e-governance: Paving the way to digital transformation

November 18, 2022 - 5 minutes read

There are unique opportunities to use ICT for economic growth, productivity increase, and better service delivery.  According to the International Cooperation Development 2019 report on Guidelines and Roadmap for full deployment of e-governance systems in Africa, there are two critical elements of e-governance: digital elements directly connected to technology and analogue elements supporting technology.

Key digital elements include:

  • Government portals

The central point of access to online government services is government service portals. Such portals are the central information gateways to all government services, offline and online. In the creation of e-governance, databases provide a backbone.

  • Digital databases

Electronic databases are a prerequisite for many e-governance services. Key databases typically include the civil registry, the real estate registry, and the business registry. Many e-services will use data from different databases, so interoperability of databases can provide essential efficiency gains.

  • Secure exchange of data

There is a need to exchange digital data securely. No centralised databases should exist, as this would provide risky single points of failure. Neither should be sending copies of data via regular mail or on disks or flash drives be the methods used.

  • Secure digital identity and digital signature

For digital services, it is essential to have a digital identity and digital signature that are secure enough to allow transactions to have legal value. Such identities must be securely connected to the physical identity and trusted by the government.

Financial institutions often provide digital identification systems, which presents an excellent opportunity for public-private partnerships, as the requirements for secure identification are similar as for public services.

  • Infrastructure issues

Providing access to the internet is crucial for developing an information society because it serves as the foundation for delivering and using e-government services.

Key analogue elements include:

  •  International frameworks

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in 2015 highlights the importance of ICT. In Europe, the EU Digital Single Market is an initiative that aims to break down barriers and enhance digital transformation. In Africa, there is yet to be a well-developed single market similar to the European one.

  • Legal framework

It is vital to have appropriate regulations in place for e-governance. The regulations include the recognition of electronic identities and signatures, electronic documents, data protection, and cybersecurity.

  • Coordinating institutions

There is a need for high-level coordination of e-government activities between various units of the government as well as other agencies to identify the capacity to introduce e-government elements into the functioning mechanisms of government institutions.

  • Political will and change management

At least a critical mass of Members of the Parliament must be aware of the benefits of e-governance, trends, and progress in the country. With this knowledge, they can support the important legislative process. New skills, such as computer skills, are needed, as well as new competencies, such as analysing big data, understanding links between public services and their impact, and designing new services based on such knowledge.

  • Access to services and awareness raising

It is essential to increase the awareness of individuals and organisations about the opportunities of e-governance. Without that, there will be no usage of e-services and, therefore, no need to invest in them.

The case of Kenya

Kenya’s Vision 2030 provides for e-government systems with a two-tier objective: improve service delivery by bringing services closer to the people, improve performance tracking, and provide real-time information for decision-making. Kenya published its e-government strategy in 2004.

The country has made remarkable strides in building e-governance platforms such as eCitizen and iTax. eCitizen is an official digital payment platform allowing users to access and make payments for specified government services online. It covers services such as driver’s licence, passport and visa applications, company and business name registration, work permit administration, and civil registration. There are also one-stop shops (Huduma Centres) for those who need individualised IT support to engage with government services, such as filing tax returns online.

Part of the new administration’s commitment is to enhance government service delivery through digitisation and automation of all government critical processes and make available 80 per cent of government services online. Speaking at a recent event, the President committed to moving 90 percent of government services onto digital platforms signaling its intention to double down on e-governance.

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