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|eGOVERNMENT IN NIGERIA: A CATALYST FOR NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT |
Information Communication Technology Directorate,
Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria
Mohammad Kabir Abubakar
Information Communication Technology Directorate,
Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria
Library and Information Science Dept.
Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria
The impact and potential of ICTs have not been fully exploited in the Nigerian context, leaving government in a weak position to formulate policy comprehensively and implement plans effectively. It is necessary to improve the quality and speed of information on which effective policy is based. Thus, this paper aimed at examining how the introduction of e-government can change the value chain and productivity in government within the Nigerian context. Do such changes offer new opportunities for Nigeria? What approaches by the government can best harness e-government for social and economic growth? How does government take advantage of the potential of ICTs to serve its seven point development agenda? The data for this paper were drawn mainly from documentary sources. The paper concludes that e-government related polices should be formulated in such a way that they only provide a broad framework.
Keywords: e-government, information communication technology, e-commerce, ICT infrastructure, internet services
Being a paper, presented at fourth international conference on development studies, University of Abuja, F.C.T., Nigeria between April 14 and 15 2010
Most of the understanding of the information age comes from the theory and experiences gained in the developed world. There is little in-depth knowledge of issues that are specifically relevant to the Nigerian context in particular and Africa in general. There are major areas of the economy and society where the impact and potential of ICTs have not been fully harness at all in the Nigerian context
The free online dictionary define government as the act or process of governing, especially the control and administration of public policy in a political unit. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia of digital government define e-Government (short for electronic government, also known as digital government, online government or transformational government) as a diffused neologism used to refer to the use of information and communication technology to provide and improve government services, transactions and interactions with citizens, businesses, and other arms of government. Narayan (2006) stated that e-Governance differs in scope from e-Government, which focuses primarily on technology related initiatives in the government domain. E-Governance encompasses a broader vision of use of ICT to support good governance and encourage citizens to proactive opportunity to provide information unencumbered. It can also be stated that electronic government is a way of doing business that moves society into an era where citizens increasingly interact with government, demanding a greater variety of services and information, where the demand for service and the ensuing pace of change grows ever greater, and where the need for innovation and entrepreneurialism in government is at a premium. The Southern African Journal of Information and Communication “SAJIC” (2009) stated that like all other Internet-enabled applications, such as e-commerce, electronic government has become a global phenomenon and an essential required feature of all governments in both the developed and developing societies. To this end, all governments have mounted initiatives that seek to strengthen their institutional capacities to take full advantage of the emerging global knowledge economy as well as meet the diverse and varying problems and challenges that it poses to their national social and economic development. The ability to overcome distance and time, the traditional barriers to communication, is one of the greatest potential of the emergent global network. It permits instant sharing of information and knowledge on a global scale.
Existing e-government information sharing mechanisms:
US federal enterprise architecture The federal architecture program management office of the United State of America FAPM (2003) explain that expanding electronic government, or e-government, is one of the five key elements of the George Bush management agenda initiated in July 2001, which aimed at making better use of ICT investment to eliminate billions of dollars for federal spending, improving government services capabilities and reducing government’s paperwork burden. To transform the US Federal government to one that is citizen-centered, customer-focused, and market-based, the office of management and budget (OMB) is developing the Federal Enterprise Architecture (FEA), which is a business-driven framework for government-wide improvement and provide a common framework for improvement in a variety of key areas such as: Budget Allocation, Information sharing, Performance measurement, Cross-agency collaboration, E-Government, Component-based architecture. Information sharing is a major goal of the FEA. In this reference model, the information held by one agency, if useful to another agency, will be timely transferred to the other agency. The FEA information sharing functions has been achieved by its four references model, namely the business reference model, the data reference model, the application capability reference model and the technical reference model.
The European one-stop government (EOSG) Traditionally, “online one-stop government” refers to an online integration of public services from a citizen’s or customer of public service point of view. The main objective of the European e-government project is to provide an open, extensible and scalable platform for realizing online one-stop government (Wimmer et al, 2001), (Tambouris 2001), this platform is deployed and evaluated in three European countries, namely Austria, Greece and Switzerland. The e-government platform allows the public sector to provide citizens, business and other public authourities with information and public services that will be structured around life events and business situations, thus increasing public authourities effectiveness, efficiency and quality of service.
Success stories of e-Government in some countries as cited by the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) include; Singapore’s e-citizen portal where the citizens are able to access about 1,600 services provided online by their Government; -china’s Golden Customs Programme connecting foreign trade companies, banks, customs and tax authorities. It speeds up customs clearance and collection of taxes and duties; Mississippi USAs pay roll information records online; and Philippine’s Bureau of internal Revenue for electronic payment of taxes, bills, etc.
e-Nigeria: The journey so far In Nigeria, there are several initiatives geared at accelerating development via the technological platform in the polity. e-Nigeria initiatives geared towards connecting communities, vital agencies, institutions of Government and educational institutions at all levels with ICT are currently being pursued by the government. From the National Rural Telephony projects to other laudable initiatives like the Nigerian telemedicine initiative, Public service network initiative, internet exchange point initiatives, State and local Government ICT facilities loan scheme initiative and wire Nigeria initiative. According to Ekeh (2007), these initiatives are aimed at enabling the rapid development of the Nigerian nation. In addition, and as a matter of necessity, the only skill and tool a nation needs to actualize them (the initiatives) is by making computers affordable and flexible for Nigerians to acquire. Currently, one can access the local/ states allocations over the Ministry of Finance website and compare with the estimated values locally (through the in-house package) within the local Government and reasons on how and where the expenditure has gone into can be deduced almost instantaneously.
THE ROLE OF NITDA
e-Government is a public-private-partnership initiative of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) in Nigeria. Some components of e-government have already commenced in Nigeria e.g. the Nigerian Customs Assycuda Programme, the computerization Resident Permit by the Nigerian Immigration Service, computerization of land and Certificate of Occupancy in the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA). The payroll of some organizations are also being computerized i.e (ePayment), online checking of West Africa Examination Council (WAEC), National Examination Council (NECO) and Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) result as well as National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) postings are part of real time and cost effective services which are part of e-government. There is therefore the need to consolidate and spread it to other services that have not been incorporated as well as to the rural areas in Nigeria. The Agency (NITDA) explained that e-Government helps in the transformation of the process and work flow management in order to establish long term organizational strategy of continuous improved internal operation for timely achievement of citizens need and services. Specifically e-government will facilitate cross collaboration and co-ordination amongst government organs at different levels and ensure easier, faster and appropriate decision making process.
NITDA maintained that e-government reduces waste, saves time and encourages simple, moral, accountable, responsive and transparent conduct in the delivery of government services. It will adequately position Nigeria in the global economy where it now pays a key role.
NITDA cited the specific goals of e-government as follows:
a) Creation of better business environment for local and foreign investors as technology is a catalyst for increasing productivity and economic growth.
b) Quick response and effective delivery of public services to citizens without bottlenecks.
c) Strengthening good governance with broad based public participation.
d) Improved quality of life for the entire citizenry.
e) Improved productivity and efficiency of government agencies.
f) Job and wealth creation as well as poverty eradication.
NITDA has already established the platform for e-government. With the return of democracy in 1999, the Nigerian Government launched a series of economic reforms designed to address the structural and institutional weaknesses of the Nigerian economy. After the 2003 election, these policies were encapsulated in an all-embracing home-grown economic program known as the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS). The federal government also seeks an effective economic coordination of and a close collaboration with the state and local governments by encouraging them to design and implement equivalent programs based on the NEEDS model with acronyms like (SEEDS) State Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy and (LEEDS) Local Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy respectively.
Paul (2007) stated that if Nigeria’s experience with economic reforms through NEEDS is successful, it will demonstrate that it is possible, with strategic planning, to stabilize a macroeconomic crisis and maintain ownership of a reform package without necessarily compromising democratic institutions or economic policy independence.
Iweala (2005) affirms that the NEEDS initiative, modeled on the IMF’s Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility, is aimed at achieving macroeconomic stability, poverty alleviation, wealth creation, and employment generation. It redefines the role of both the private sector and the public sector within the Nigerian economy.
To run e-government is requite ingredient of national economic empowerment and development strategy (NEEDS) which is a platform for government reforms that centre’s government activities to citizen’s needs as well as focusing on computerization and capacity building. Already the version of e-government is being tied to the overall vision for the country’s growth and development. Furthermore, NITDA listed the following as the deliverables of e-Government:
• Increased transparency on the part of government
• Reduce cost of governance
• Potentials of project that create values to investors
• Bette services that are faster, cheaper and easier for government, business and the entire citizenry
• Better productivity by employers
• Wealth and job creation for investors
• Better informed citizens
Non-internet e-Government Cordella (2007) stated that e-government is often thought of as "online government" or "Internet-based government," many non-Internet "electronic government" technologies can be used in this context. Some non-Internet forms include telephone, fax, PDA, SMS text messaging, MMS, wireless networks and services, Bluetooth, CCTV, tracking systems, RFID, biometric identification, road traffic management and regulatory enforcement, identity cards, smart cards and other NFC applications; polling station technology (where non-online e-voting is being considered), TV and radio-based delivery of government services, email, online community facilities, newsgroups and electronic mailing lists, online chat, and instant messaging technologies. Cordella listed the primary delivery models as Government-to-Citizen or Government-to-Customer (G2C), Government-to-Business (G2B) and Government-to-Government (G2G) & Government-to-Employees(G2E). Furthermore, Cordella listed some technology-specific sub-categories of e-government to include: m-government (mobile government), u-government (ubiquitous government), and g-government-(GIS/GPS-applications-for-e-government).
Nitro (2000) posited that within each of these interaction domains, four kinds of activities take place:
FGN: Federal Government, SG: State Government and LGA: Local Government Area
Figure 1: [Domains for eGovernment]. (Adapted from[Ntiro, S. (2000)])
eGOVERNMENT PROGRAMME IMPLEMENTATION IN NIGERIA:
Ndukwe (2007) stated that Nigeria had a cellular mobile network capacity of 210,000 lines, out of which only 26,500 were connected. Today more than two million people have GSM mobile phones. Progress has also been made in the provision of wireless line and fixed wireless phones. There are indeed several other indications that considerable progress has been made in the IT and Telecommunications in other to advance e-Governance since the advent of democracy. The awareness of the potentials of using IT to transform the nation’s economy is already widespread among policy makers and leaders of the organized private sector and organized labour. Indeed, there are already in place a National Telecommunications Policy, and also a National IT Policy that has specific goals and targets.
According Hallah and Yahaya (2009) who stated that the house of representative committee on Information and National Orientation stated that the seven point agenda of President Umar Yar’adua will fail as a result of inadequate access to internet facilities in the country. The committee cited that the country’s official website is not updated and that the website is ineffective, over 80 per cent of the ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) don’t have internet connection, about 90 per cent of the personnel could not operate internet and an institution like Nigeria Television Authourity (NTA) does not have official website to showcase the country’s mineral resources.
Accordingly, Muhammad (2009) stated that months into multi million naira image making rebranding Nigeria e-campaign by the Federal Government of Nigeria, its official website www.nigeria.gov.ng is yet to be re-branded as there is no logo of the new campaign and no window to link visitors to the re-branding campaign.
Another report credited to Daily trust (2009) stated that currently, many African countries rely heavily on satellite connections for internet and telephone calls. The report also added that World Bank report (2009) categorically stated that the use of internet in Nigeria has started to take off recently but remains far behind leading competitors. The report also added that Nigeria lags behind many of its competitors in the availability of internet hosts and as a result, does not boast of many internet users as other countries. The report however, stated that the situation is quickly improving and gave the following statistics: “in 2006, Nigeria had 0.8 internet hosts per 10,000 people while the company figures for Malaysia and the Philippine were 35 and 4.8 respectively.
The most recent of the yearly statistics by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) (2001) indicate that Nigeria has just 723 hosts on the Internet, out of the total 274, 722 for the whole of the African Continent. This represents a mere 0.263%. South Africa with 238,462, Namibia (4,632), Zimbabwe (3,494), Cote d’Ivoire (3,131), Mauritius (3,126), Kenya (2,702), Morocco (2,454), Senegal (1,836) and Egypt (1,802) are all ahead of Nigeria with more live machines on the Internet. Of the 52 countries rated on the African Continent, Nigeria ranked 16th in terms of Internet hosts. (See Fig 1)