The Impact on Children of the Digital Transformation of Public Services

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    Project Manager :
    Morten Meyerhoff Nielsen


    Technology, Information Technology (IT) or Information and Communications Technology (ICT)? Disruptive or frontier technologies? The information and knowledge society, digital transformation or the 4th industrial revolution? Whatever the term, the rapid speed of technological change and Its associated opportunities and risks are changing societies, economies and services around the world. As the digital transformation alters the character of future societies, so too Is It Impacting the children and young people who represent that future.The issues affecting children and young people in the digital realm are similar to those in the physical. This includes legal rights and obligations, identification and formal identity management, equitable access to public sector services, privacy and data protection, bullying, stalking and protection from predatory behaviour, whether online or in the physical world.

    In view of the digital transformation of public services – within the wider context of the UN Sustainable Development Goals – this UNICEF – UNU-EGOV project aims to develop global guidance for governments and UNICEF national chapters on the opportunities and challenges of e-services to achieve results for children.

    Digital Services: access and opportunities

    Access to public services is a global challenge. Estimates are that 50% of the world population does not have access to social security and that a mere 20% of migrant workers have full social protection (ISSA, 2016). While no estimates have been made in relation to the impact of technology, convention would dictate that accessibility in emerging countries exacerbates the issue due to limited access to technology (as a result of limited skills, lack of infrastructure, or relative cost). Within this digital divide, in those countries forging ahead with the digital transformation of public services, little Is understood of the potential opportunities and challenges this modality may offer to children and young people.

    In this emerging context, it is important to differentiate between digital services types for children:

    Directly targeting children e.g. health care, education, some services especially for 15-18-year old. Examples includes access to electronic patient journals and primary care services, as well as school-student-parent portals for educational services in the Nordic countries, tailored content, and services in Finland (, Stockholm ( and Copenhagen (
    Directly targeting children on the threshold of adulthood, healthcare, education, voting and legal rights, portfolio of traditional/classical services including tax, pension, driver’s license, military service etc. Examples include Abu Dhabi’s KidX (, Generation NYC ( from the City of New York and South Koreas Kids information and service universe (
    Associated with the minor, but addressed to parent/guardian, e.g. health (prenatal, primary), food programmes, parental leave, child support etc. Examples includes New Zealand’s Smart Start services (, Singapore’s (, South Korea’s ( and Tel Aviv’s online platform ( approach for new parents, but similar exists also in the Nordic countries.


    Key question: How can governance and intergovernmental cooperation models developing public service delivery ecosystem which ensures fair access to public services targeting minors directly or through their parents, guardians, or caretakers? What information is available on what works In digital service delivery to achieve results for children?

    In considering the potential and pitfalls of digital services for children and youth, a number of other key issues must be considered which facilitate protection and promotion of child rights In digital Interactions:

    Legal rights and obligations: How do legal and regulatory frameworks transfer the rights and obligations of minors, their parents, guardians and caretakers to the digital world – not least in light of challenges seen in the physical realm.
    Identity management: How do legal and regulatory frameworks ensure unique and recognized physical and electronic identities at birth (also regulated in Article 7 and 8 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child). How do authorities work with trusted partners (public, private, or civil society) to ensure that all minors are issued with an identity from birth? 
    Privacy and data protection: How does government and society at large ensure adequate awareness of privacy and data protection, rights, and personal responsibility? How does government ensure that adequate legal and regulatory frameworks are in place to protect privacy and data and to ensure subsequent compliance? What other measures government and society implement to protect minors in the online world?

    The project focus on digital service design, access and service delivery ecosystem. Identity management, privacy etc. will remain in the background but will be included where relevant. Links to UNICEF, UNU, and other international organisation will be drawn upon and linked to when relevant (incl. definitions, recommendations and approaches).

    To date, research and recommendations related to the design and delivery models have mostly been related to young adults i.e. 15-18-year-olds or parents/guardians. Much research related to early prevention and social services has been conducted but does not include the digital angle.

    An explorative exercise focusing on three research questions will be carried out:

    RQ1: What, if any, service design and delivery models address minors and digital governance?
    RQ2: What are the identifiable benefits of digital service delivery for minors?
    RQ3: Are there specific challenges brought about by the digital transformation of governance for minors?


    The project activities include: 

    Review of existing academic and “grey” literature from international institutions.
    Exploratory stakeholder interviews in a select number of countries (incl. Bangladesh, Brazil, Ghana, Sweden and Timor Leste).
    Develop 5-9 country profiles based on literature review and interviews.
    Develop 1-2 policy briefs on project findings and recommendations.
    Develop 1-2 academic papers or articles.


    Project outcomes include:

    Research report on the current state of affairs and policy recommendations(including literature review and exploratory interviews, country case studies).
    1-2 policy briefs on project findings and recommendations.
    1-2 academic papers or articles.

    • Morten Meyerhoff Nielsen
      Project Manager
    • Mercy Makpor
      Junior Researcher
    • Diana Isabel de Araujo Mesquita
      Junior Researcher
    • Elisabete Simões