Investments in information technology (IT) can enrich people’s lives and improve government performance. In the past, the government has done much to leverage IT to deploy e-government services. The global health crisis is making African governments to adapt to people who want phones that adapt to their often limited resources.
E-government has the potential to boost the way governments deliver public services and enhance broad stakeholder involvement in public service. It is a catalyst of the effective, transparent and accountable institutions envisaged by world leaders and helps state to go green and promote effective natural resource management to induce economic growth. The incident of the modern information technology (IT) has, no doubt, completely transformed our general approach to business; the way and speed at which we communicate; the way state businesses are transacted and also the way government services are packaged and delivered to citizens and, accordingly, our lifestyle generally. With the progression of IT, which is ever ongoing, the world can never be the same again.
Integrating information and communication technologies (ICTs) into governance processes can greatly enhance the delivery of public services to all citizens. ICT integration will not only improve the performance of governance systems, it will also transform relationships amongst stakeholders, thereby influencing policymaking processes and regulatory frameworks. In the developing world, however, the potential of ICTs for effective governance remains largely unexplored and unexploited.
The broad assumptions that decentralisation policies can influence good local governance and that the use of ICTs can greatly increase this influence have yet to be proven. E-government undoubtedly has the potential to reduce administrative and development problems. However, it is obvious that compared to developed countries, additional effort is necessary when implementing e-government in developing countries. More than in developed countries, the different initial institutional, cultural, and wider administrative contexts must be considered to avoid unintended effects.
The latest forecast by Gartner, Inc indicated that global government IT spending is forecast to total $483 billion in 2021, an increase of 5.1% from 2020. The conceptualization, design, development, testing, delivery, and support of operational government IT systems for agency end users involve an extensive “supply chain” that includes system integrators, vertical suppliers, major vendors, smaller technology companies, consultants, architects, and researchers.
Expert says government organizations continue to be challenged with the appropriate level of interventions to respond and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, public health and safety measures, including vaccinating citizens are of paramount concern, which necessitate governments to continue to accelerate their digital transformation journey.
Gartner indicate that, as government organizations continue to embrace remote work and hyperconnected public services, spending on devices is expected to grow 5.6% in 2021, up from 1.6% growth in 2020. Government budgets will continue in 2021 to address recovery and growth needs of communities and businesses. The study noted that investments to address digital equity and access to remote government services will be prioritized.
Africa’s main priorities are primarily democracy and executing best governance practices, reducing corruption, regularly organising free elections and advancing human rights. All of this is made easier by e-governance. As African countries usually don’t have a sophisticated, fully-fledged bureaucracy, they present an excellent possibility for leapfrogging straight into the digital age and new technologies.
Information technology offer to African citizens possibilities to access to all information necessary to be aware of the democratic stakes of an election. Therefore, the fact of displaying the electoral files online enables each citizen and political party to examine them before the vote. Besides, Internet enables a securized diffusion of electoral results on real time, which guarantees more transparency.
Beyond providing information, Internet really contributes to the citizen participation to public debate. The State, local and political authorities no longer decide in the place of the citizens without associating them to decision making. Currently, we can affirm that Internet is contributing to the training of populations to citizenship and enables them as well to better understand the mechanisms of the deliberative process which concern them. For this reason, it satisfies two major principles, namely open access to information which presides decision making and the necessity to report decisions taken on behalf of the community, it means more transparency in the management of public affairs.
The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on Africa’s development can either be a massive barrier to advancement or, the spark that lights the fire of innovation and investment across the continent. While African government agencies increasingly rely on advanced digital technologies to execute new policy initiatives, many agencies are struggling with maintaining decades old legacy systems.
There’s no denying that for most of the world, the Covid-19 pandemic has pushed digital adoption forward in vast leaps in a very short space of time. What the pandemic has also made apparent is the disparities of infrastructure across Africa, as well as gaps in adoption and policy. Even today, Africa has digital champions like Rwanda, Mauritius, Morocco, South Africa and Botswana. The AU has acknowledged that e-governance should be a topic pursued at continent-wide level. E-government has the ability to stimulate the emergence of an Africa-adapted cyber culture, hasten ICT-literacy, and hence to encourage ICT for development applications with high socio-economic benefits such as e-agriculture, e-commerce, e-education and e-health.
Mauritius has create an online performance monitoring system through which public servants can be held accountable by both government and citizens.
Morocco has an online government portal. Citizens can access government information, as well as post their views on government performance through the portal. In 2010, Morocco introduced a requirement that corporate taxes be paid online. The Moroccan parliament has introduced e-petitions, through online petitioning on bills, policies and regulations.
In 2019, the Tunisian government is transitioned government from paper-based system to a paperless one. Public auditors are increasingly auditing information, data and services online. In 2011, the Tunisian government launched the beginning of an e-public procurement system for selected public procurement transactions, which would include purchasing and payments.
Seychelles have gradually turned core government documents into electronic form. In Seychelles, citizens can make online tax payments, register their companies and verify their voter details. Seychelles has an almost 100% mobile usage. Internet speed is relatively high and broadband cost lower than in many African countries. A number of the e-government public services are available for citizens through mobile phones. Seychelles have introduced a voter verification through mobile phones.
Rwanda emerged from a country devastated by a civil war ending in 1994 but is now considered one of the beacons of digital innovation in Africa. Much of this transformation is due to its adoption of e-government services which has redefined the nature in which the government, citizens and businesses interact. Central to this transformation was the introduction of the Irembo Digital Platform for government services.
The Irembo Digital Platform is a web portal which offers government services to the East African country citizens via the Internet. The platform was launched in 2015 and allows Rwandans to access 85 government services online such as applying for a birth certificate, registering for a driver’s license and land title transfers.
Last year, South Africa’s Finance Minister, Tito Mboweni Mboweni, announced in Budget Speech that “South Africa is moving with the fourth industrial revolution,” there has been increased focus on just how government plans to adopt and incentivise the adoption of 4IR technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and specifically blockchain in their transformation models – technologies which both possess massive potential to spur inclusive growth and address social and economic challenges in South Africa.
Kenya, like many other African economies, will experience a surge in digital skills in the near future. With the growing youth population, governments are turning towards private sector players to support in building their capacity and contributing towards supporting the economy recover from the impact caused by the pandemic. The Kenya Government believes Technology will play a key role in transforming the economy and creating employment. In this regard we welcome the efforts of the private sector in supporting the government’s efforts to advance our digital strategy particularly with regards to Industrialization, Trade and Enterprise Development.
Consequently, many African countries lack e-government strategies. Rather than cobbling together standalone e-government strategies, African government will have to put together e-government strategies that are linked to their country industrialisation plans. Inadequate physical, human capital and technical infrastructure undermines e-government development in Africa. In countries like Uganda, civil servants at the local levels are often asked to gather data but seldom receive feedback on the impact of their data-collecting activities.
A good feedback mechanism in an e-governance programme creates a tool to provide the local levels with information, and the improved information position of the officers at the local government levels enhances their commitment to the introduction of e-governance. Similarly, African countries have high levels of illiteracy, and large numbers of citizens are too poor to access technology. African countries even if they have e-government facilities, often do not have special support to make it accessible to the poor, rural areas and women the most marginalised in society.
Collective action must be taken right away in order to stem the employment impacts of the pandemic or further social and economic disparity coupled with an ever-widened skilling gap will be experienced. This impact will stretch beyond the workforce, creating a systemic effect on the ability of companies, industries, and even countries to effectively respond and recover, let alone reimagine their economy in a post-pandemic world.
African governments should continue to improve its support for transactions with individuals, businesses, and organizations. In doing so, it should emulate, where possible, the commercial trend toward integration of services to improve usability for customers. This means, for example, that government should continue the transition from programme or agency-centered service offerings to user-centered services, which can imply aggregating services from multiple government agencies and potentially from private-sector third parties.