In brief

Since the turn of the 21st century, Uruguay has focused on bringing mobile and internet technology to its citizens. The country’s Digital Agenda is one of the tech success stories of Latin America.

The challenge

In the mid-2000s, the Uruguayan government saw the need to improve and increase the country’s mobile and internet coverage.  It viewed this as an opportunity to transform the state and strengthen the relationship between government and civil society.

The initiative

The government met the challenge by developing a new digital policy, the Digital Agenda for Uruguay (ADU). [1] It is a multi-stakeholder agreement between representatives of government, academia, the private sector and civil society organisations through a National Council for the Information Society.

The vehicle for achieving this agenda was the Agency for the Promotion of the Electronic Government, Information and Knowledge Society (AGESIC). Its website was created in 2006 and the agency officially began operations in July 2007. It established a number of information society objectives: equity and social inclusion; civil participation; state transformation; fostering education; innovation and knowledge generation; and domestic and international integration.

The public impact

As a result of this initiative, there has been significant impact on citizens’ access to internet-enabled computers and mobile networks:

  • By 2010, the government – as part of its CEIBAL project – had distributed 380,000 laptops to schools, trained 18,000 teachers, created 280 free Wi-Fi areas in Montevideo and given 220,000 families their first computer.
  • There has been significant growth in Uruguayans’ internet access and usage overall, especially through two government initiatives: the universal access plan, which provides 1 GB of traffic per month at no cost; and the fibre-to-the home project, which by 2015 had supplied broadband to 20 percent of Uruguayan homes.
  • By 2013, Uruguay had 5.1 million mobile subscriptions (the third highest in Latin America after Panama and Chile), offered full mobile network coverage, and was the first Latin American country to implement a 4G LTE network.

In summary, it was the creation of the AGESIC in 2007 that provided the basis for Uruguay’s recent rapid progress in e-government.

Have an idea for a case study? Print

What did and didn't work

All cases in our Public Impact Observatory have been evaluated for performance against the elements of our Public Impact Fundamentals.

Legitimacy

Stakeholder Engagement Strong

The multi-stakeholder ADU is strengthened by the following types of diversity:

  • All the stakeholders are involved in the orientation, implementation and monitoring of the ADU through the National Council for the Information Society.
  • Several governmental agencies, such as the National Telecommunications Administration (ANTEL), Ministry of Education and Culture (MEC), National Bureau of Civil Service (ONSC) and AGESIC combined to launch the National Plan for Digital Literacy.
  • UNESCO plays a major role as an observer of the process as an international entity auditing the approval process and development of the Open Government Plan. UNESCO participates in the regular meetings of the Working Group and the organisation of the officers of Open Government Dialogue.

Political Commitment Good

The government took a principal role in framing the action plan, making the government portal, and setting up the National Plan for Digital Literacy in order to support the ADU:

  • The Action Plan for Open Government in Uruguay, which was drafted by the government, supplements the strategy established in the Digital Agenda 2011-2015.
  • There is a government portal that offers a complete organised guide for procedures and information about the Uruguayan state. It works as a gateway to every piece of information and procedure than can be found on the web pages of government offices and agencies.
  • The National Plan for Digital Literacy forms part of the macro-efforts of the country to universalise the access to and use of ICT. The agencies involved are: the National Telecommunications Administration (ANTEL), the Ministry of Education and Culture, the ONSC and AGESIC.
  • José “Pepe” Mujica, the president of Uruguay from 2010 to 2015, participated in the international e-government event ‘Towards an Integrated State’ in May 2011. He made a speech in which he publicly reiterated his presidency’s support of the e-government initiatives led by AGESIC and defended the principle of putting ICTs at the service of citizens.

Public Confidence Strong

There has been a huge support from the general public of Uruguay for the CEIBAL project, which is a part of the ADU programme:

  • The CEIBAL Project aims at introducing ICT in primary public education. A positive aspect of the CEIBAL Project is that people see it as part of a public policy aimed at digital equality, untainted by politics. Over 92 percent of people in Uruguay think that the project allows children to come in contact with the world, while more than 85 percent see it as a form of enhancing their children’s future. [2]
  • Support has been enormous, with civil society launching initiatives to support the plan on a voluntary basis through initiatives like the CEIBAL Support Network (RapCEIBAL).

Policy

Clear Objectives Good

The scope of the objectives has been widened since 2007 and has been clarified over time. Earlier versions of the ADU programme focused primarily on setting up the necessary infrastructure to achieve further goals, while the third phase of ADU (2011-2015) emphasised offering direct and concrete benefits to citizens.

Evidence Strong

The ADU programme had the support of stakeholders, who were responsible for each objective, while a number of tests and pilot projects were also launched:

  • Trialling the paperless office – there has been an extensive introduction of electronic files to test the ADU programme before its launch.
  • Piloting the interoperability of different operating systems.
  • Key stakeholders such as the Ministry of Industry, Energy and Mining and the National Telecommunications Directorate were consulted regularly on their objectives.

Feasibility Good

The programme benefits from both public support and significant development financing, which has enabled it to invest heavily in digital projects:  

  • It is a countrywide commitment, agreed with the public and private sectors, as well as with academia and civil society.
  • The programme is set to cost about US$40 million, and was financed with an investment loan of US$35 million from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and a Uruguayan contribution of US$5 million.

Action

Management Strong

A strong mechanism is in place to monitor progress of ADU, with representatives chosen from different self-governing bodies making up the board of directors of AGESIC:

  • The organisational structure consists of an honorary board, six advisory boards, and the executive director. Under the executive directorate there are six operational areas: digital citizenship, organisations and processes, technology, operations, information security, and administration and finance.
  • Representatives from related social sectors join the boards of directors of self-governing bodies to contribute to management transparency. These representatives are elected through a secret citizens' ballot.
  • The IDB provides supervision missions and makes inspection visits.
  • At least one joint meeting is held each year between AGESIC and the IDB to discuss progress and future plans.

Measurement Strong

Various measurement functions, such as matrices, execution and evaluation plans, and progress monitoring reports are incorporated into the programme:

  • The Consolidation of the Observatory for the Information Society monitors and analyses trends that impact on the compliance of the Digital Agenda objectives.
  • The Project Management Office of AGESIC has effective mechanisms for assessing progress against the programme’s goals.

Alignment Strong

All the stakeholders - government bodies like the Tax Office, AGESIC and ANTEL, and NGOs like UNSECO - were strongly aligned with each other in meeting the objectives of the ADU:

  • There had been an investment of approximately US$140 million by the end of 2009.
  • More than 380,000 laptops were delivered, 2,000 schools and 250 public places offered free access to the internet and more than 18,000 teachers were trained, which shows that the government had the focus to promote the digital agenda in their country.
  • In November 2011, the Tax Office launched a new regime for the documentation of operations by means of the electronic fiscal receipt. [3]
  • Several governmental agencies were involved in the National Plan for Digital Literacy (see Stakeholder engagement, above).
  • In 2012, the knowledge society (SIC) was structured as a division of AGESIC under the Executive Directorate.
  • UNESCO promotes the use of ICTs in education through its Education and its Communication and Information programmes, creating an inter-sectoral platform.
Sign up to stay updated on news about our meetings, our insights and our other activities.
Back to top