E-Gov Development in Africa

Some International Organizations are publishing international benchmarking reports which include valuable
information about the information society.
The International Telecommunication Union publishes every year their “Measuring the Information Society
Report” (ITU, 2015). The Information Development Index which ITU publishes is based on three sub-indicators:
access indicators, use indicators and skill indicators, but it does not include any e-Gov indicators.
The World Economic Forum publishes the Networked Readiness Index (WEF, 2015), as shown in figure 1. This
includes an 8th pillar dedicated to the Governmental uses of Information technologies.
Figure 1: Networked Readiness Index (WEF, 2015)
This subindex deals with the manner in which the Government is using IT to practice employees’ jobs, but it is
not yet an e-Gov index.
The only specific index dedicated to e-Gov is the “e-Government Development Index” published by the United
Nations (UN, 2016):
The E-Government Development Index presents the state of E-Government Development of the United
Nations Member States. Along with an assessment of the website development patterns in a country,
the E-Government Development index incorporates the access characteristics, such as the
infrastructure and educational levels, to reflect how a country is using information technologies to
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promote access and inclusion of its people. The EGDI is a composite measure of three important
dimensions of e-government, namely: provision of online services, telecommunication connectivity and
human capacity.
According to this index, as can be seen in figure 2, Europe seems to be the leader and Africa the last region in
the world.
Figure 2: 2016 E-Government Development Index
Within Africa, as can be seen in figure 3, all regions are not equal:
Figure 3: 2016 E-Governent Development Index within Africa
According to the chart, western Africa and middle Africa are the last regions in the world for e-Government.
The question now is whether or not they are going to leap-frog development in that field.
To answer this question let us first of all set out some basic information:
• The African countries used to have an administration with very few services provided to the citizens
and companies. Now they all are moving towards e-Gov. While developing e-Government, African
countries are developing it together with administrative services.
• E-Gov is only one of the three pillars of a digital strategy, including connectivity (to bring broadband
to anyone, anywhere, whatever the receiving device), business (to develop national IT skills and
Alain Ducass
www.ejeg.com 61 ISSN 1479-439X
companies as well as B2B, B2C and C2C e-transactions), and e-Gov (to develop e-services between
the Government and the civil society, and within the Government itself).
• A prerequisite for a country to develop e-Gov is that the administrative services and the citizens
could be connected to the web with fixed or mobile devices. Generally, this condition is reached in
the main towns of the countries but not in the villages, so that e-Gov is still a late arrival in African
countries.
• A main goal of e-strategies is sovereignty, meaning that a country should be able to keep a part of
the IT turnover and data inside the country. This goal means that the country has developed and is
acting to develop national IT companies. This is definitely a key factor: to customize, maintain and
adapt e-Gov applications as well as other IT applications.
• It is very difficult to compare the e-Gov programs of two different countries because each e-service
can have a very different level of interactivity, so that two e-services with the same name, such as a
Governmental portal, can mean very different realities and incur very different costs.
• Culture and corruption are not at all the same in Europe and in Africa. One factor to take into
account in Africa is the very low salary that civil servants receive for their jobs. This is the reason
why many African civil servants must have a second job to feed their families, or a second revenue
stream from the people they help with their administrative activity. Hence it is necessary to
investigate the social impact of e-Gov before implementing it.
• E-Gov is not a project like building a house, but features a program that includes some key projects
and a large number of smaller ones.
To go further, figure 4 shows a global chart of an e-Gov Strategy and action plan.
Figure 4: e-Gov strategy and action plan
It includes, first of all, a strong management layer, in charge of the goals, the legal frames, the semantic
standards, the action plans and also of the ministerial projects coordination.
It also includes some major blocs of e-Gov such as an intranet network to connect the public bodies, a data
centre to host the e-services, and also of an interoperability and e-Gov services platform, allowing the
individual ministries easily to develop e-Services.
Then an e-Gov action plan includes one or many portals for the various public services (e-education, e-health,
e-agriculture, e-taxes, e-social …). Some of them are top-down designed, allowing the ministries to publish
information to the citizens, or companies. Some other ones are said to be “open data”, allowing the public
sector to re-use the public information, which is shared with the private sector. Some of them are
collaborative, with information provided by the users and the administration together to build up e-Services.
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Many other topics about e-Gov could be told, but for now, let us stop on one last one; that is the need for
collaborative tools between the civil servants and other persons in charge of e-Gov, to reduce the cost and
enhance efficiency.
Some words have to be given about the cost-effectiveness of e-Governement. The World bank and some other
donors are sometimes ready to invest 50 to 100 million dollars to help a country developing e-Gov, but they
have in mind finance, real estate and “brick and mortar” projects rather more than e-projects. This is not
completely false logic, because there is a risk of financing useless projects if they are not well coordinated
within a national strategy and real action plan.
One key success factor is indeed the good circulation of information between the many persons in charge of e-
Gov in a country and in a region.
This point will give an occasion for a further article, together with the main publications related to real e-Gov
in Africa.
References
International Telecommunication Union, 2015. Measuring the information society report. [online] ITU. Available at
http://www.itu.int/en/ITU-D/Statistics/Pages/publications/mis2015.aspx [Accessed 14 March 2017]
World Economic Forum, 2015. Global information technology report ; network readiness index. [online] WEF. Available at
http://reports.weforum.org/global-information-technology-report-2015/network-readiness-index/ [Accessed 14
March 2017]
United Nations, 2016. E-Government Development Index. [online]

 

Available at
https://publicadministration.un.org/egovkb/en-us/About/Overview/-E-Government [Accessed 14 March 2017]

 

Alain Ducass
Associate Editor, EJEG
alain.ducass(@)energeTIC.fr