digital transformation.
Figure 1 - Timeline about Digital Transformation in Brazil 2009-2017
- E-GOV Policy
- Executive
Committee of
- Information
Society Program
- Government
Network Portal
- Electronic
- Public Access
Infrastructure -
ICP Brazil
- Comprasnet
- Subcommittee of
the Brazil Gov
Network within
- ICT Resource
- Digital
Certification and
of administrative
- Rules and
guidelines for
Federal Public
- Restructuring of
CEGE Technical
Committees and
attribution to the
Ministry of
Planning for
support to the
- New guidelines
for the e-GOV
- Department of
- Standards of
Interoperability in
- Communications
Network Infovia
- Transparency
- Electronic
Model (eMag)
- Mandatory use
of electronic
- Institutionalized
- National
Program for
Management and
- Digital Inclusion
- Evaluation
Survey of Services
with the
Methodology of
Indicators and
Metrics of
- Brazilian Public
Software Portal
- eMAG required
for all public
- Evaluator and
Simulator for Site
- Web Standards
- Portal of Federal
- National Spatial
Data Infrastructure
- IN SLTI 04 - IT
- General
Strategy (EGTI)
- National Agenda
for Public
- INFOVIA Brasil
- Citizen Decree
- National
Program of
- First Research of
- Public Software
- Interministerial
Committee and
National Open
Action Plan
- Evaluation of E-
Services and E-
- Freedom of
Information Act
- National
Infrastructure of
Open Data
- Brazilian Portal
of Open Data
- Methodology
and Management
of Software
Process Project
- Data
communication in
- Digital Cities
- Digital Identity
of Government
- Internet Civil
Law (Marco Civil
da Internet)
- Public Services
- More Simple
- National
Electronic Process
- Electronic
System (SEI)
- National Strategy
of Digital
- Decree n ° 8.638
/ 2016 - Digital
- Decree No.
8.777 / 2016 -
Open Data Policy
of the Executive
- Decree n ° 8.789
/ 2016 - Data
- Decree n ° 8.936
/ 2016 - Digital
- Decree No.
9,094 / 2017 -
Simplification of
the service
provided to the
user of public
- Law n ° 13.460 /
2017 - Public
Services Law
Source: Own ellaboration.
Based on the National Strategy for Digital Governance, institutional parameters were
created for the process of transforming services and creating a public policy focused on
digital transformation of government. The National Strategy for Digital Governance
established mechanisms for coordination among the different organizations of the Federal
Government of Brazil, and the Civil House
has this role. The coordination role was
established to generate political support for the digital transformation strategy. The
National Strategy for Digital Governance also established responsibilities, and the
Ministry of Planning, Development and Management is responsible for the execution of
digital transformation with the availability of resources for this process. The
implementation of digital transformation policy was centralized in the Ministry of
Planning, Development and Management, in order to establish greater policy coherence,
systems interoperability and facilitation for the various organizations to review their
processes and digitize services.
In the year 2016 this coherence was strengthened with Decree 8638, creating public funds
for the process of digital transformation. Likewise, this digital transformation process
should ensure not only the system infrastructure, but also strengthen the Federal
Government's open data policy and establish a Digital Citizenship Platform
( The Digital Citizenship Platform raises and maps the public
services delivered by the Federal Government, establishing the processes and facilitating
the citizen access to these services.
In 2017, Decree 9094 was approved, which strengthened the redesign of processes and
the facilitation of public services with a user focus. And finally, the framework of the
process of digital transformation of the Brazilian government was Law 13460, which
established principles and rules for the participation, defense and protection of the rights
of users of public services in Brazil.
Law 13460 brought an important public innovation framework in Brazil. Not only for
strengthening the policy of digital transformation of the Brazilian government, but for
focusing all this process on the user of public services. The strategy is no longer the
constitution of e-government to be the process of digital transformation. The essential
feature is the focus on the user, more accessible languages, accessibility through mobile
technologies and facilitation of the entire process chain.
Civil House is na organization inside the Presidency, dedicated to advisory, coordination and
monitoring strategic policies for the president`s agenda.
The problem of digital transformation in Brazil is no longer that of available technology,
but a problem of public policy. The coordination role and centralization of the digital
transformation process facilitated the reach, scale and speed of this process. The first step
for the digital transformation policy in the Brazilian federal government was the
production of a survey of all public services, mapping the responsibilities, the target
audience, the touchpoints of each service in the interaction between users and
bureaucracy, costs, processes and types of deliveries.
The process of digital transformation involves institutional problems of choice. The
decision as to which public services are to be digital is impacted by different factors, such
as the policy area, the types of deliveries made and the beneficiary. These choices produce
unequal results in the process of digital transformation. They make some policy areas or
factors related to the types of delivery favor or not the transformation of services, reducing
the coherence of the digital transformation policy.
The next section of this article will deal with the analysis of the findings made with the
survey of 1,740 public services provided by the Brazilian federal government among 85
organizations. The strategy is to delineate the factors that explain a public service to be
digital or not, in order to show factors of institutional choices for the process of digital
The research is based on a survey with public managers responsible for the
implementation of each of the public services provided by the Brazilian Federal
Government. First, it is necessary to understand the public service concept adopted, in
order to specify the selection criteria of the public services that would compose the
For the purpose of this research, the concept defined in Decree 8,936, which considers
the public service as "action of the organs and entities of the federal public administration
to meet, directly or indirectly, the demands of the citizens and companies regarding the
exercise of rights or the fulfillment of duty ".
It is understood, therefore, that the delimitation of the field searched did not contemplate
the totality of the public services provided by the Federal Government, but those related
to the "exercise of right or the accomplishment of duty". For this reason, this survey did
not include services rendered internally in federal agencies, which relate, for example, to
the management and operation of the public administration, such as maintenance of
computer equipment, personal department routines, procurement processes and others.
Another aspect considered for the delimitation of the concept in this research is referring
to the public user of the services. Taking into account the recipients or beneficiaries,
public services are classified in: (1) - general or indivisible services (uti universi), which
are diffuse, indivisible services that are provided to every community, in a way universal
and indeterminate, such as street lighting and public cleaning; (2) - individual or divisible
services (uti singuli), which are services in which the final users or beneficiaries can be
identified, whether individuals or corporations, in addition to being able to measure,
individually , the use of such services.
Thus, by the nature and purpose of this research, the second category of services - the
individual or divisible ones - grounded part of the design of the concept for the survey. In
order for the mapping of services to be effective, it was necessary that the interaction
stages between the final user and the administration were identified, and the procedures
involving this interaction were standardized. For this reason, public services of
fundamental importance to Brazilian society such as free visitation to museums or other
cultural spaces (which do not require scheduling or prior registration) were not covered
by this research, because they constitute the delivery of a good of a comprehensive nature
that, although essential, do not have an individualizable character.
It is also important to clarify the category of public services and their attributes. While
public services, in general, can be understood as actions of the public administration to
meet the demands of society, regarding the exercise of rights or the fulfillment of duties,
the public services are, in turn, "standardized processes that carry out the delivery of a
product or benefit to a user, directly or through intermediaries, from one or more
interactions between public authority and users."
For the purpose of this research, public services that meet the following requirements,
specified in Table 1:
Table 1. Criteria for the Selection of Public Services in Survey
Standard and governance
Source: Own elaboration
The public services that comprise this research must possess seven attributes. Failure to
comply with one of these attributes would, in principle, make it impossible to include a
service in this survey. As examples, protocols and queries can be cited. Although they are
relevant activities and involve several of the attributes listed, they do not have the attribute
of sufficiency. They constitute a of the stages of a service - and not the public service in
its entirety, according to the conceptual delimitation adopted in this research.
This survey was answered by all public managers responsible for the implementation of
public services. The collection instrument was sent to these managers and the data
collected and revised with institutional support from the government. The collection was
performed using a standard instrument between March 16, 2017 and November 30, 2017.
This survey reached a total of 1,740 public services, distributed among 85 organizations
of the Federal Government, according to the Table 2:
Table 2. Federal organizations according to government area
Economy and Enviroment
Ministry of Finance
Securities Commission
Private Insurance Superintendence
Ministry of the Environment
Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources
Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation
National Water Agency
Botanical Garden Research Institute of Rio de Janeiro
Ministry of Tourism
Brazilian Institute of Tourism
Ministry of Industry, Foreign Trade and Services
National Institute of Metrology, Quality and Technology
National Institute of Industrial Property
Ministry of National Integration
Superintendence for Central West Development
Superintendence for the Development of the Amazon
Superintendence for Northeast Development
Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply
Ministry of Planning, Development and Management
National School of Public Administration
Foundation Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics
Institute of Applied Economic Research
Ministry of Defense
Osorio Foundation
Ministry of Justice
Administrative Council for Economic Defense
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Alexandre de Gusmão Foundation
Civil House
National Institute of Information Technology
National Press
Secretary of Government
Ministry of Transparency, Inspection and Comptroller General
Advocacy-General of the Union
Central Bank
Secretariat of the Patrimony of the Union
Navy Command
Army Command
Department of Federal Police
Department of Federal Highway Police
Ministry of Science, Technology, Innovation and Communications
National Commission of Nuclear Energy
National Telecommunications Agency
Brazilian Space Agency
National Council for Scientific and Technological Development
Ministry of Mines and Energy
National Agency of Petroleum, Natural Gas and Biofuels
National Department of Mineral Production
National Electric Energy Agency
Ministry of Transport, Ports and Civil Aviation
National Civil Aviation Agency
National Waterway Transportation Agency
National Land Transportation Agency
Ministry of Cities
Brazilian Center for Physical Research
Center for Strategic Technologies of the Northeast
National Institute of the Atlantic Forest
National Institute of Technology
National Institute of Semi-Arid
National Laboratory of Astrophysics
Mineral Technology Center
Ministry of Culture
National Library Foundation
Casa de Rui Barbosa Foundation
Palmares Cultural Foundation
National Arts Foundation
National Film Agency
Brazilian Institute of Museums
Institute of National Historical and Artistic Heritage
Ministry of Education
Coordination of Improvement of Higher Education Personnel
Joaquim Nabuco Foundation
National Institute of Educational Studies and Research Anísio Teixeira
Ministry of Health
Oswaldo Cruz Foundation
National Health Surveillance Agency
National Agency of Supplementary Health
National Health Foundation
Ministry of Labor and Social Security
Jorge Duprat Figueiredo Foundation of Safety and Occupational Medicine
Ministry of Social Development
National Institute of Social Security
Ministry of Human Rights
Sport Ministery
National Institute of Education of the Deaf
Source: Own elaboration
Data and indicators
Taking into account the 1,740 public services provided by the Brazilian federal
government, the stages of digitalization are varied. Of this total, 15.6% present no
digitization, with all touchpoints between users and bureaucracy performed personally.
Of the total of 1,740 public services, 8.8% present only one informational stage of
digitization, meaning that there is a portal with information about the service, but
touchpoints are made in person. The percentage of 44.1% of the public services present a
stage of partial digitalization, having in the process some touchpoint realized with the
support of digital medium, but being the delivery realized personally. Of the total of 1,740
services, 24% are digital services, where touchpoints and bureaucracy are carried out
digitally. Finally, 7.4% of public services are self-service. By self-service we consider
that the user obtains the service delivery without any touchpoint mediated by the
bureaucracy, depending only on the digital medium.
The digitization stage composes the dependent variable of this study. In the findings
reported below, through a logistic regression, this dependent variable was reduced to a
binary variable. When the digitization stage is self-service or digital, it was considered as
digital, receiving the value 1. When the digitization stage is none, partial or informative,
the assigned value was 0. Independent variables comprise a set of characteristics typical
of public services. These independent variables aim to characterize the factors of public
managers' choices for a public service to be digital or not, making it possible to identify
which factors explain the process of digital transformation.
The manner of execution of the service, the areas of activity, the type of delivery, the
collection of fees, the average time for service delivery, the type of identification of the
users and the capacity and autonomy of the organizations impact in what form the choice
managers to digitize public services? The estimated impact makes it possible to identify
the institutional factors of choices that inform the process of digital transformation.
Considering the 1,740 services pointed out by the managers of the 85 organizations of the
Brazilian federal government, 74.6% of these services are executed by the organization
itself. In 21.8% of these 1,740 services are executed in partnership with other
organizations, which may be public or civil society organizations. Finally, 3.6% of these
services are fully implemented by other organizations.
Graph 1. Form of Execution of Public Services
Source: National School of Public Administration, Survey on Public Service of Federal Government, 2018.
Another question raised in the survey was the framework of services in the different
policy areas. The services were categorized according to the product of the service to the
user, in order to understand the diversity of the organizations' performances in deliveries
to society. According to graph 2, below, the main area of activity concerns education,
with 8.5% of public services, followed by the Administration and Public Management
area, with 8.3%. It is important to stress that the area of public administration includes,
above all, the issuance of documents, certifications and authorizations, responding for
essential services rendered to citizens, companies and to the public administration itself.
The service is fully implemented by
own organization
The service are executed in part by
other organizations
The service are fully implemented
by other organizations
Graph 2. Policy Area of Public Services
Source: National School of Public Administration, Survey on Public Service of Federal Government, 2018.
Another relevant data to understand the supply of public services is the type of delivery
that is carried out by the different organizations of the public sector. These types of
delivery seek to frame the different types of services rendered, in the different areas of
activity, by the Brazilian Federal Government. According to graph 3, below, the main
delivery performed by the Brazilian federal government is the issuance of permits and
licenses. Approximately one-third of the public services provided are in this type of
Administration and Public Management
Research, Science, Innovation and Technology
Commerce and Services
Agropecuary, Extractivism, and Fishing
Economy and Finance
Social Assistance
National Defense
Justice and Public Security
Foreing Affairs
Human Rights
Work and Jobs
Graph 3. Types of delivery of Public Services
Source: National School of Public Administration, Survey on Public Service of Federal Government, 2018.
Of the total of 1,740 public services, 28.9% have fees. Of the total of 1,740 public
services, 29,3% take from 1 to 15 days to be delivered, 22,8% take from 16 to 60 days to
be delivered, 9,2% take from 60 to 120 days, and 15.2% of services require more than
120 days to be delivered to the user. In addition, 73,7% of these services require some
sort of systemic integration. Finally, public services require different forms of user
identification, and in 9% of cases, no user identification is required, in 44.8% of services
the user depends on a self-declaration, in 38.1% of cases the user needs to present original
document, in 7.7% of the cases the user must present digital signature and in 0.4% the
user depends on biometric identification.
Finally, we include data on the capacity and autonomy of the organizations that
implement the services. Capacity is the degree of professionalization of the bureaucracy
of each organization that implements the services. And as autonomy the degree of
freedom of the organization with respect to the possibility of political interference and
forms of patronage and clientelism in the implementation of public policies and services.
The capacities of governments are neither homogeneous nor linear. They vary according
to institutional trajectories in the various organizations that make up the Brazilian
government. Some are "islands of excellence" and others are subject to capture by forms
0,00% 5,00% 10,00% 15,00% 20,00% 25,00% 30,00% 35,00%
Authorizations, licences, permits, certification
Registration and documents
Support and Technical Assistance
Obtaining Benefits
Promotion and Financing
Taxes and Other Contributions, or Reduction of
Rates, Contributions and Credit Rules
Assistancy, Individual Reception, and Couseling
Mediation and Conflict Resolution
of patronage and corruption that undermine the quality of the public service (Bersch,
Taylor & Praça, 2016). The data on the capacity and autonomy of the organizations were
extracted from the research conducted by Bersch, Taylor and Praça (2016).
The data presented above intend to compose a set of characteristics of the public service
provision, associated with basic organizational characteristics that explain why a public
service is digital or not. The next section looks at the findings of the research, discussing
the process of digital transformation of public services in Brazil.
The results are derived from the use of a logistic regression model, according to table 2,
below. Based on the descriptive data listed above, the dependent variable is the
digitalization stage of the public services provided by Brazilian Federal Government
organizations. For the purposes of analysis, the dependent variable digitization stage was
aggregated into a binary variable, with the value 1 for the "self-service" and "digital"
categories and 0 for the "partially digital", "informative" and "none" categories.
The model resulted consistent and coherent, with a Nagelkerke R Square of 0.474. This
consistency makes the logistic regression model predictions robust, with a high degree of
explanation. The procedures adopted make it possible to understand the dynamics of
choices that explain the fact that a service is digital or not. Organizational capabilities,
autonomy, policy area, types of deliveries, whether or not fees are charged, the average
service delivery time and identification processes impact on whether a public service is
digital or not?
Table 3 Logistical Regression Determinants of Digitization of Public Services
Exp (B)
Own Execution
Area Social Work
Area Administration and Public
Area Agropecuary,
Extractivism, and Fishing
Area Commerce and Business
Area - Communications
Area - Culture
Area National Defense
Area Human Rights
Area Economy and Finance
Area - Education
Area - Energy
Area - Sports
Area - Housing
Area - Industry
Area Justice and Public
Area - Environment
Area Research, Science, and
Area - Pensions
Area Foreing Affairs
Area - Sanitation
Area - Health
Area Work and Jobs
Area - Transportation
Area - Urbanism
Delivery Support and
Delivery Assistancy, individual
reception, and counseling
Delivery - Registration and
Issuance of Document
Delivery - Promotion and
Delivery Training
Delivery - Mediation and Conflict
Delivery - Obtaining
Authorizations, Licenses,
Certifications and Qualifications
Delivery - Obtaining Benefits
Delivery - Taxes and Other
Contributions, or Reduction of
Rates, Contributions and Credit
Are there any user charges?
How long, on average, does the
user need to wait to receive the
service after the moment of the
first interaction?
Identification [Identification not
Identification [Identification by
means of self-declaration]
Identification [Identification by
original document]
Identification [Identification by
digital signature]
Identification [Identification via
biometric conference]
Integration [Yes, the service
requires integration with Federal
Executive Branch systems]
Model Summary
-2 Log
Cox &
Snell R
Nagelkerke R Square
a. Estimation terminated at iteration number 20 because maximum iterations has been reached. Final solution
cannot be found.
Classification Tablea
Percentage Correct
Step 1
Overall Percentage
a. The cut value is ,500
The results presented make it possible to present these factors that are part of the
governance of the digital transformation of public services, due to the centrality of process
changes and the adoption of technologies that are centered on the user.
Capacities and autonomy
The logistic model presented above did not find a significant impact of institutional
capacities and autonomy for explanimg public service digitization in Brazilian federal
government. The capacities influence little if we consider that in the Brazilian case the
process of digital transformation is centralized and coordinated by an organization, with
political delegation to carry out the digital transformation of services. Capacities and
institutional autonomy may be key factors in the process of accelerating digital
transformation, but they do not necessarily imply efficiency gains and service centricity
from the citizens` perspective.
Theoretically, capacities are important for the process of change, sustaining
transformations in services with a perspective of greater efficiency (Pedersen, 2017).
However, in the case of Brazil, capacity are not decisive for a service to be digital or not.
Choices for digital transformation depend on institutional processes of change, which can
include or exclude services according to a set of preferences of public managers. The
process of prioritizing the digital transformation of public services can answer different
questions, without necessarily referring to the greater or lesser capacity of the
Digital transformation policies, such as Brazil's, can be implemented centrally, without
depending on the characteristics of different organizations. Likewise, the fact that the
service is executed by the organization itself or in partnership with other organizations is
neither significant nor has an impact on the digital transformation strategy.
Policy area
The digital transformation of services varies according to the policy area, presenting
different dynamics with regard to the choices of which services will be digital or not. The
areas of public administration and management, commerce and business, economy and
finance have respectively 76.8%, 78.3% and 71.8% more chances of having their public
services transformed into digital services. The area of justice and public safety is twice as
chances to present digital public services. The health and transport sectors are,
respectively, 100.2% and 105% more chances to have digital public services. These areas
presented the best performance in the digital transformation process.
On the other hand, some areas presented an inverse performance. The human rights area
reduces the chance of a digital public service by 66%. The energy and industry sectors,
respectively, reduce the chances of a public service to be digital by 51% and 67%. Finally,
the welfare area decreases by 64% the chances of a public service being digital. The other
areas did not present significant indicators.
The policy areas presented variations regarding the adoption or not of digital
transformation strategies. Policy areas can have a distinct impact on service digitization
Type of delivery
Another characteristic of the model is to present the variation of the types of deliveries in
the strategy of digital transformation. The types of deliveries can positively or negatively
impact the fact that a public service is digital or not. When delivery is a taxes and other
contributions, reduction of rates, contributions and credit rules, there will be 2.37 times
the chances of a public service being digital. The explanation for this may be the
government's preference to digitize these services to improve tax collection, to ensure a
data use that enables the collection and processing of debts of citizens and companies.
This type of delivery will be preferred for the digital transformation process.
On the other hand, support and assistance services, individual reception and counseling,
obtaining authorizations, licenses, certifications and qualifications, training and obtaining
benefits present inversely proportional indicators. That is, the chances of public services
that make these types of deliveries to be digital are significantly lower. The government's
preference is to digitize the area whose delivery is relative to the collection of taxes and
Timing, fees, provision and identification
Some process characteristics of the public services impact the proposal of digital
transformation. The fact that the delivery of the service is linked to the payment of the
charge fee by the user negatively impacts the chance of the service being digital. That is,
if there is a charge, the public service provided has a propensity of not being digital. This
choice stems from the fact that the fees charged for the delivery of the service compose
the cash of the organizations, making them prefer to digitize services where there is no
such charge.
In terms of how public services are provided, if direct by the organization or by other
organizations, the model did not show any statistically significant difference. It does not
matter which organization provides the service for the digitalization process.
Another relevant factor is the average service delivery time. It does not significantly
impact the fact that a public service is digital or not.
Another factor is the user identification. User identification is required in much of the
public service delivery process. User identification is a factor of choice for the digital
transformation process. When the identification is not carried out, it is done by means of
self-declaration or with the presentation of original documents, the chance of the public
service being digitized is increased.
Finally, when the service depends on the integration of systems, it is concluded that this
integration is not significant for a public service to be digital.
Conclusion and Policy Consequences
The digitization of public services has shifted from a conception of e-government and the
availability of technology to a conception of digital transformation. The construction of
digital public services is not a process dependent on available technologies, but on
institutional processes that relate more to the service process than to the available
technology itself. The area, types of delivery, timing, fees, provision and user
identification processes impact institutional choices for whether a public service is digital.
Digital transformations of public services depend on institutional processes that may be
varied preferences for digitization. These preferences denote choices for certain services
to be digitized and others not. Analyzing the case of Brazil, the predictors for a public
service to be digital or not are different.
The capacities and autonomy of different organizations do not explain the fact that a
public service is digital. In the case of Brazil, the governance of the centralized and
coordinated digital transformation process in high political authority meant that
digitization occurred in a variety of ways among federal government organizations. In
this process, institutional choices have been directed to services in which delivery is a
collection of taxes and fees, and for services that charge fees for delivery. Institutional
choices have also driven the digitization process differently in policy areas.
The governance of digital transformation can have significant impacts on the structure of
public services. But it is necessary to understand the processes of institutional choices
and prioritization, with the centrality in the user of the services. In the case of Brazil, the
governance of digital transformation presents clear preferences by policy areas and types
of delivery. A comprehensive and homogeneous digital transformation strategy is not
feasible. Factors of choice interfere in how public services can be included or not in the
digitization strategy.
The process of digital transformation is heterogeneous and is impacted by different
factors of choice. Digital transformation is fragmented and inconsistent, not dependent
on the capacities of organizations so that the use of technologies promotes changes in the
structure of services delivered by the government. The process of digital transformation
does not necessarily result in governments as platforms, but in differentiated, inconsistent
and incomplete processes that can promote inclusion or exclusion. Although there are
political structures for coordinating digital transformation policy, the result, in the case
of Brazil, is a fragmented and highly differentiated process.
Theoretically, further reflection is needed on the process of digital transformation,
shaping policies that are capable of creating coherence, coordination and homogeneity of
the process of digitization of public services. Digital transformation demands policies that
promote greater integration and institutional arrangements that can create coherence.
Future research should address more qualitative aspects of the digital transformation of
public services from the perspective of the user. In addition, it is necessary to know
processes of digital transformation in a comparative perspective, in order to explain
different trajectories by which this policy can be implemented. Institutional choices have
a different impact on digital transformation policy, favoring or creating barriers to the
digitization of public services.
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