As technology is transforming different economy sectors, government is not outside this trend. Thanks to entrepreneurs like Letícia Piccolotto, the Brazilian public sector is joining this transformation.
Letícia is the founder of BrazilLAB, a B2G innovation hub that accelerates solutions and connects entrepreneurs with public management. According to Letícia, digital transformation in public sector should impact user perception, public policy and society well-being, and also social, economic and financial indicators.
We talked about the creation of BrazilLab, challenges in Brazil that can be tackled with technology, examples of technology to modernize government, and more.
BayBrazil: Tell us about BrazilLab and what led you to found BrazilLab.
Letícia: BrazilLAB was founded in 2016, inspired on my vision of creating a more innovative and digital government in order to offer quality public policies to citizens in Brazil. Even though we now live in the 21st century, we face underlying challenges, such as illiteracy among the population, lack of public sanitation and high rates of child mortality when compared to other countries in Latin America. As much as this scenario might be daunting, I strongly believe that digital technologies represent a fundamental tool to tackle those issues. Therefore BrazilLAB mainly objective is to connect startups and the public sector believing that this synergy will result in improvements for both sides. Our main product is a program that accelerates, empowers and certifies startups so that these can support governments and serve citizens in a more effective way. In three years more than 600 startups applied for our program, 55 of them were selected and now 25% of our portfolio is already selling to the public sector.
BayBrazil: How bad is the lack of efficiency in the systems currently used by the Brazilian government?
Letícia: Nowadays, Brazil still faces challenges that are much similar to those existing during the 19th century, for instance, poor living conditions, inequality, bureaucracy and the lack of transparency in public institutions. Even though we have experienced many technological advances in public policies, we still have a long way to go in terms of fully adopting an innovative mindset. In other words, the public sector must change its rationality in order to understand the opportunities brought by the use of digital resources. Once this first step is completely surpassed, it is safe to say that the challenges faced by Brazil comprise 3 main issues: training public servants to fully use digital tools, reviewing bureaucratic processes so that they can better reflect the digital specifications, and, finally, involving citizens in the use of such technologies.
BayBrazil: Give us a couple of examples of technologies that can help to modernize the government.
Letícia: Technologies that are driven by the citizens’ needs are excellent examples of strategies to modernize the government for, at least, two main reasons: first, they often demand changes in the bureaucratic structure, therefore boosting changes that come from inside out. Second, these are fully enjoyed by the target group of the government, that is to say, its citizens, so that these policies have greater chances at becoming long-lasting initiatives. There are several strategies and tools that can be applied to multiple public policies in order to improve transparency, efficiency, control and the provision of concrete outcomes: data collection and analysis, identity information and authentication records of individuals, agile methodology, digital platforms and dashboards, management software and so on.
BayBrazil: How to evaluate the efficiency of a Govtech product, since in many cases it is not just money but also impact that counts?
Letícia: I would say that, when it comes to the public sector and its policies, the positive impact should be the main goal in all cases. It is also fundamental to state that such impact is not necessarily absent of quantifiable and observable changes, such as the ones found in the financial evaluations. Ideally, digital transformation should impact three domains: the user perception, the public policy and the society well-being. These can represent changes in more abstract areas, such as user satisfaction but, mostly, they bring impact to social, economic and financial indicators, for example, mortality, years of education, income, water sanitation and many more.
BayBrazil: Is there an agenda in Brazil to build a Govtech ecosystem receptive to startup providers?
Letícia: Recently, we have been witnessing the emergence of this agenda, but it is a recent and ongoing process motivated by the significant results experienced by states, municipalities and federal governments in Brazil. Therefore, it is safe to say that the government is eager to acquire these technologies, even though there are challenges concerning the “matching process” between startups and the governments. In this sense, organizations such as BrazilLAB play an important role: we understand the issues faced by the public sector and, at the same time, we are embedded in the technological ecosystem. This “broker role”, as we believe, is fundamental aspect of this agenda.
BayBrazil: What is the biggest challenge of having the government as a client?
Letícia: We believe that the legal framework in Brazil is the most significant of challenges, since it is quite restrictive and, ultimately, hinders the implementation of digital projects within the government. As much as there have been positive changes in this domain, such as the promulgation of the innovation law, we still have much to cover in order to safeguard public workers and organizations (mostly, startups) that are willing to sell and purchase technological solutions. However challenging this scenario might seem to be, there is room for innovative practices implemented with the existing laws. Lastly, we believe, the potential impact and outcomes of digital projects with the government completely pays off the existing risks.
BayBrazil: Could you mention some successful cases of startups that were accelerated by BrazilLab?
Letícia: All startups accelerated by the BrazilLAB are successful cases, once they really contribute for the impact in the public sector. However, we highlight two cases that can exemplify the nature of the solutions offered, whether aiming to directly assist the citizen or improving public organizations. The first one is called “Cuco Health”, a free app that boost patients’ commitment to medical treatment – for instance, reminder for medication intake, appointments – potentially downsizing the costs in the free public health system. The other example is “Fábrica de Negócios”, and consists of a data mining solution based on artificial intelligence algorithms that allows the assessment of public institutions pay rolls.