1. Malawi’s National ICT Policy was updated in 2013 following seven years of using an ICT policy that was adopted in 2006.
- Written in English and adopted by the The Malawi Cabinet as official policy on September 12, 2013.
2. Department of Information Systems and Technology Management Services:
- e-Government department in the Office of the President and Cabinet of Malawi’s government. This policy is the focal point for ICT matters in Malawi and the mission of the organization is to promote, coordinate and support the utilization of ICTs.
On Sept. 12, 2013, Malawi’s cabinet finally officially adopted a national ICT Policy. Malawi first began being drafting the policy seven years ago. This process has been stalled due to “bureaucratic procrastination” and numerous government regime changes. The policy also had to be retooled due to the creation of an e-government department in the OPC or Office of the President and Cabinet. This e-government department had not been addressed in the original draft of the ICT Policy. The Malawi Cabinet recognizes the need to develop its ICTs. “In order to fully benefit from the information revolution, Malawi needs to modernize various sectors of her economy using ICTs,” the cabinet said.
This is an exciting time for ICT in Malawi. A country known for governmental corruption and instability in the recent past finally has a unified approach to developing their technologies. Also exciting to read is that this new ICT Policy is supposedly multi-faceted, and is looking to approach ICT from a variety of sectors to have the largest impact in economic and social development.
This new e-government sector seemed particularly interesting, and upon further research I came across the Department of Information Systems and Technology Management Services, or DISTMS for short, on the Malawi government’s website. This department aims “to promote, coordinate and support the utilization of Information and Communication Technology through the development of innovative ICT products and services in order to accelerate the implementation of the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy.”
This is a great direction for Malawi to be going, hopefully the country is able to build on this progress.
In his article “ICTs and the MDGs: On the Wrong Track?” Richard Heeks questions the Millennium Development Goals and criticizes their Western-biased “do as I say, not as I do” approach. One of Heeks’ suggestions for how to use ICTs in an effective way for development is ICT consumption. Specifically, Heeks references “the use of technology in applications like e-commerce and e-government.” According to Heeks, these are areas where ICTs are being used in a positive way to make real effective change in development. In order to understand his perspective, I think that it is important to take a look at who Richard Heeks is and the work he has done. Heeks, a native Englishman, is the current Professor of Development Informatics in the Institute for Development and Policy and Management at the University of Manchester. When he was younger, Heeks worked as a volunteer science teacher in Nigeria, an experience that could influence his critiques of development policies created by the global North for the global South. Heeks is considered one of the founders of the ICT4D field. One of his most important contributions of the study of ICT4D is the Design-Reality Gap Model, a monitoring and evaluation tool used to measure the success of ICT4D projects, especially e-government projects.
The basis of Heeks’ model is the idea that there are two points in any e-government project: the reality, that is ‘where we are now,’ and the goal of the project, that is ‘where the e-government project wants to get us.’ It’s really quite simple. The larger the gap between these two points, the more difficult it is to successfully complete the project. The small the gap, the higher the chance of success. Heeks’ claims that there are 7 dimensions that determine this gap. These 7 dimensions are: information, technology, processes, objectives and values, staffing and skills, management systems and structures, and other resources: time and money. These 7 aspects of e-government analysis can be helpfully summed up in the acronym ITPOSMO.
The Design-Reality Gap Model created by Heeks is an important contribution to the field of ICT4D because it provides a systematic and uniform way to monitor e-government projects and assess their success. I think that Heeks’ emphasis on e-government and e-commerce, while not the most exciting of all development projects, is what is really making a difference on the ground. It is essential to focus on projects that are effective and sustainable, even if they are more ‘behind-the-scenes’ than a typical ICT4D project. Richard Heeks is an important figure in the ICT4D world because of his contributions such as the Design-Reality Gap Model. It might sound dull, but efforts such as these are what make real improvements in the developing world.
According to the United Nation’s 2012 report on e-Governance rankings, the once soviet nation of Kazakhstan has emerged as a worldwide leader in e-governance participation, garnering second place, which is shared with Singapore, a veteran member of the top of the rankings. While the UN rankings make it a point to highlight developing nation’s efforts to emerge in the world of e-government, it showcases Kazakhstan as a cut above the rest. Through a main focus in population education, coupled with the essential streamlining of basic government processes such as tax filing, business applications, and birth certificates, the Kazakh government has bolstered the speed and convenience of government-public interactions like never before. According to the article, any Kazakh entrepreneur is able to apply for business liscences and permits, as well as print them out within fifteen minutes.
As of the report, the Kazakh e-government portal is reported to receive 25,000 people daily, and 1,200,000 services were delivered to citizens alone. 60% if key services are to be transferred to electronic format by 2013, and 100% of citizen relevant services are to be transferred by 2014. However, the article makes it a point to recognize that theses successes did not occur overnight. With an average age of only 30 years nationwide, the Kazakh government instituted the education sector as a top priority. The nation is investing in a project to ensure affordable distance learning across Kazakhstan.
With that being said, I think Kazakhstan’s recent efforts definitely teach us a great deal about how other developing nations should go about improving their sectors. Kazakhstan definitely teaches us a valuable lesson in starting from the ground up: Great governments come from well-educated students and well-informed students. Developing nations should look to invest in education as a long-term investment for the assurance for a more stable government in the future: because, after all, the children in school now will be the inevitably be the future to come for any nation.
After learning about E-Government and E-Governance for the sector presentation, I decided to do some further research on e-government in the US. On October 21, the Center for Digital Government released its Digital States Survey, an evaluation and ranking of the ICT practices of each of the 50 states. The letter takes a look at what state governments are doing to digitally connect with their constituents and assigns letter grades based on achievements in tech related service areas. The only two states to receive A grades were Michigan and Utah. Pennsylvania, California, Minnesota, Ohio, West Virginia, and Tennessee were the only states to be awarded an A-. The most improved state since the last ranking in 2010 was Indiana, while the largest dropoff state was Florida. I was interested to examine what specific actions caused the rise and fall of the two states based on knowledge of e-Government.
In the case of Indiana, it was largely a result of initiatives put in place a few years ago finally making gains in the ICT area. This reflects the idea that once the initial foundational technology is put in place, states and communities will see development as the technologies are improved upon and as people learn how to better utilize them. One aspect that contributed to improvement was the consolidation of ICTs, as enterprise IT initiatives are deployed for all 92 executive branch agencies, elected officials and the courts system. The state operates over 200 websites to serve various state functions, including more than 10 portals to ensure interagency communication and efficiency. Increased oversight also played a role in Indiana’s improvement, with performance measures implemented for each executive branch agency and results that are reported quarterly.
As for Florida, their problems stemmed from the lack of a statewide ICT leadership agency. The previous one, the Agency for Enterprise Information Technology was defunded on July 1 of this year. The proposal for a new agency to fix the ineffectiveness of the old one was shot down when Governor Rick Scott vetoed the bill. While there are plans to come up with a new state strategy in the next legislative session, the fact that this leadership vacuum was allowed to happen reflects a lack of emphasis and direction regarding ICTs at the government level. These two examples show that increased priority on digital policy implementation and a cohesive, well-defined government strategy are keys to creating effective e-Government.
In our group’s examination of the potential for ICTs in government, we evaluated the array of challenges associated with instituting e-government in regions devoid of widespread internet access or smart phones. In an article by Norris and Moon, published in the Public Administration Review, the authors consider the utility of e-government in the US, and why it still has a long way to go.
Norris and Moon explain that all federal agencies, state governments, and 80% of local governments currently have websites, although the sites are largely very basic with only simple downloadable forms and static information pages. They argue that the establishment of two-way transactional e-government (making payments, recording complaints, etc.) at the grassroots level (city or county) is vital because these websites offer the most services directly to the people, and therefore have the greatest potential impact. Ultimately, the authors propose that ICTs can improve efficiency, accuracy, timeliness, effectiveness, and extend workers’ capacity to work.
In our presentation of ICT4D in government, we determined the main challenges to be centered around lacking infrastructure and technology literacy. In contrast, the authors’ interviews with government employees show that the two biggest challenges facing e-government in the US are lacking staff devoted to the website and lacking financial resources. These barriers are substantially less daunting than those facing developing countries, and could be alleviated in the foreseeable future. With increasing resources devoted to researching these potentially valuable technologies, it seems likely that additional government funding could be used for e-government. In the US, where this funding is much more accessible, both of these challenges would be effectively mitigated. Ultimately, in the context of a developed country, ICTs appear more immediately useful, and will offer citizens and government workers alike greater convenience as they are slowly adopted and deployed.
E-government projects have a success rate of only 15%. Thus far, these development initiatives have been challenging to implement in countries that lack ICT infrastructure and overall stability. One of the rare successes was a project in the Rajshahi City Corporation,the fourth largest city in the country, that allowed for birth records to be added electronically making them much easier to access and more uniform. The birth records then not only served as identification but could also be used by other departments to possibly record immunizations or school enrollment.
The direct cost of implementing this system was 20,000 US dollars, with only a 200 per month fee to maintain the system. There was improvements in both enrollment and vaccinations after the program, as well as a reduction in statistical errors based on registration. The new system is much more organized and efficient and a great example of how just a small project can have last effects.
The factors that allowed for this project to be a success seem to be its small nature, many projects are too ambitious and wind up failing because of this. The project also was simple, but effected many areas, which allowed it to have growing returns. It is easy to maintain and also easy to replicated. It does not require teaching of technologies except to a very few data entry personnel and requires no great shift in organization which makes it easy to understand. More egoverment projects like these will lead to more efficient government.
case study by Moshtaq Ahmed
The relationship between cloud computing and security is a very interesting one to me. With the growing needs for ICT for development and in general, cloud computing is an obvious solution. It keeps everything linked, easily accessible, and increases storage resources. For example, Tulane University switched to a cloud-based email system about a year ago, giving students 10 GB of email storage as well as a “SkyDrive” which is a cloud-based flash drive. This switch gave students more space than they would ever need–I have thousands of emails and I’m only at just over 1 GB.
But is the cloud a solution for everything and everyone in ICT? An article published recently in March talked about cloud computing in relation to e-government for Barbados, stating that “cloud computing has the potential to significantly lower Barbados government enterprise ICT cost while improving overall ICT operations and support services.” While cloud computing is certainly a new option to improve ICT cost and operations for governments, is is a good idea in a sector that deals with so much private citizen information? Security has always been a concern when dealing with ICTs, so it needs to be an even bigger concern when looking into e-government and e-governance. I believe that it is possible and a viable option, but only after a lengthy consideration of ALL possible security concerns, and a well-outlined security and architecture plan.
After searching in vain for a more recent update on the status of South Africa’s e-government implementation, I found another article that related in part to the process of ensuring mainstream access in South Africa by generally discussing the use of telecenters. Somewhere along the way in my research, I learned that South Africa attempted to mitigate the resulting increased digital divide by promoting the use of e-government in telecenters. This would enable those without personal computers (or cell phones with internet capabilities) or internet to have a similar level of access to e-government resources in their own communities. This approach was in conjunction with the Zuza Software Foundation’s efforts to create open source software in South Africa (with the goal of making pages easy to translate into one of South Africa’s ten other languages). With these innovative phenomena acting in conjunction, one would think that mitigating two of the biggest access challenges would be a revolutionary impetus of widespread use of e-government resources.
However this article delves into the issue of trust within telecenters themselves – how it’s a multi-faceted paradigm that needs to be thoroughly overcome before expecting those with the greatest needs to use telecenters to their fullest capacities. Specifically within e-governments, the article addresses the importance of a human “local intermediary” with whom citizens feel trust to ensure success of telecenters in e-government service delivery;
“In the context of developing countries,there is a need for human intermediaries to bridge both the overt and the social resource endowment gaps between what the poor have and what they would need in order to use ICTs”
The ideal intermediary is an individual from the community directly targeted by the ICT and who has generally good knowledge and enthusiasm for the ICT at hand, who can essentially help out with any problems or possible frustrations that could be associated with using the ICT. Apparently this person leads an almost essential role in improving the rates of telecenter use. Besides having trust within the institution, online communities, the government itself, and in other aspects of technology, a human intermediary between the user and the ICT is necessary for full accomplishment.
Source: E-Governance Services Through Telecenters: The Role of Human Intermediary and Issues of Trust