Many countries in West African have begun 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. The use of ICT to provide information and deliver services to citizens, businesses and other government entities is referred to as Electronic Government e-Government. Electronic Government or eGovernment has become sine qua non to economic development.
The Government of Liberia has clearly articulated through the National ICT and Telecommunications Policy 2010-2015 that it is strongly committed to utilizing Information and Communications Technology (ICT), to transform the way information is provided and services delivered to citizens, businesses and other government entities. As such, the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications has taken the lead in pushing through an ambitious goal to bring eGovernment to Liberia – ensuring that internal communications and systems are coordinated, business processes are realigned and that focus is placed on improving service delivery to consumers of public administration (citizens, non-residents, businesses, et al) through the use of ICTs.
In carrying out this ambitious plan, many international funding partners have been supporting the Ministry in its efforts to build the capacity needed to implement and lead eGovernment programs in Liberia. One of these funding partners is the World Bank. The World Bank or the “Bank” through the West Africa Regional Cable Program (WARCIP), has been providing support to the Ministry to enable it attain the capacity needed to implement a robust eGovernment program.
As part of this support, a study tour of the National Information Technology Agency of Ghana or NITA, was arranged for a five-man delegation from the Project Management Office (PMO) of the Ministry. The study tour took place 8th – 13th November 2015 and was hosted by the National Information Technology Agency (NITA) of Ghana.
The focus of the study tour was on eGovernment, project management, network operations and electronic portals (ePortals). Emphasis was placed on eApplications and how they can be used by Government for service delivery as well as how citizens can engage Government in a more meaningful way.
The study tour lasted five days and it involved a lot of activities including presentations, interactive discussions, site tours, visit to the bi-annual eCommerce Expo and a tour of the brick and mortar One-Stop Service Center (OSSC). The study tour provided an opportunity for both NITA and the PMO staff to understand the successes, failures, and challenges of their respective eGovernment programs.
As was mentioned above, many countries in West Africa have embarked upon ambitious eGovernment programs intended to develop a new relationship with their citizens. Recently, Ghana introduced an e-platform that will allow that country’s President 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. The platform will also allow for real time dissemination of information on developing agenda and documents.
Another country that has taken e-Government to another level is Togo. First of all, Togo has a Minister for Digital Economy who recently stated that staff from Togo 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.
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. In addition the implementation and use of a shared infrastructure among government agencies can reduce the proliferation of disparate IT networks and increased standardization, which can lead to increased interoperability, verification, public perception and trust.
While shared services provide several benefits, those benefits cannot be realized in the absence of secure government network. In Liberia, we are still working to build a secure government network. A secure government network will kindle the type of eGovernment and eGovernance programs that we have for quite a while, anticipated. All of these issues were discussed during the study tour in Ghana.
Finally, members of the Liberian delegation attending the study tour include: Francis Tuah, Kadallah Karneh, Rose Doe, Zain Ziah and Darren Wilkins. The team is back in Monrovia and has begun exploring several e-Services that can be developed to enable the Government deliver services in a more efficient, cost-effective way.