WSIS Forum 2017 will be held from 12–16 June 2017 in Geneva, Switzerland. More info.

ICT-Based Cost and Burden Reduction in Public Administration and Service Delivery

United Nations University Operating Unit on Policy-Driven Electronic Governance (UNU-EGOV)


Public service delivery is challenged! Amplified by demographic and economic challenges national, regional and local authorities with limited resources face ever increasing demands for service.

Increased use of IT and technology can contribute to a solution. Estonia has estimated annual savings of up to 2% of GDP by introducing digital IDs and signatures. Denmark expects to save up to € 400 million annually by eliminating paper forms and paper mail. EU calculations show that the reuse of basic government data can create up to 2% GDP growth, while reducing bureaucracy in the Netherlands has led to a socio-economic benefit equivalent to 0.9% of GDP. However, there is a risk in cost reduction within public administration leading to increased administrative burden on citizens and businesses.

The challenge is two-fold: to ensure that ICT facilitated cost savings are harvested over time, and simultaneously minimize the burden for citizens and businesses.


Simplification of rules, digitization and bureaucratic reduction may release public resources to address demographic challenges, provide universal services and create a supportive business environment.

The benefits of digitization can be divided into three general categories:

  • Cost savings, e.g. less time spend and lower financial cost;
  • Quality improvements, e.g. easier, faster and more equitable access to public services; and
  • Job creation and economic growth, e.g. lower administrative costs for the private sector.

Benefits may be accrued by citizens, businesses and the public sector itself.

Generally, savings from ICT investments are measured within the public sector. The reason is that socio-economic and qualitative measurements are resource-intensive, uncertain and complicated. Return on investment and business case calculations therefore focus on ICT and burden reduction projects where, as a minimum, a positive business case can be guaranteed within the public sector.

Benefits incurred by citizens and businesses are thus regarded as something "extra" that is not necessarily measured. However, there are cases where economic and social gains are measured, for instance less bureaucracy and faster service delivery, making it cheaper to run a business and easier to be a citizen.

Objective and format of workshop

The primary objective of the workshop is to discuss and identify potential solutions to three key questions:

  1. How can we facilitate administrative burden reduction in diverse service areas and settings without transferring the burden from the public sector to the end user? 
  2. How do we ensure the realization of ICT-enabled cost-savings within the public sector without generating additional costs and burdens on the end user?
  3. What are the key challenges and tradeoffs, e.g. political, legal, organizational, capacities, resistance to change, lack of vision and fragmented approach, for ICT-enabled cost and burden reduction within the public sector?

The workshop will combine an introduction with presentations of cases (evidences) and discussion on the potential of ICT-enabled cost and burden reduction in public administration and public service delivery.


Tomasz Janowski, Head, UNU-EGOV

Speakers / panellists
  • Morten Meyerhoff Nielsen, UNU-EGOV and Tallinn University of Technology Ragnar Nurkse School of Innovation and Governance.
  • Kenneth Bagarukayo, Commissioner Information Management Services, Ministry of Information and Communications Technology, Uganda.
  • Maria Inés Baqué, Secretary of Public Management and Innovation under the Ministry of Modernization of Argentina Republic
Link to WSIS Action Lines
  • C1. The role of public governance authorities and all stakeholders in the promotion of ICTs for development
  • C2. Information and communication infrastructure
  • C7. ICT Applications: E-government
  • C10. Ethical dimensions of the Information Society

ICT-enabled cost saving and burden reduction in public sector service delivery is linked to a number of WSIS Action Lines. The 40 years of ICT use within public administration has not necessarily led to the realization of the efficiency and effectiveness gains that were originally envisaged. The role of public authorities and stakeholders in the promotion of ICT for development (Action Line C1) must therefore be examined. The aim is to ensure that ICT infrastructure (Action Line C2) and ICT applications that support public service delivery (Action Line C7) lead to real, measurable and realized cost and burden reductions for authorities, businesses and not least citizens, delivered in a transparent, equitable and ethical manner (Action Line C10).

Link to the Sustainable Development Process
  • Goal 8: Promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all
  • Goal 9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
  • Goal 16: Promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies

ICT enabled cost and burden reduction in public service delivery supports the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda in a number of ways.  First, cost savings and productivity growth within the public sector may release resources to promote other development goals (Goal 8). Second, efficient and effective use of ICT in the back-office combined with administrative burden reduction help promote just, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all (Goals 8 and 16). Third, ICT-enabled public sector is an essential part of a resilient infrastructure, which can promote sustainable industrialization and foster innovation in the private sector and civil society (Goal 9). 

WSIS Forum 2016 | WSIS Action Lines: Supporting the Implementation of SDGs
2–6 May 2016, International Telecommunication Union (ITU), Place des Nations, 1211 Geneva, Switzerland