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E-Government: the case of the Gambia
By Baharul Islam and Atsuko Okuda
To introduce a wide range of ways in which government should use the Internet and computer networks for: improving collaboration and cooperation between ministries; making government services more transparent, efﬁcient and effective for the public by sharing accurate and up-to-date information and improving people’s access to government services; boosting public sector accountability, transparency, efﬁciency and effectiveness. E-governmetn can also help streamline activities, cuts costs and paperwork and help many parties make more informed development decisions.
ment Goals or make other signiﬁcant improvements in delivering services and improving the lives of their voters. In line with the rest of the world, part of this government transformation in Africa is to introduction of e-government initiatives.
What is e-government?
Although e-government encompasses a wide range of activities, three main areas can be identiﬁed: Government-to-government (G2G): This forms the basis for e-government. It involves sharing data and conducting electronic exchanges between different parts of the government. It involves exchanges within and between ministries and agencies at the national level, as well as exchanges between the national, regional or district, and local levels. Government-to-business (G2B): The private sector is central to transactions in this area of activities. One example could be where companies bid over on the Internet to supply goods and services for government contracts. Government-to-citizen (G2C): This is designed to make it easier for citizens to interact with government, which is what some observers perceive to be the primary goal of e-government. Examples could be ﬁlling forms over the Internet such as tax returns, or accessing information and ﬁnding ofﬁcials.
Overview and Challenges
Many countries worldwide have been reforming their governments and public service delivery. They use information and communications technologies (ICT) as a key way to boost public sector accountability, transparency, efﬁciency and effectiveness. It streamlines activities, reduces costs and paperwork for government, citizens and users of government services and it makes a much wider range of information available and up-to-date. “E-government” also offers the public sector new ways to organize itself. It can enhance and update internal systems and procedures to improve government processes, cut costs, manage performance, and enable effective exchange and linkages within government. E-government is not purely a project centred on technology. It is rather how government can be effectively transformed to function and serve the public better through using technology. It supports and enhances the public sector reform process effectively and can be a tool to create more transparency and accountability. As with all reforms, e-government requires changing how ofﬁcials think, act and view their job. It involves a re-engineering of government business processes.
In many countries, for a simple transaction such as obtaining a form, a large number of citizens spend most of a day at a local administration ofﬁce. Too often, they do not know fully about the range of available public services, what they are entitled to, or how the services are delivered. For civil servants, processing the transactions manually is a time-consuming exercise which introduces human errors and corruption. Information which they collect is kept within particular departments and not shared among minstries and agencies. Decision makers do not have accurate and up-to-date information, analysis and forecasts on their country’s socio-economic development, which are critical in making informed decisions based on evidence.
The Challenge facing Africa
Transforming government to achieve rapid increases in capacity is one of the biggest challenges facing African leaders who want to achieve the Millennium Develop-
both to contain their own costs and to make life easier and more productive for their people. In order to harmonize e-government initiatives and policies at the subregional level. has identiﬁed The Gambia as the model country for e-government. Policy approaches African leaders are seeking to share a vision and strategy for an information-based society that recognizes ICT as a tool for economic innovation and as a platform for socio-economic development. Although Internet Service Providers (ISPs) provide Internet services. ECA has also been assisting the East Africa Community (EAC) to formulate a subregional e-government policy and plan and to create an e-government observatory. Senegalese President. Objectives of Public Policy Interventions: e-government in The Gambia The African Information Society Initiative. An African Ministerial Committee brings together 13 member countries and has institutional and logistical support from the African Union (AU) and ECA. Ghana has requested ECA’s support to introduce ICT into the process of reforming the civil service and even to implement “etraditional government” to support the traditional governance activities of the Asanteman Traditional Council in one part of Ghana. ly with the Government of Rwanda in developing an e-government policy and plan. States are seeking to mobilize internal and donor resources to achieve huge increases in public service capacity needed to attain MDG goals and targets. and the rest of the population. They must also transform efﬁciency. normally in the capital and other large towns. mainly because of lack of awareness and expertise. Another policy challenge is to take account of gender in drawing up national ICT strategies. This also makes it harder for African leaders to use ICT as part of poverty reduction or to avoid increasing what is known as the “digital divide”. Africans were set to press for very concrete results such as the need for a common Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) card for telephones in Africa and to remove regulatory obstacles so that different technological platforms and media. could be used to provide content and information. they are hardly used by government to provide public services. proposed a Digital Solidarity Fund at the ﬁrst part of the WSIS in December 2003 and this idea was adopted by the AU Summit of Heads of States in July 2004. Difﬁculties in providing e-government services are increased because there is usually only limited telecommunications coverage outside the capital. At the second stage of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). they are often are not connected between government institutions and so they are not used for sharing data and information. implemented by the ECA. It would also make government services more transparent. efﬁcient and effective for the public by sharing accurate and up-to-date information and improving people’s access to government services. including Africa’s agenda of global partnerships to ﬁnance access. the gap between better off people with access to ICT. and recommendations on e-strategies and applications across various sectors. Its purpose is to act on proposals coming out of the WSIS. When the programme was ﬁrst proposed it was to establish electronic networking between the Department of State for Finance and Economic Affairs (equivalent to a Ministry) and the Ofﬁce of the President in order to share ﬁnancial and economic management data and information. This includes proposals for encouraging investment in ICTs including computer and other tools. as well as the role of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) in this process.E-Government: the case of the Gambia A baseline study undertaken in The Gambia to prepare for an e-government policy (see below) revealed further challenges which many African States face. Africa has prepared an “Action plan for Africa and the knowledge economy”. including the Internet. E-government is a key strategy in ﬁghting poverty and boosting development.E-GOVERNANCE IN THE GAMBIA The following highlights the case of The Gambia and how the country used information and communications technologies (ICT) to address development challenges. Abdoulaye Wade. held in Tunisia in November 2005. as well as human resource development. If computer networks are available. they have the chance to reform to current best practice and to learn from the experience of the rest of the world. At the same time. The country started to draw up its strategy in November 2002 and initially developed its policy with the aim of improving collaboration and cooperation between ministries through using ICT better. It was later extended to three other ma- ECA’s contribution The ECA has been helping various member States and the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) to formulate and implement sectoral e-strategies in the area of e-government (see below on e-government in the Gambia). digital radio and television services. agriculture and commerce. The Commission has also worked close- . such as education. The resources of African governments are scarce and their citizens’ development needs are huge. POLICY BRIEF CASE STUDY .
Information and Technology is the secretariat of the Commission. A major challenge is to expand telephone services in rural areas and particularly to increase tele-density in rural areas on the north bank of the river Gambia. 2) network. All the line departments will develop web portals to deliver services to the public such as registration of births and deaths. headed by the Vice President. and iii) empowering local government authorities to take over responsibilities under the decentralization process. Various stakeholders. Representatives from all the stake- . The National ICT Commission will coordinate the implementation of the strategy and also has a mandate to bring about various e-government initiatives and programmes in speciﬁc sectors. Health and Local Government). ii) improving the quality of social services and making them more sustainable. speedy and high-quality Internet access to various institutions. The plan is to extend the programme after the pilot projects have successfully been implemented. agricultural information. 3) web development. information security & legal framework Web portals & Government public service delivery interface ICT human resources development and training e-government strategy Government Private sector The Gambian Government has already made considerable progress in implementing the policy. institutions and services across the country. are included in the Commission and this makes the programmes more participatory. academia and civil society. the cost of accessing the Internet could be reduced so that it is more affordable to the general public.yegoo. This is a “one stop” place where people can get international as well as local news. and they are also encouraged to participate in online discussions and forum. Another challenge is to boost neglected sectors and rural ofﬁces so that they can take part and contribute equally in the total e-government programme. Websites have been developed for most of the Ministries. Community Internet centres (free and paid) should be established throughout the country as this will increase access. The strategy created strong linkages with key PRSP areas such as i) expanding basic social services to rural areas. portals/government-public interface.Brieﬁng Paper jor Departments of State (Education. The Department of State for Communication. There is also an urgent need to provide more reliable. 4) ICT human resource development and training holders. such as media. have supported this. The National ICT Commission. The Government. The Women’s Bureau (under the Ofﬁce of the Vice-President) and the private sector have launched a women’s multi-media centre in the city of Kerewan as a ﬁrst telecentre to bridge the “digital divide” between genders and also to reduce the gap in access to ICT between town and rural areas. Progress should be quick e-Government Implementation Structure: The Ofﬁce of the President is Gambia’s highest leadership and will also be the highest authority for all programme activities and initiatives. This includes creating speciﬁc database systems that can subsequently be connected together and eventually be accessed by the public through the Internet. At the sectoral level. initiated a project called Yegoo (www. What more needs to be done The major challenge for the e-government initiative is to provide enough equipment to all Government ofﬁces in a planned and balanced way. etc. The National ICT Commission will use its monitoring and evaluation structure to track the progress of implementing the egovernment stategy. all line Departments of State and agencies will have departmental committees for the e-government programme as part of the national committee. IT security and legal framework. in view of both the workload involved and according to how much interface between Government and public is suitable for the different ofﬁces. gm) to give citizens more access to information. The following priority areas were identiﬁed for the egovernment strategy: 1) ICT equipment and infrastructure. such as the private sector and civil society organizations. to cover all other departments. and ten Ministries have been connected through wireless links to the Internet. This site also offers all users a free e-mail service. So far a baseline study has been done and stakeholders have been consulted. working with the telephone company Gamtel. including women’s groups. At the same time. they also reviewed the overall socio-economic development framework and the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) in particular. Progress Fig: 2: Focus Areas of the e-government strategy in The Gambia ICT equipment & infrastructure Networks. applications. will have the overall supervisory authority in all sectoral programmes. Media Academia Civil society Public Linking Governance to Poverty Reduction: While the policy makers were developing the e-government strategy.
Wireless loop line should also be installed in certain areas where demand is very high.idrc. 2004. in line with overall e-government goals.pdf. “Government with an E: The potential of Information and Communication Technologies in the African Public Sector”. October 2004. the Government of Finland. Policy makers and partners should give ICT education top priority and should boost the number of computers for students in order to increase the availability of ICT education in schools many times over. regional coordination mechanisms in order to obtain greater synergy in ICT development in Africa. Brieﬁng Paper.E-Government: the case of the Gambia on a proposed ﬁbre-optic cable to be installed on the north bank of the river Gambia as this will help to link all parts of the country and spread telephone services to remote areas. because it is conﬁdent that African countries will make future efforts in e-government.apc.shtml? apc=21865ne. mobilizing required resources and promoting publicprivate partnerships in developing and implementing the programme.uneca.gm for further details of the e-government programme in The Gambia.org/aisi . International Development Research Centre (IDRC): “E-government Strategy in Gambia: Addressing Local Government Needs”: at www. the Government of Italy and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ). build: (i) promoting political commitment at all levels through advocacy and dialogue about policy.html Visit www. but there is strong political will to see egovernment activities become widespread and effective. (ii) supporting sectoral projects by mainstreaming all activities related to ICT under a plan for a National Information and Communication Infrastructure. this initiative is likely to succeed.uneca. as this helps with immediate improvement of telephone services. therefore. The leaders should also create an environment at all levels of Government and the private sector which will nourish a culture of transparency. Conclusion The ECA has chosen to support the e-government initiative in the Gambia.ca/rpe/ev-62763201-1-DO_TOPIC.org/aisi/docs/Gambiae-Gov-report. Further Reading APC Africa ICT Policy Monitor at www. The Gambia initiative should. and (iii) strengthening The activities mentioned in this brief have been supported by the European Union. ECA /Government of The Gambia 2004: “National egovernment program for The Gambia” . If the Government can obtain the necessary resources.report available at www. although ECA’s human and ﬁnancial resources are limited.org/english/rights/africa/index. please visit http://www. They should immediately adopt the necessary policies and regulations to facilitate both the sharing and the protection of information in the public domain. efﬁciency.doscit. ECA. For more on ECA’s work on ICTs. creativity and sharing information in The Gambia. This includes strengthening internal ICT resources. The Gambia’s e-government strategy its still in its earliest stages. They should include upgraded teacher training programmes for ICT and should develop new curricula and evaluation systems for ICT education. Industry Canada.
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