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How to lay a solid foundation for electronic governance
According to Henry Kissinger,
"The task of the leader is to get his people from where they are to
where they have not been". What
is the role of Information Technology in governance? Is government doing
enough to empower the people through IT? Many government agencies are
now using web sites to provide information on the activities of
government. Nigerians should be able to ask questions about public
issues and make their views known to government. Stone age tools and concepts will not empower the people.
IT in government should allow for
greater public participation in governance. It makes sense as we live in
a world of email and Internet. Let's raise questions about the
expected role of government in today's Information society. What is the place of Information and Communications Technologies
(ICTs) in the business of governance?
Democracy should promote greater
participation and interaction in governance. By using the Internet, the aim of government is to encourage more
interaction with the public. But
the Internet is only one of many IT solutions available in the process
of governance. IT in
government is not limited to the provision of Internet facilities in
government institutions. Widely
accepted all over the world, IT is an optimal tool for improving
performance - social, educational and commercial. "ICTs actually present societies and individuals with the
opportunity to question fundamental assumptions and institutions, to
re-think existing approaches and mechanisms to collectively
conceptualizes and generate new ideas and community-based alternatives
and even, sometimes, to catalyse social change".
This was UNESCO's contribution to
Working Group of the United Nations Commission on Science and Technology
for Development (CSTD) on Information Technology for Development and to
International Telecommunication Union (ITU).
Areas of the public sector
requiring sector IT strategies include: finance, agriculture, health,
education, population, public utilities, tourism and trade. What UNESCO calls the "intellectual areas of
development" - education, libraries, scientific research,
environment, culture and mass media, require massive investment in IT. The actions of these critical areas, act as a driving
force for pushing the nation into an Information Society. They have a natural role in advising, teaching and engaging the
public to meet future challenges.
IT combined with
telecommunication and/or broadcasting techniques, provides unlimited
possibilities for increased interactivity and access.
So, back to our question. What is the role of government? The purpose of government is to
provide an environment for its citizens to pursue personal and civil
development. Patriotism is a strange word in the absence of
opportunities of self-development. The public services can't continue
with outdated concepts of organization and information in today's
digital age. The effects of
a backward state of affairs are: stalled national development, wastage
of public funds, limited human development, inability to key into,
benefit or contribute to the Information Society and Superhighway. Further delay can be dangerous. In order to lay a solid
foundation for the use of IT in governance, certain issues need to be
Let's start with the
stakeholders. Computerization doesn't end with the installation of
computers in data centers. What
about peopleware? IT requires operators, managers and other
professionals to function. What about the people (staff, users, public)?
Inhouse, people who know what
they're doing. Are staff
competent? Do staff
understand what the project is all about? Are they aware of their roles? Have staff been trained? Motivation is key.
Does the public understand the
benefits? What impact will it make? Are stakeholders willing to pay for
this solution or must government fund it?
IT has certain risks attached to
it. Controls in an IT
project should address issues such as supervision, personnel,
segregation of duties, project monitoring and security management.
Effective project management is not a luxury. Most public sector IT
projects often fail because of the low quality of project management.
For example, if a government
institution's website project is properly managed, the web site must
contain current information, which is updated regularly. It follows that
there must be prompt response to enquiries, questions and views. It has to be informative and responsive, otherwise it will simply
be a "dead-man-walking site."
Can you see where the project is
going? Mere acquisition of technology will not do. What is the purpose of technology? How will it allow our institutions key into the benefits of the
information society? It is
not enough to spend money. The
question is: On what are we
spending money? Computerization
is a necessity. But
that's no excuse to computerize blindly. It is good to automate in-house operations and provide online
data. What are our goals? How
can IT enable us achieve our goals? But how many understand that IT is
not just an operational tool but also a strategic resource? It's about
being creative. Can you see why management and understanding of IT are
Part of the role of government is
to provide an environment that ensures that IT aids national
development. Law, politics, education, environment, health are all
important, and so is Information Technology. But what do the national
conferences have to say about IT? Is it just about providing electronic
mail addresses? Or will the revolution just "happen" by itself? It
depends on the environment.
What is the use of Internet in
government and how effective is IT in governance, if the populace lacks
access to reliable and affordable Internet facilities?
Ignorance is a monster retarding
the growth of IT in Nigeria. Despite
the media buzz about ICT, e-commerce, e-banking and e-everything, the
truth of the matter is the level of computer literacy is still
scandalously low for a nation of Nigeria's size. Government must actively promote policies that will encourage
mass computer literacy.
Computer literacy is not a
luxury. A revolution is
needed in the educational system through genuine literacy efforts and
not tokenist gestures: Make practical Computing an examinable subject at
all levels; Provide adequate computer facilities in schools:
Additionally, promote policies that will bring down the cost of
computing and encourage indigenous IT development.
Appreciation and Leadership
To do all these, public leaders need to have 'real' appreciation of ICT. How do public sector leaders spread the use of IT within their organisations? Appreciations goes beyond the speech-making or abstract level. Real appreciation of information technology has to be practical. And it's not just about operational day-to-day needs - it's about strategy. You cannot give what you do not have. It is not enough to threaten staff to be "computer literate."
Are you adopting creative methods? Attitudes and ideas of leaders in the public sector need to change. Leadership that is ignorant is part of the problem. Do they understand the real meaning of technology? Do they understand the real purpose of technology? Do they?
Why is it so difficult for
leadership to understand one, that the growth of the ICT industry is
critical for Nigeria and two, that this industry needs incentives -
keep your money in your pocket and create the right environment! Period!
I really wonder when I hear the argument against incentives: ICT is a
"goldmine" and for that reason investors in this field are too rich
for incentives. Give me a break!
Creative thinking is obviously
needed. Public needs now and in future should be the driving force
behind IT strategy. With the right appreciation, government should adopt
investment strategies and programmes concerning ICT that are relevant to
our needs-nationally and locally.
In particular, decision makers
must marry short-term needs and long-term objectives. Direct and immediate benefits are not enough: what are the
spillover effects? Government should not do everything, but is it
creating the right environment for mass IT usage and development? For
example, there is no reason why government shouldn't provide an
environment that further encourages the establishment of more cybercafes
and public surfing centers and Internet Service Bureaus - in higher
institutions and public places, such as libraries, hospitals and hotels.
Cost, reliability and
availability of supporting infrastructure need to be addressed.
Something just has to be done about public power supply. Telecom is becoming more available. quality still needs to be
addressed to bridge
the Telecom infrastructure divide here.. The endless wait to solve
the problem of infrastructure is a luxury Nigeria cannot afford.
Putting all government agencies
on the Internet will not have the desired effect until infrastructure is
affordable, reliable and available to the majority of the populace.
The public too has a role to
play. Citizens too
shouldn't be passive ICT consumers or watchers of the ICT show. We need to develop the mindset that stops seeing ICT simply as a
consumption issue. Are leaders focusing on issues that will equip the
citizens for the Information society? Is ICT a priority? Task the
leaders. Is ICT investment
and strategy implemented in an atmosphere of sincerity, accountability
and transparency? Ensure the leaders are competent, not just using IT as
a platform to acquire power. They want to lead us in the digital age but
what is their take on the present state of ICT? Concrete programmes are
required, not window dressing or vague promises.
Where should the nation be with IT? How does it get there?
Enough of dinosaurs in government houses!
in IT may be a step in the right direction, but the real role of
government is to make IT an effective enabler in Nigeria.
Jide Awe is the Publisher of Jidaw.com
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What Do you Have to Say? Post Your Comments about this content resource Here.
November 21, 2008
Jude Ali of Abuja says:
My name is Jude Ali, I live and work in Abuja, words can not express the dimension of joy that flow through my soul the moment I discover that your noble outfit-JIDAW COMPUTER , will be in Abuja on 29 Nov for an ICT Seminar, please i want to know the VENUE and TIME for the Abuja seminar.
November 11, 2008
Joy of Lagos says:
Jidaw, this article has a fantastic message to deliver. And it is applicable to all other concerns.
November 5, 2008
Phillip Olise of Abuja says:
It's true. Abuja is a city of contradictions. Very expensive and yet with poor slums. But we must really explore the digital options. Very good.
DISRUPT THE STATUS QUO!
Ideas are not enough. You must be action oriented to improve your future.
Don't just think but act. You get results not only from thinking but from acting.
You have ideas. You want to achieve. You want opportunity.
But what are you still doing in your comfort zone? The comfort zone is a dangerous place.
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Aren't you tired of hoping and criticizing? Stop defending status quo that locks you down.
GO on the offensive now with IT Education and Empowerment.
What is the use of ideas without action?
Start becoming the achiever you deserve to be.
MAKE SURE THERE IS NO STANDING ROOM FOR EXCUSES.