Tag Archives: e-government

Malawi National ICT Resources

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.

 


Malawi Cabinet Adopts ICT Policy

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.


Richard Heeks and the Design-Reality Gap Model

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.


The Broken Promises of ICT Strategies: Azerbaijan

In the field of development, there is a notion that with greater transparency, the decline of corruption soon follows. For developing countries, there is a new surge to commitment to e-strategies that promote ICT devlopment.  e-Government strategies are the most common type of e-strategies and many of these strategies focus on improving the effectiveness and transparency of public administration activities by making use of ICT in government-citizen relations.

Last week, President of Azerbaijan, President Ilham Aliyev declared that the “fight against corruption and bribery should be even more serious“ in his country. He expanded on what role ICT can play in achieving this goal, by saying:

Over the past years Azerbaijan has attained a really great success in the ICT sector. This is in the business sphere and intellectual sector. All the same, this sphere which gives an impulse promotes innovations and transparency. We must widely use these opportunities. The number of e-services must grow, the work in this sphere must continue… Transparency must be ensured to maximum.

In the past decade, Azerbaijan has been going through the motions of ICT development and increased governmental transparency– a trend that is common for developing nations. The National Information and Communication Technologies Strategy for the Development of the Republic of Azerbaijan (2003-2012) lists the “establishment of environment to ensure the right of citizens and social institutions such as to obtain, disseminate and use information, which is an important factor for democratic development” as one of the strategies top goals. The strategy plan forecasts that as a result of the implementation,” transparency will be ensured in state administration and all citizens will get easy access to information. The country will be integrated into the international information society in accordance with the national interests.”

Azerbaijan has put on quite a show, with flashy, progressive ICT strategies to promote government transparency, and declarations to ensure open access to the Internet for all of its citizens.  However, the next step-the policy, the accountability, and the enforcement of such declarations- has not happened. Without actually enforcing systemic change in a corrupt government, shiny ICT strategies accomplish nothing.

What becomes to those who try to expose that the almost 10 year strategy for ICD development in Azerbaijan has done little to stop high level government corruption? Impresionment, fines, and even blackmail. Freedom House classifies Azerbaijan as a “Not Free” nation with the category of the internet deemed only “Partically Free”. Their Azerbaijan report states:

Internet-based reporting and social networking have increased significantly in recent years as a means of sidestepping government censorship and mobilizing protesters. The government has repeatedly blocked some websites featuring opposition views, and intimidated the online community through its harsh treatment of two bloggers who were jailed from 2009 to 2010 after satirizing the leadership. In 2011, the authorities monitored the internet use of protest leaders and proposed changing the criminal code to restrict internet access.

Below is a video of Khadija Ismayilova, an Azerbaijani journalist who after starting to investigate corruption at the level of the President,  found her home wired with video and audio recording by state agencies. Khadija was sent an envelope with pictures of her and her boyfriend having sex, warning her to call off her investigation.

ICT sector growth greatly depends on the reception of the public is serves. Distrust due to the political manipulation of ICT services among the public does little to cultivate an environment that will nurture ICT growth and success. Without enforceable policy that is not susceptible to corruption or misuse, the ICT strategies will serve little purpose but to make the country look good. Countries should draft policy that safeguards the users, even from the government to ensure privacy and security.


Kazakhstan: 2nd Place in E-Gov Study

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.


Evaluating States’ E-Government Strategies

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.


The Establishment of E-Government in the United States at the Grassroots Level

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.