With funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) released its latest book, entitled, “Digital Revolutions in Public Finance,” at a launch event in Washington, DC on 7 November. The book, edited by Sanjeev Gupta, Michael Keen, Alpa Shah and Geneviève Verdier, captures the research originally presented at the Digital Revolutions in Public Finance Forum held during the IMF-World Bank Spring Meetings in April 2017, and focuses on the opportunities offered by digital transformation and the issues which must be confronted in implementing such initiatives in both developed and developing countries.
During the book launch, the panel made a clear distinction between the process of digitization, putting old processes online, and using technology to transform the processes (making life easier for governments, business, and individual citizens). With digitalization being the desired outcome, the book illustrates various government finance initiatives and best practices from around the world.
The book also covers significant technical issues, including appropriate digital signature and identity issues, as well as security concerns that complicate such initiatives. Of equal importance are policy, trust, and other cultural issues that will restrict or shape the nature of what can be accomplished in each country. For example, the way each country views privacy and the accompanying policies will likely limit what services technology will be allowed to provide. It was acknowledged that IMF consulting must include the technical aspects of modernization and how countries can set-up the preconditions necessary to enable the technology initiative to reach their potential.
It was also clear that NGOs, businesses, and citizen groups should work together with governments to ensure that digitalization policy, process, and technology issues are addressed in mutually beneficial ways.