Leveraging Technology For Public Sector Reforms, by Inyene Ibanga
Digital technology and social media have transformed the way people live, communicate and conduct economic activities with one another. Through the power of these two phenomena, people are gaining widespread access to information and global connections, irrespective of their geographic locations.
Thanks to the pervasive power of the internet, the appropriate application of digital or electronic government has become vital for satisfying the yearning and aspirations of modern citizens.
Citizens are using technology to hold governments to account and exercise their civic rights. Their expectation is for the government to deliver the same service standards as offered by the private sector.
As a result, governments everywhere are undergoing digital transformation and using the digital route to deliver services more efficiently, transparently, and cost-effectively to the citizens. Governments around the world are recognising and leveraging e-government to optimise their services to citizens.
The World Bank defines e-government as the use of information technology by government agencies, which are responsible for transmitting information to those within its ambit, businesses, and all other governmental stakeholders.
As such, e-government is the application of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) to government functions and procedures, with the purpose of increasing efficiency, transparency, and citizen participation.
Objectives of e-government include the better delivery of public services to citizens, the enhancement of business and industry collaborations, citizen empowerment through access to information, and ultimately more effective governance.
E-government is the practical demonstration of how ministries, departments, and agencies (MDAs) of government use ICT as a support tool in the development of good governance by entrenching higher levels of effectiveness and efficiency in governmental operations, the improvement of processes and procedures, and increase in the quality of public services.
Aside from deploying e-government to achieve cost-effectiveness and citizen inclusion, governments are also innovating solutions to provide the optimum delivery of services, establish advanced systems of procurement, foster higher transparency, and curb corruption and wastages.
Despite the fact that technology has the potential to boost government responsiveness, productivity, and citizen trust, governments in many developing countries are reluctant to deploy technology towards the reform of their public sector.
While effective governments remain the cornerstone of poverty reduction and inclusive growth, most African governments rely on weak and opaque public institutions to push their personal agenda, without concern for their citizens’ welfare.
Nigeria is currently undergoing the transition from the traditional economy to the digital economy, with the objective of aligning the public sector operations and processes with the Digital Nigeria project and the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS).
The implementation of digital transformation in the public sector is being spearheaded by the Bureau of Public Service Reforms (BPSR), with the technical support of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA).
Indeed, technology is imperative to sustainable public service reforms and the proper repositioning of the public sector for quality service delivery through the digital transformation of government services, in conformity to international good governance practices.
The BPSR was established to coordinate and ensure the full implementation of reform initiatives of agencies of government to enhance service delivery and streamline the public service into a highly professional, functional, smart, and result-oriented institution.
It stands in the vanguard of leveraging technology to achieve its goals of turning around the public service for meaningful engagement and communication between the government and citizens.
This much was underscored by the Director-General, Mallam Dasuki Ibrahim Arabi when he paid a courtesy visit to the corporate office of Image Merchants Promotion Limited, publisher of Economic Confidential and PRNigeria, among other publications in its stable.
Mallam Arabi acknowledged that the public sector has no excuse whatsoever not to embrace technology and digital transformation to ensure the digitisation of governance and elimination of paper-based operations.
He expressed the readiness of the BPSR to vigorously pursue the digitisation of all agencies and institutions of government through the upgrade of ICT facilities and capacity-building programmes to help public officers operate digital tools for productivity and safe record keeping.
He said, “the whole world has been disrupted by technology. We (BPSR) have digitalised all our processes. We are advocates of the actualisation of the e-government master plan of the government, which is looking at the departments and agencies of government.
“A lot of work is going on underground to upgrade the ICT facilities. The central tech agencies, NITDA and Galaxy Backbone, are doing a lot of work to provide the software and hardware that we need to transform.”
In October 2020, NITDA’s Director General, Mallam Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi had assured the BPSR that his agency would deploy its IT competencies in reforming the entire public service saying that, “information technology is key to meaningful reforms in the public service”.
In the long run, the effort to achieve a robust public service reform catalysed by the power of digital transformation through e-government that empowers citizens by giving them improved access, prompt services, saves cost and time, facilitates transparent processes, and makes government more accountable promises a win-win situation for both the citizens and the government.
As a citizen, all you need is a smartphone with a strong internet connection to enjoy the gains of e-government, because you will no longer stand in long queues or be physically present to access government services, except when it becomes extremely necessary.
Inyene Ibanga is Managing Editor TechDigest and writes from Wuye District, Abuja.