2013-03-30

Pan-African platform for e-governments and e-governance to speed-up Africa’s transformation

Executive summary

It is not a secret that Africa must redouble efforts to build efficient, resilient and capable states. The modern way to improve the activities of public sector organisations is to use the Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). There are many world-wide examples which allow saying that the sooner Africa will have governments which are fully tech-enabled with a tech-savvy workforce is the better.

The continent can accelerate the transformation of Africa by proactively provisioning of a pan-African platform for e-governments and e-governance for all regional countries. This is a unique opportunity, because of the combination of the following factors:
  • overdue need for improving governance, transparency, performance, and traceability of the public sector; 
  • high economic effect of implementing once and re-use about 50 times; 
  • no need for huge up-front investment as e-government can be deployed incrementally with the pace of each regional country;
  • e-government is a green-field project which can be done with high level of quality at the entry point; 
  • higher level of e-government and e-governance is associated with the higher level of democracy; 
  • real example of regional public goods; 
  • world-wide progress of ICT tools;
  • advancement of the ICT infrastructure in Africa; 
  • entering of major IT vendors to Africa; 
  • unlocking potentials for the PPP; 
  • ICT has high potentials as a value-adding industry for Africa’s industrialisation; 
  • new initiatives such as “4Afrika” from Microsoft, “school in the cloud”, SAP’s program for West Africa, etc.
A continent-wide coordination is necessary to lead, coordinate and monitor the design, development and use of such a platform. This coordination should bring the experience, knowledge and resources which will considerably improve the capacity of the continent and regional countries to successfully execute existing e-government and e-governance projects thus unleash the flow of similar projects.

WHY: e-government and e-governance as the foundation for Africa’s transformation 

The World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on the Future of Government in its report “The Future of Government: Lessons Learned from around the World” (see http://www.weforum.org/reports/future-government) recommends “... flatter, agile, streamlined and tech-enabled (FAST) government”. The recent Word Bank’s recent report (see http://www.etransformAfrika.com) also presented the potentials of ICT to transform business and government in Africa. The UN global surveys (see http://unpan3.un.org/egovkb/global_reports/10report.htm and http://unpan3.un.org/egovkb/global_reports/12report.htm) have proved that the deployment of e-government brings the following advantages:
  • public trust that is gained through transparency; 
  • better financial regulation and monitoring thus reducing in the possibilities for corruption; 
  • increase in the performance of governmental agencies; 
  • bridging the digital divide by reaching out to vulnerable populations. 
Also, e-government and e-governance are strongly associated with the country’s level of democracy.

As it is necessary to build e-government and e-governance for more than 50 countries in Africa, it is proposed to build the pan-African platform for e-governments and e-governance and use it in many regional countries.

Considering that e-government and e-governance at the continent are not well-developed yet, a pan-African platform will be a green-field project which can be done correctly from the beginning thus saving money in the long-run.

Such a platform immediately creates numerous opportunities for PPP by facilitating provisioning of public, social, professional, voluntary, private and commercial services.

WHAT: pan-African platform

The platform is a coherent set of governance rules, architectural principals, best practices, integration patterns, shared ICT tools and solutions. Key characteristics of the platform are:

  • high maturity level of corporate basics, e.g. with records management, risk management, electronic management of documents, and management by processes; 
  • high maturity of IT operations, management and governance; 
  • everything is transparent and traceable (thus trustful):
    • design of e-government as a system 
    • execution e-government and e-governance services
    • management of data & document repositories 
    • some data are open
    • evolution of e-government and e-governance 
  • risk-awareness (including proactive risk evaluation) is built-in by design;
  • paperless exchanges between government, citizens, business, and other partners from the civil society;
  • on demand involvement of remote experts (external oversight); 
  • government operational excellence (comprehensive monitoring and short improvement cycle); 
  • building a development supply-chain; 
  • made in Africa and run by Africans. 
Being matured and gradually enriched, the platform will enable the agile implementation of e-government and e-governance services in regional countries (see below the “foundation” architectural pattern). Also, the platform will guarantee the seamless integration and interoperability of those services on national, regional and pan-African levels.

This pattern combines the advantages of the foundation and opportunities for quick delivery:

  • standardise and simplify core functionality as a coherent foundation and
  • speed up the implementation of new innovative solutions on top of the foundation.

HOW: Principles of implementation

1. E-government+e-governance is treated as a complex socio-economic and human-machine system which is developed with the use of the Enterprise Architecture (EA) methodology (following the recommendation of “The future of government” http://www.weforum.org/reports/future-government). Use of this methodology will allow synchronizing a complex system development strategy with opportunities carried by emerging technologies. In other words, EA methodology connects the “dots”.
      

2. The growth of ICT infrastructure in Africa to be coordinated with the growth of the platform as mutually-reinforcing factors. The ICT infrastructure is a necessary (but not sufficient) condition for the development of e-government and e-governance.

3. The modern information technologies, e.g. BPM, SOA, mobile, cloud, unified communication, electronic transactions are to be used.

4. The use of the benefits of the platform depends on the readiness of each regional country: each must identify a suitable pace. A “ladder” or “maturity model” (see below) is a metaphor for suggesting how a set of countries with different abilities might achieve common goals and plan their progress. The “ladder” has a few levels of capability from “not able” to “fully capable.The possibility for each regional country to advance at their own pace will be guaranteed by the proper enterprise architecture.


5. The platform is implemented from commercial and open software as shown below. Free and open source software is used by preference. The global partnership with big IT vendors: Apple, IBM, Microsoft, SAP, Oracle, etc. is to be established. For example, the platform may also incorporate initiatives such as “4Afrika” initiative from Microsoft http://www.microsoft.com/africa/4afrika/ .


6. A strong and robust eco-system for startups, innovation clusters and centres of excellence is to be created.

7. Close collaboration with existing similar and related initiatives is to be established. For example, Switzerland is trying to develop a common approach for all 26 cantons to avoid “piecemeal” http://www.egovernment.ch/en/ .

HOW: Implementation structure 

The ideal implementation structure should be able proactively coordinate the creation, design, implementation, and evolution of the platform. It should be a mixture of competence centre, centre of excellence, centre-of-expertise, solution centre, knowledge centre, and programme management office. For example:

  • steering committee 
  • advisory board 
  • portfolio management office and director 
  • several transversal projects 
  • architecture committee 
  • external resources (eco-system) 
  • temporary ad-hoc groups (as necessary) 

The implementation structure will need to deal with a rather complex and dynamic dependencies between initiatives, capabilities, projects, tools, etc. Those dependencies are to be quantified by the EA to allow linking between the business objectives and implementation priorities (see below).

Note that although “dots” and connections between them may be different for each regional country, there is a huge potential for the reusability of tools, methods and services among the continent.

HOW: Initial deliverables 


  • inventory of existing and current projects 
  • involvement of international knowledge and experience
  • initial pan-African architecture (with the help of big IT partners)
  • explanation of the platform for all stakeholders 
  • “quicksilver” portfolio
  • country e-government and e-governance roadmaps
  • methodology for evaluation of e-government and e-governance impact in any development project
  • identification of first opportunities
  • launch and assist first projects 
  • monitoring, learning, coordination, refinement of architecture 

The initial pan-African platform architecture will comprise the following deliverables:

  • big picture 
  • reference model
  • standards 
  • reference architectures 
  • nomenclatures of recommended tools 
  • deployment practices
  •  integration practices


Conclusion and question

No doubts the platform is necessary and it is necessary right now. The main next question is what organisation(s) can support the implementation of this platform and carry out the required coordination?

Thanks,
AS

A few definitions:
E-government is the use of ICTs to improve the activities of public sector organisations.
E-governance is the use of ICTs to improve the communication between public sector organisations and their stakeholders: citizens, businesses and other social organisations.

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