E-Government to foster transparency and efficiency

E-Government to foster transparency and efficiency

Staff Reporter

MASERU

Tucked in the corner of the Ministry of Communications offices is an office whose work promises to transform the way people interact with the government.KhibaMasiu, coordinator of the e-Government Infrastructure Project, believes he has an answer to the tedious queues people endure at government offices. He believes the project can make the government more efficient and transparent.

In the following interview, he explains how that will happen:

 

What is the e-Government Infrastructure Project?

 

It’s a project for the transformation of government to provide efficientand transparent services to citizens and the private sector through the Information Communication Technology (ICT). The genesis of the project was the World Summit on Information Society which was held in 2010. That summit was emphasising that there is an efficient way to provide services through e-transformation for African countries. Sothey approached Lesotho with this project whose main purpose was to deploy systems for an e-government. Later in 2014 we agreed to make a contract with African Development Bank to implement the project. The Ministry of Finance signed the contract. We as the Ministry of Communication we are the executing ministry. Through that contract Lesotho will get US$12.8 million for the implementation of the e-Government project.
What are the project’s main goals?

 

There are basically two main objectives. First, it aims to improve the country’s public service delivery through the establishment of a modern core e-government infrastructure and service. The second is to strengthen access to government shared services, including data centres and portals, and facilitation of access to e-applications for government.

 

What was the basis of these goals?

 

There was an assessment which found that there is no ICT infrastructure in the country. Let me say there is some infrastructure but it’s not enough for the implementation of an e-Government. It was found that our internet cost is very high. They also found that we have a silo system: each ministry is having its own ICT system without a central coordination process. There is no proper management of the little ICT infrastructure we have. It was realised that our ICT policies need to be reviewed because they do not address what is on the ground at the moment. We also don’t have a legal framework that can enable the country to move towards an e-Government. The government is paying too much for ICT because our initiatives are not coordinated. Basically those are the issues that informed the goals we set to achieve through this project.

 

What has the government done so far to implement the project?

 

We have engaged a consultant from Norway (Norway Registered Development Company). It is assisting us to design the e-government system that will help us achieve the goals we have set. After that they will guide us on how to implement that model. The consultants have just finished their work and have given us a report on how to go about the implementation. But I must point out that this is just the preliminary aspect of the project.

 

What is the next phase?

 

Now we are doing awareness campaigns in the ministries. We have seen that the transformation process is tough so we need as much buy-in as possible. We need to get the ministries on board. We have four components to this project. The first is the strengthening of core network infrastructure. We want to improve the existing government network so we can make it more effective. Under that we are going to improve the metropolitan network. We will construct base stations in collaboration with the Lesotho Communications Authority (LCA). We will do this in the areas that are not serviced by the mobile network companies. We will contribute 75 percent and LCA will contribute 25 percent. The second component is to constructa highly sophisticated data centre in Mohale’s Hoek. The third component is the development of an e-portal. We put everything on the internet so people can get service through the websites. The idea is that everything should be done online. For instance, it should be possible for you to monitor your application for a government service through the internet. Let’s say you have gone to get services from the Ministry of Education and you present your Identity Card. The ministry should be able to get a copy of your ID from the database at the Ministry of Home Affairs.  That is the kind of integration we are looking at.The fourth component is the capacity building. We need to train officers on how to provide the service.

 

How will this project transform lives?

 

It will have a huge impact. It will make it easier for people to get access to government services and other crucial information. Let’s say you are in the remote areas of Thaba-Tseka and you want to apply for an ID. What is happening now is that you will have to travel to town to make that application. That costs you money. When you get there you might be told that you don’t have all the documents required so you go back home. That means an extra trip back to the centre. When the application is finally done there is another trip to check if the ID is out. The e-Government project will change that. You can make an application from your home and then monitor if the ID has come out. Secondly, it will increase literacy on the usage of ICT. It will cut government costs. There will befewer and shorter  queues at service centres. We are going to train 500 ICT professionals who will help with the implementation of the project. The selection will be based on where you are and the impact you will make in your area.  We are going to use the wide post office network we have to establish service centres from where people can access the services. We are also going to train 400 government employees to help implement the project. The Ministry of Local Government is building councils in which we are going to place our one-stop centres for the provision of government services. The cornerstone of these centres will be the ICT infrastructure through which people will be able to get services.

 

What challenges have you faced so far?

 

One of the challenges is that we are behind schedule on the implementation. It took us a long time to meet the conditions set by the bank for us to get the funding. I can say we are a year behind schedule. But I am hoping that we will meet the 2018 deadline. The other issue is that some people don’t understand how the project will transform the government. They think the project will put them out of jobs. The other issue is that this project needs a lot of political will which I can tell you is there. The government fully supports this project but we just have to work hard. They know it’s going to assist the country in a huge way.

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