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E-Government – Africa Continues To Lag Behind

30 July, 2014

Source: ICT Africa

 
Kihara Kimachia:

Over the last decade or so, there has been a lot of talk about e-government. African governments long recognized the benefits of using ICT in public administration. But, recognizing a problem in one thing, implementing a solution is usually a different matter altogether. According to the UN's E-Government Survey 2014, African Nations continue to fall far below the global standards of e-government.

According to the report, The Republic of Korea, Australia and Singapore were the top three countries, in that order, in the E–Government Development Index. The top ranked countries in Africa were Tunisia and Mauritius at positions 75 and 76 respectively.

On the e-participation index, Kenya and Morocco led the way in Africa. This index measures the use of ICT to broaden and deepen political participation by making it easier for citizens to connect with each other and with elected representatives.

But, what exactly is e-government and why is it important? According to the UN, E-government is, "the use and application of information technologies in public administration to streamline and integrate workflows and processes, to effectively manage data and information, enhance public service delivery, as well as expand communication channels for engagement and empowerment of people.

The Millennium Development Goals (MDG) were formulated by World leaders more than ten years ago. The deadline for implementation is 2015. As we approach the deadline, there is a need to prepare ground for the next steps of sustainable development. Governments, especially in the Africa and the rest of the developing world, are faced with a myriad of complex challenges that include; inequality, poverty, security and climate change. No single arm of government can effectively deal with all these issues. Effective collaboration across government is essential for positive development outcomes. Collaboration between government agencies and efficiency within government is crucial to the delivery of public services. The public sector needs to deliver equitable and essential services to citizens, provide economic growth opportunities and facilitate public engagement in policy making. E-government initiatives help governments to achieve this in several ways:
• Streamline and integrate processes
• Manage data and information effectively
• Improve service delivery
• Expand communication channels between government and the citizenry

In the past, the major barriers to the success of E-government in Africa have been:
1. Low literacy
2. Poor ICT infrastructure
3. Lack of commitment by governments towards more transparent governance

However, many African countries have over the last decade made great strides in addressing illiteracy and infrastructure. Africa, as a whole, is also more democratic than it was two decades ago. With the exception of a few still surviving dictatorships and authoritarian regimes, most African countries are going through a refreshing period of expanded democratic space. The main issue with e-government today is effectively addressing the digital divide; the economic and social inequality in a population in their access to, and use of information and communication technology.

Today, the main measure of the digital divide is Internet access. Despite progress in providing a range of e-services in several African countries, efforts at mitigating the effects of the digital divide have not led any meaningful access to ICT beyond improving ICT infrastructure. The human, social and economic, institutional structures and government networks are yet to be embraced by e-government yet they are central to effectively tackling the digital divide.


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