West Africa and the push for E-Government

E-Governance in Africa
Cover for E-Governance in Africa by Gianluca Misuraca

Slowly but surely, West African countries are following the lead set in East Africa in pushing E-Government. In Ivory Coast, a seminar was held last week (December 14th to the 18th 2011) on the topic of e-government moderated by Mr Georges M’bra, of the government’s scientific committee. The Ivorian government wants to modernize the administration and develop a numeric economy operating within a well defined legal and institutional context. The seminar focused on validating the roadmap the government has established so far and plan out the implementation of a series of projects scheduled for 2012 through 2017. The e-government initiative in Ivory Coast was launched in 2004 with the Center for Government Information and Communication (CICG) with a website offering downloadable documents and content on Ivorian Immigration law.

Other countries are further along the path of e-government as illustrated in this article (in French):

Cap Vert:

You might not have heard of this little island nation off the coast of Senegal but they have been at the forefront of e-government in West Africa. Soon after the arrival of the Internet in the country, the government created an intranet (NOSI) or Operational Center for the Information Society whose role is to mobilize society, the private and public sector into bringing about a real information society by leading initiatives leading to e-government.

Burkina Faso:

E-government in Burkina Faso is aimed at bettering good governance policies and fighting against poverty. The Delegation Generale a l’Informatique (General Delegation for Computer Science) is in charge of making administrative and political information available to the general population and government workers have access to an intranet. E-Government is also used as a way for citizens to communicate with parts of the government, for example, they are able to email the “Premier Ministre” (Prime Minister) with questions, advice or suggestions or even ask personal questions.

Mali:

In Mali, the focus was set at first on training governments workers in the use of ICTs and upgrading the computer equipment government wide. Since 2005, AGETIC (Agency for Information and Communication Technologies) has networked the offices of the president, the prime minister, several ministries  and state services and the IntraCom project has linked together several administrative districts in an attempt to further the “decentralisation” process (Moving away from having all administrative services centralized in a single location ) and bringing government and citizens closer in order to promote good the practices of good governance.

Benin:

Benin offers two models of e-government initiatives. First, the Systeme d’Information Administratif Public (Public Administrative Information System) is made up of all the data and information made available over the web by the Beninese government. Second, the Systemes d’Information Sectoriels (Sector-based Information Systems) are made up of all the intranet sites and websites belonging to the different ministries and institutions. Benin also voted a 2009 law protecting individual privacy and data rights.

Senegal:

The Senegalese government has shown a certain voluntarism when it comes to e-government and e-administration. In Senegal, e-government lies in administrative services like government intranet, fiber optic inter-ministry network, in enterprise services (Duty management software), and in publicly available services like the website dedicated to finding and filing administrative papers, online since 2005.

Niger, Togo and Mauritania are other West African countries with very limited e-government initiatives, but as shown by the overview above, the e-government effort in West Africa is pretty limited and in my own opinion, more geared towards providing a good sound bite for foreign investors and governments (or even articles like this), but not a real effort put in place by believers in ICT and its transforming effect on administration and the economy. The analysis show that most of the initiatives consist of putting a public web interface on databases and there for example, no administrative service that can be performed online (like paying your taxes, or applying for a passport or ID card). As the article stresses, e-government goes way beyond giving instructions online on how to file for a paper, since this is nothing exceptional in most developed countries but rather the minimum that can be done. The article also questions the lack of mobile integration in e-government given the prominence of the technology in Africa.

As of 2010 here are some African countries standing in global  e-government rankings:

  • Tunisia (Best in Africa ) 66th worldwide
  • Mauritius: 77th
  • Egypt: 86th
  • South Africa : 97th

Between 2008 and 2010, most West African countries actually dropped in ranking:

  • Cap Vert , from 104th to 108th
  • Senegal 153rd to 163rd
  • Mali 175th to 176th
  • Benin 171st to 173rd
  • Burkina Faso 176th to 178th
  • Ghana 138th to 147th

In order to better e-government in West Africa, the author recommends of global review of existing efforts in order to better integrate them in development strategies. The E-Government 2010 Survey argues that these initiatives could be bettered by a reinforced cooperation between countries, by keeping in mind that beyond its  “electronic” component, e-government is about promoting citizenship and participation in government. That last sentence is key so I’ll repeat it “promoting citizenship and participation in government”; if you know anything about the political situation in most West African countries, you’ll understand why it’s failing right now…

 

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