Commonwealth Secretary-General highlights importance of SMART governance for closing the digital divide

This week, the Commonwealth Secretary-General, Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC, spoke at the Management Development Institute (MDI) in New Delhi India, about the importance of closing the digital divide and utilizing strategies such as SMART governance.

The Secretariat is exploring with MDI the possibility of setting up a Commonwealth Hub for the Business of Government to help promote SMART governance across Commonwealth countries. While delivering a speech on the theme “Smart Governance for SMART Commonwealth – From Vision to Implementation” at the MDI Gurgaon campus, Patricia Scotland, Commonwealth Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, said:

“In the Commonwealth, only 18 per cent of people living in low-income countries have internet access, compared to 85 per cent in high-income countries. This digital divide continues to limit the potential of countries. Better access to broadband internet through cheaper rates and public access and achieving 50 per cent penetration across the Commonwealth would raise members combined national income by $74 billion to $263 billion. SMART Governance is the process of utilizing modern technologies and ICT to ensure a collaborative, transparent, participatory, communication-based and sustainable environment for citizens and governments. We will work with MDI as a hub for good governance in Commonwealth countries.

“I believe that together we can narrow down, if not eliminate, the digital divide across Commonwealth countries,” Scotland said.

The Commonwealth Secretariat has launched an online training programme on performance management for member governments. The training is designed to boost efficiency and improve delivery of public services – crucial to the welfare of all citizens but especially the marginalised and vulnerable in a post-pandemic world.

For this, the Commonwealth Secretariat has developed a proprietary software called SMART (Strategic Management and Accountability Results Toolkit) as a tool for implementation of an effective Government Performance Management System (GPMS).
Commonwealth Secretary-General The Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC, speaking at the Management Development Institute (MDI)

Commonwealth Secretary-General, the Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC, speaking at the Management Development Institute (MDI).

Scotland said that Commonwealth countries are rich in diversity.

“We have advanced economies and developing countries. We have some of the largest countries and some of the smallest,” she said.

But, she said, many of these countries suffer from digital divide and implementation divide, adding that South-South cooperation is needed to bridge the twin divides – digital divide and implementation divide – across the Commonwealth.

“The underlining causes for poor governance are mostly common across governments. The good news is that countries have successfully dealt with these (few) underlying causes using remarkably similar approaches” the Secretary-General said.

Digitisation of trade

She also called for digitisation of trade among Commonwealth member states.

“Digitisation of trade is our top priority. Acceptance of digital trade documents will improve intra-Commonwealth trade,” Scotland said.

She described the importance of India for the Commonwealth as “absolute”.

Pointing out that, of the 2.6 billion people in the Commonwealth, 1.3 billion are in India, the Secretary-General said: “India has made many of our member states believe that change and development are possible.”

Promoting good governance

Earlier, while introducing Scotland to the audience, Prof. Prajapati Trivedi, Distinguished Professor at MDI Gurgaon and Commonwealth Secretary General’s Special Envoy for SDG Implementation, underlined what good governance means to the Commonwealth.

“A government that delivers what it promises is what we call good governance,” Prof. Trivedi.

Earlier, while welcoming Scotland, Rajnish Kumar, Chairman of the MDI Board of Governors, said that when it came to quality governance, “there is a huge gap”.

“We are celebrating the 50th year of Management Development Institute,” Kumar said. “We believe that as far as public policy is concerned, we want to be a think tank and contribute as much as possible. We are happy that the Commonwealth has chosen MDI to be its partner in its initiative.”

Given that public policy and governance have become areas of utmost importance in today’s world, MDI Gurgaon launched the Post Graduate Diploma in Management – Public Policy and Management (PGDM-PPM) in 2006. It was one of the earliest management schools to offer a management programme in the field of public policy. The PGDM-PPM programme seeks to enhance the sensibilities and capabilities of the participants to better manage public policy and systems as well as to make them understand the global trends and practices in these areas to allow exploration of innovative options and choices.

Apart from MDI Gurgaon, the Commonwealth has also joined hands with the IBM Center for the Business of Government, Washington DC, USA, to move forward with the setting up of the Commonwealth Hub for the Business of Government. This Hub will promote smart governance under the vision of SMART Commonwealth.

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