Open-source software products – Building blocks for effective e-government structures

Tasked by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ), Estonia, the Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL) and the UN specialised agency, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), are working as implementation partners on the digitalisation of public services. As part of the GovStack initiative, an openly accessible, universally usable IT infrastructure is to be created. It is being set up internationally by Gofore developers and various working groups with volunteers.


Building a generally accessible IT infrastructure that works independently of private providers

When issuing ID cards, transferring tax money, providing unemployment benefits, social assistance or educational services, digital technologies are a must-have. They allow, for example, cash payments to vulnerable households or individuals even in remote areas. Required are different basic components, such as information about registered recipients, payouts and the like in databases that are provided in form of digital building blocks.

To scale these kind of lighthouse projects as easily and inexpensively as possible to then apply them elsewhere, the GovStack approach uses references from partner countries such as Ukraine, Rwanda, Somalia, Djibouti, and Kenya. These pilot projects ought to serve as guideposts for further implementations.

The practical realisation calls for the provision of a sandbox made of software components – a digital test environment in which one’s own systems can be adjusted or even emulated safely and in isolation without compromising the existing development environment. To this end, an open-source IT infrastructure that is accessible to all, securely and independently of existing cloud providers must be built.

Implementing the UN Sustainable Development Goals in the frame of Agenda 2030 means making public services accessible everywhere, even in the world’s most remote areas, using digital technologies. So, what if best practices were collected, validated, and then made available to all countries as a public good?


Visualising features of a technically highly complex platform in a simplified way, building prototypes, and making concepts tangible

The concept of a sandbox needed to be visualised in a simplified way to move from idea to product. For this purpose, a front-end simulation with use cases was developed, so that also non-technical people, mostly decision-makers, could experience and understand the available user functions.

The process involves an iterative design approach that is reciprocally influenced by practice and theory. Since hardly any comparable projects exist in the public sector, not all requirements could be detailed in advance. Application reports and rough technical specifications were readily available; however, a clearer picture only emerged after consultation with experts and comprehensive documentation.

The simulation is the result of the “Fail Early, Fail Fast” principle without traditional, predefined development methods. The basis for developing the prototype remains the requirements of an e-government system, which are being worked out and further refined by various working groups. By collecting and evaluating user feedback, the product can be continuously tested and improved.

“Gofore clearly shares our vision. They have internalised the GovStack philosophy and don’t merely perform an order but work with passion for our success.”

Nico Lueck, Project Owner, German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ), GovStack initiative


Rapidly deployable, cost-effective software components

Through public access to the prototype-based sandbox, to be developed by Gofore, developers worldwide can improve and expand existing software. This speeds up innovation and makes it more efficient since there is no need to start from scratch every time.

Due to the modularity of the open-source kit, further citizen-oriented services can be easily offered without having to develop a new, often expensive, individual solution. Consequently, an e-government system can be set up sustainably and its architecture can be scaled.

Through frontend prototyping, the GovStack approach is explained and made tangible. In addition, further use cases can be set up, depending on the requirements of each individual country.


Accelerating the digitalisation of public services

With the development of open-source software products, Goforeans participate globally in the development of e-government systems. The aim is to accelerate the digital transformation within government and administration. Simultaneously, social inequalities are reduced. Citizens can get their due access to public services, which often depends on the provision of ID, payment, or similar IT services.

The cooperation between the GIZ and Gofore as part of the GovStack initiative began in October 2022. So far, research has been carried out, wireframes created, prototypes built, and the integration of different software components by various developers coordinated.

Case in numbers

  • <40 Team size
  • 9 Different capabilities
  • 12 Months of cooperation
  • 5 Involved countries


The skills & competences utilised in the project

  • Open-source software development
  • Sandboxing
  • Cloud architecture
  • UX (user experience) design
  • User research & testing
  • Backend and frontend development
  • System integration
  • Market research
  • Project coordination

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