Working with the Microsoft PTA team, the government of Argentina created a public-private partnership that provides senior citizens with technology and resources to access government services, enable ongoing learning opportunities, and connect with family and friends.
Improving the way public services are conceived and delivered is the perennial challenge of politics. More and more, governments are turning to technology to make public services accessible and citizen-centric in order to improve public policy outcomes. Yet technology is only one of the means to advance policy goals and its adoption does not guarantee success. However, when technology is embedded in the right reform package, with complementary efforts by all stakeholders, its transformative potential is unlimited. The Microsoft® Partnerships for Technology Access (PTA) initiative takes this ecosystem approach, forming public-private partnerships (PPPs) to help governments optimize IT investments to achieve public policy priorities and empower citizens. Technology can be a powerful enabler of development goals when overlaid on targeted public services and delivered through a partnership that harnesses the strengths of the public and private sectors. With a complementary partnership mix premised on win-wins, the PTA solution offers technology that is affordable and relevant to countries and communities that have the most to gain.
||We are grateful to Microsoft Argentina because this has been a complex project and they have brought dedication, leadership, and valuable knowledge transfer--bringing their learnings on PPP development from across the world.
Argentina’s Vision for Reforming Pension Service Delivery
Since 2002, Argentina has sought to modernize its social security system with the goal to deliver more and better services with greater efficiency to its elderly citizens. However, PC penetration among this segment of the population is low. This presented a puzzle: unless a significant number of senior citizens could be provided access to PCs, the continuing push to bring services online would have limited impact on pensioners. In 2007, the government launched a national initiative that, to date, has provided personal computers, software, and training to more than 50,000 senior citizens in Argentina. The number of visitors to the ANSES Web site has grown from approximately 200,000 per month in 2005 to nearly 7 million per month today. Overall, the pension application process has become simpler and more convenient to use, and computer ownership has opened up opportunities for learning and communicating that have served to enhance the quality of life for the country’s elderly population.
Improving Pension Services as a Government Priority
The Administración Nacional de la Seguridad Social (ANSES, Argentina’s social security provider), administers the retirement and pension funds to more than 4 million elderly citizens. Until recently, the ANSES system struggled to keep pace with the increasing demand. For seniors dependent on a pension as their sole income, the difficult commutes, long lines, and cumbersome bureaucratic requirements posed enormous challenges. In the wake of the 2002 financial crisis, the government sought to innovate public service delivery to those whose livelihoods depended on a fixed income.
Like government agencies in many other countries, ANSES turned to technology as a means to facilitate pension reform, placing services online to allow fast and easy processing of pension requests submitted from any PC connected to the Internet. However, ANSES found that the most vulnerable sections of the population who had the most to gain from electronic access to services were the least likely to use the new e-government system because buying a computer was beyond their means. This was the genesis of the public-private partnership known as PC Abuelos (“Grandparent’s PC”) to bring technology and connectivity to the country’s aging population.
In 2006, ANSES realized that alone it could not bring technology and connectivity to the country’s senior citizens; rather it would need to bring in outside expertise and resources.
In search of a solution, ANSES began a dialog with Microsoft. Microsoft Partnerships for Technology Access (PTA) works as a catalyst for convening public-private partnerships (PPPs) that serve the public interest through affordable home computer solutions for underserved communities. ANSES and Microsoft saw an opportunity to work together to make a difference in the lives of Argentina’s senior citizens. The resulting partnership offers this traditionally underserved population very favorable credit lines (zero interest, 40-month repayments) to obtain PCs along with software and training—the solution provides everything needed to utilize online government and health services, find news and other information on the Internet, and stay in contact with family members. More than 300 PCs are purchased daily through the initiative.
Forming the Partnership
When partner interests and competencies are effectively aligned, PPPs represent a powerful consortium that can leverage the strengths of each partner toward a common goal. Private partners inject resources, innovation, project management, technical expertise, and rigorous performance measurement to achieve public policy goals. Public partners and civil society identify needs, direct resources, apply leadership, and share project management to ensure the efforts accrue to public policy benefits.
With broad experience in creating these types of partnerships, the Microsoft team in Argentina provided ANSES with a framework for identifying and convening the various partners; aligning goals, incentives, and resources; and creating a vision of shared success.
Creating the Solution
Every PTA solution offers a package of products and services that meet the critical criteria of relevance and affordability.
Relevance: Designing products and services that meet the client’s specific needs.
||The difference that owning a computer makes is very important. If I suddenly want to communicate with someone abroad, then all I have to do is go to the computer and turn it on, and I can communicate with friends and family. It truly is brilliant. I’m very happy.
PC Abuelos Customer
The PTA solution has proven highly popular in Argentina because its package of products and services has been custom-suited to the needs of senior citizens. In developing the offering, Microsoft and the government first undertook a thorough analysis of the characteristics and preferences of their target segment. Results showed that the elderly had a strong interest in owning a PC to access e-government services such as pension and health programs. They also revealed that senior citizens looked forward to owning a computer for the opportunities it afforded to communicate with their families and friends, access news, and improve the quality of their lives more generally. Training for “digitally illiterate” seniors was also important, as most senior citizens require a helping hand to get started.
Based on the findings, Microsoft PTA selected partners from the public and private sectors according to the value they could contribute to a solution to help senior citizens use computers for the wide variety of purposes identified. The resulting partnership produced a solution that has benefited thousands of senior citizens in Argentina. They are now able to purchase a personal computer preloaded with software targeted to senior citizen use, along with a broadband connection, and easy delivery and installation options. Lastly, a comprehensive training component was included in the PPP package. The solution has proved successful because it was driven by the specific needs, challenges, and opportunities of older adults in Argentina.
Affordability: Tailoring a package of value-added products and services that are appropriate to the specific client’s income capacity.
An estimated 80 percent of senior citizens in Argentina depend on the monthly pension from the state as their only household income.
Given that most of the country’s pensioners live on around 1,000 pesos (US $320) per month, affordability was a constraint to overcome. Because few seniors have the means to purchase a computer outright, the key to affordability within the PTA program is a financing package that includes credit and a payment arrangement suitable for low-income seniors. Specifically, a mechanism was established by which the Banco Nación provides loans without interest or financial fees, which are automatically debited in up to 40 installments from the monthly pensioners payments. The only requirement is to be registered with ANSES as a pensioner and to be younger than 80 years old at completion of the terms of credit.
The PPP also designed the PC purchasing logistics. Retirees can select from one of nine computer models by consulting promotional material about the initiative at any Banco Nación branch office or on the Internet. Computer models are regularly updated as new products are put on the market. Once the documentation is submitted and the application has been entered in the system, credit approval is automatic, after which the financial institution sends information about the retiree’s selection and delivery instructions to the equipment suppliers. The personal computers are delivered to the retiree’s home at no charge.
Those who purchase a computer through the framework of this program obtain the right to a free course consisting of nine classroom hours of online educational content and e-learning provided by the National University of Technology (UTN FRA). They also have the opportunity to contract with an Internet service provider with broadband service at special prices.
A Successful Approach
In the first five months it was launched, the Grandparent’s PC program delivered more than 40,000 computers to senior citizens in Argentina, successfully meeting government goals. Equally as important, the PPP provided ANSES with a nationwide solution to serving the needs of its growing numbers of older adults with efficiency and ease.
In addition, the program has a Social Responsibility Fund, implemented through the Office of Community Relations of ANSES, which equips Senior Citizen Centers with free PCs in low-income
areas. A portion of the earnings from each PC sold through the Grandparent’s PC program is allocated to a fund for this purpose. In this way, older adults are helping others benefit from the same digital services at Senior Citizen Centers closest to their home.
As governments like Argentina’s continue to strive to implement bold public policy goals to reform pension systems, they are discovering that while technology can help—and even form the centerpiece of an initiative—the most critical element is aligning the partners, the resources, and the priorities of many different constituencies. Governments on this path need partners from both the public and private sectors to help deliver on their mission.
Senior citizens are a growing sector of the world’s population. Government services for this segment are open to fresh approaches and innovative implementation. With a PC at home, elderly Argentines can access government services more efficiently, communicate with each other, and enhance other areas of their lives.
Working together, Microsoft and the government of Argentina created a powerful consortium that helped advance a key public policy objective: pension reform. The PPP was customized to the specific needs of the government and seniors, offering favorable financing, software, hardware, training, and support that no single agency alone could have provided. Microsoft is continuing to innovate and lead in the development of these types of publicprivate partnerships—partnerships designed to help governments achieve their policy objectives through the intelligent deployment of technology to their citizens, their civil servants, and other constituents. To learn more about how Microsoft can help you create partnerships that are central to achieving your policy objectives, contact a member of the PTA team in your region.
Six Ways to PTA
Education Empowering teachers and students to enable e-education and digitally enabled reform:
• Microsoft PTA partners with ministries of education, public schools, and other educational institutions to provide sectorwide technology solutions to modernize learning.
• Microsoft PTA provides teachers and students with access to PC-based technologies at home to facilitate learning, increase digital teaching and learning skills, and meet education goals.
Entrepreneurship Enabling entrepreneurs to access affordable technology and training to increase their productivity and contribution to local economies.
New World of Government Ensuring digital efficacy in the civil service ranks to complement digital connectivity efforts.
Public Health Enabling digital skills and access for public health professionals, and improving citizen access to health information and services.
Seniors Helping aging populations overcome the obstacles to technology skills and access to facilitate electronic pension and health benefits, open learning opportunities, maintain independent living and connect with extended family and friends.
Workforce Competitiveness Building on government unemployment policies to make affordable, PC-based technology available to citizens and improve life-long employment opportunities.
For more information: Microsoft Partnerships for Technology Access: www.microsoft.com/pta