African countries adopt e-government policies

Several African countries are implementing e-government programs as a means to improve efficiency in their respective administrations.

Nigeria is starting to roll out its e-government initiative this month, while others are building up programs that are already in place. South Africa, for instance, is working on enhancements such as local-language translation. Egypt is replicating successful pilot projects, and a component of Mauritius’ e-government program — the Government Online Centre (GOC) — is expected to be operational this year.

Although governments are using different approaches to implement their programs, one goal remains central to all — to provide citizens with a one-stop-shop online delivery service that is accessible at all times. Egypt has one of the leading e-government programs on the continent. It is in its fourth year and the government is now rolling out the second and third levels of its four-level model approach.

“Pilots that succeeded are being replicated. New pilots are being tested. It started with pilots and quick wins for proof of concept,” Ahmed M. Darwish, Egypt’s minister of state for administrative development, said via e-mail.

Proponents of Egypt’s e-government program say that by 2007, most government services will be Web-enabled, with different service delivery channels and a variety of remote payment methods.

The Egyptian government expects to make direct and indirect savings by implementing its e-government program. “Better efficiency of administration will allow capital to revolve much fluidly and faster in the national economy, and also attract direct foreign investment,” Darwish said.

Nigeria also envisages that it will reap financial rewards when the program is on-stream.

“We cannot say at this time, but saving from higher degree of compliance in tax payments is estimated at a conservative 400 percent increase within the first 24 months,” said Mohammed Agbali, of Nigeria’s National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), via e-mail.

Nigeria’s e-government program operates under the aegis of Public Private Partnership (PPP), a joint venture between the Government of Nigeria, represented by NITDA, and strategic partners including technology vendors and various investors.

This PPP has set up a so-called Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), registered as National eGovernment Strategies Ltd. (NeGSt) and chartered to move the e-government process forward. The basic framework and agenda for implementation of the e-government program have also been completed and will roll out this month.

The roll-out will feature, an online portal, acting as an electronic gateway to Nigeria, complete with “eNaira” as an online payment tool and site features such as eMarketplace, eLearning, and links to existing government and other important sites.

One of the central components of Mauritius’ e-government program is the GOC, the focal point through which citizens and businesses will interact electronically with the government.

Other components are being implemented parallel to the GOC. These include the Government Intranet System (GINS), which aims at connecting individual government departmental networks into a secure intranet, and the e-government Interoperability Framework (e-GIF), which sets out the government’s technical policies and specifications for achieving interoperability and information systems coherence across the public sector. The heart of South Africa’s e-government plan is the e-Government Gateway program. Proponents of the program envisage that citizens will access government services via this gateway.

“The gateway is a government brand of better service delivery to citizenry,” said Pumza Tuswa, of the South African State Information Technology Agency (SITA) Gateway Project.

South Africa is working in five correlating phases over a period of 10 years (2012) to implement its e-government program.

One of the benefits of the program will be the savings that the government will make.

“This Gateway Program is envisaged to save the government a huge amount of money (millions) when it is in its full capacity. Currently we cannot exactly quantify the savings,” said Tuswa via e-mail.

“Governments in both developed and developing nations are using ICT (information communications technology) to streamline their functions according to the needs of the citizens. At the same time, they are striving to improve their productivity by improving the quality of governance while reducing costs,” Tuswa wrote.

“South Africa finds itself faced with typical ICT challenges of the developing world, but unlike others, has additional challenges of extending and improving services to previously neglected communities,” he explained.

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