West Africa nations tackle e-governance

West African countries are turning to ICT to conduct government business as they seek to improve service delivery to their citizens, eliminate the manual distribution of documents especially among top officials and boost confidence in the public sector.

Ghana last week introduced an e-platform that will allow President Mahama and his cabinet members to exchange information. The platform is designed to allow electronic archiving of documents and offers search and retrieval functionalities and alert systems to highlight outstanding tasks and new announcements, according to the president's website.

Mahama said that the platform will also allow for real time dissemination of information on developing agenda and documents.

Togo last month started training staff who, according to Digital Economy Minister Cina Lawson, will be sent abroad to gain knowledge on how to manage the country's e-government platform, which is being revived to improve public service delivery.

For years, a key complaint about the public sector in the region has been the slow pace of service delivery and the chain of bureaucratic procedures to be followed in various ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs).

While at the 2015 Social Media Week last month in Nigeria, the country's ICT minister, Omobola Johnson, outlined some of the benefits of ICT in the public sector, including improved service delivery, cost saving, improved economic development, enhancing transparency and accountability, and improved public administration.

Johnson said the implementation and use of a shared infrastructure among government agencies has reduced proliferation of disparate IT networks and increased standardization, which has led to increased interoperability, verification, public perception and trust.

Developed and built by the ICT ministry working with systems integrator Galaxy Backbone, Nigeria's 1-gov.net platform is a secure government cloud offering shared services to the federal government. It was described as an exemplary and creative use of ICT to offer a single e-government solution when it won the United Nations Public Sector Award in 2013.

Johnson said 1-gov.net has yielded unprecedented outcomes in the country's history, including providing real-time connectivity between ports of entry and a central server for the processing of over five million travelers into Nigeria annually; helping the effort to maintain uniform prices for petroleum products across the country; and aiding the Road Safety Commission to improve turn-around time on drivers-license processing through over 300 licensing centers connected to its head office. It also provided, for the first time, secure email services to civil servants and access to toll free intercom services and video conferencing for better collaboration, Johnson added.

According to the U.N. Development Programme, e-governance should be on the agenda throughout Africa, as in other continents, as it is a key aspect for achieving the U.N.'s Millenium Development goals through its contribution to promoting and strengthening democratic governance.

Olusegun Abolaji Ogundeji

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