4th e-Governance Africa Forum

Effective Governance, transparent public services and citizen empowerment through Information and Communication Technologies is the theme of the 4th Annual e-Governance Africa Forum 2010 in Maputo from 23 to 25 March.

Organised by the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (CTO) in conjunction with the ICT Ministry of Mozambique, the Forum is part of the CTO’s mandate to facilitate and promote ICT development through knowledge-sharing events. Key topics will include: Government policy and regulation; Private sector initiatives; Public Private Partnerships; Funding; Infrastructure; Technology; Service provision; Capacity building; Content generation; e-Gov and revenue generation; Empowering marginalised groups: women, youth and rural communities; and Practical case studies.

The CTO is calling for papers for presentation at the Forum – either in the form of case studies or expertise in any of the key topic areas. Among the international delegation present at the Forum will be Policy Makers, Regulators, Operators, Financiers, Academicians, Technology and Software Developers,International Aid Agents and Civil Society Operatives. Those interested in presenting at the Forum are asked to contact Samuel Fletcher on  +44 208 600 3809 or e-mail s.fletcher@cto.int.

Tanzania focuses on Public Sector ICT Management

The University of Dar es Salaam Computing Centre (UCC) yesterday launched a two-year project on capacity building on the effective use and management of information and communication technology in the public sector. The Sh500 million (US$ 370,000) project will see at least 240 workers in the public sector receive ICT training.

Office of the President (Public Management) permanent secretary George Yambesi said when launching the project that the programme aimed to improve information management among public servants. He said that there was a need for appropriate capacity in ICT management and technical skills in some areas to efficiently support government initiatives.

Integrity of Somaliland voter registration system in doubt

Delays in the holding of elections in the Somaliland region of Somalia are being blamed, inter alia, on the failure of a new voter registration system to produce a credible electoral roll.

According to SomalilandPress,

The new electoral commission has a difficult job ahead including clearing the mistakes in the voter registration system. A high-tech biometric technology is being used in the registration; however, the use of such technology was too early for Somaliland due to lack of public awareness and infrastructure in the country. Somaliland is one of the first African countries to use such sophisticated technology to empower democracy.

Moreover, the registration process challenged tribal demography that is sensitive in Somaliland and the region in general, because all tribes wanted to score high in the census. This led many tribesmen to enroll two or three times, which tripled the expected number. The capacity of the server could not process the high number. At this point we can say, modern technology undermined the growing democracy of Somaliland.

The new system, which involves the production of voter and civil ID cards containing both photographs and fingerprints, was introduced in the second half of 2008. The registration campaign, endorsed by both the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute, was completed by January 2009.

In reality the registration campaign was beset by problems – both technical and political. A recent report by the International Crisis Group documents these in some detail.

via Abdulaziz Al-Mutairi of SomalilandPress.

Uganda to expand rural information system

The International Institute for Communication and Development (IICD) and the Ugandan government have signed an agreement to expand a programme that helps rural farmers increase their income through ICT-enabled crop marketing services. The Rural Information System (RIS) programme enables farmers to send and receive production and market information through 26 information centres in isolated areas throughout the country. The information helps farmers sell their produce at better prices. The Ministry of Trade, Tourism and Industry (MTTI) will build ten new centres.

The new phase in the programme will begin in early 2010. The involvement of MTTI significantly improves the sustainability of the RIS programme. Together with the Uganda Commodity Exchange, MTTI will drive the programme and work with existing farmer cooperatives to set up new centres. IICD will act as project advisor, sharing its experience in rolling out the existing centres and its expertise in monitoring and evaluation.

Nigeria postpones electronic voting

Amid public expectations of measures to be taken to bolster the credibility of future polls in Nigeria, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday said that it had no expenditure plans in next year’s budget for the much-canvassed electronic voting system. The INEC position, which was expressed by its Secretary, Alhaji Abdullahi Kaugama, at a session on the defence of its N47.212 billion proposed expenditure in the 2010 budget, came against the backdrop of failed attempts by the Commission to adopt the e-voting system for the 2007 general elections.

The elections were adjudged by international and domestic observers to have been largely flawed. Election Petitions Tribunals and the Court of Appeal sitting in different state capitals had voided a number of electoral mandated that were not properly secured.

Kaugama told the Committee on INEC that the Commission did not consider it necessary to make provision for the e-voting in the 2010 budget. He stated that the Commission has in place a system to transmit election results electronically, adding that the e-voting machine is the only missing component.

via Sufuyan Ojeifo of  This Day on allAfrica.com, 10 Dec 2009

Nigeria: Dispute over system for electronic transmission of corruption documents

The Chairman of the Nigerian Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), Justice Emmanuel Ayoola yesterday disagreed with the Senate Committee on Drugs, Narcotics, Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes on the computerisation of the Commission for efficient transmission of both sensitive and non-sensitive documents, especially petitions.

Ayoola said that computerisation of the Commission would not amount to efficiency of the institution and would therefore want the N260 million (US$1.7m) proposed for it in the 2010 budget channeled to the recruitment and training of investigators to deal with the plethora of petitions pending at the Commission. “If you give me N260 million to achieve efficiency at the Commission, I would not use it on computerisation because there are petitions to be investigated and there are no personnel to investigate them.” He maintained that he would rather spend money on recruitment and training of investigators to deal with the several petitions that daily inundate the Commission.

But Chair of the Committee, Senator Sola Akinyede insisted that the Commission must be computerised, stressing that “N260 million is not too much as I believe that the Commission must be modernised. Akinyede, apparently surprised at Ayoola’s position, said: “I insist that you modernize the ICPC. You do not need to get people to be moving sensitive documents from Lagos to Abuja. “Documents can be scanned and sent via the internet and they would be received at the expected destination in less than five minutes. A lot of resources can be saved by this. Besides, it is faster and safer than sending documents by courier, which cumulatively is very expensive. The high cost of courier services can be pruned down and the money channeled into modernising.”

via Sufuyan Ojeifo of This Day on allAfrica.com, 10 Dec 2009

New Technologies in Emergencies and Conflicts

A report on “New Technologies in Emergencies and Conflicts: The Role of Information and Social Networks” has been published by the United Nations Foundation. It provides a useful summary of risks and challenges which apply to all information systems:

… governments, humanitarian agencies, and local communities face challenges and risks associated with modern technological innovation. These include:

  • Information flows must be two-way to be effective — from the external world to the affected community, but also from those affected to the agencies seeking to help them in useful ways.
  • Information will not be used unless it is trusted. The utility of any technologies will depend on the social context. People are a vital part of the communication system.
  • Information will be helpful only if it is accurate. There are risks in unregulated information flows, especially when these are spread rapidly online, and these risks need to be managed. Authentication is a key challenge.

Botswana: No system to deal with gun crime

The Commissioner of Police in Gaborone, Thebeyame Tsimako, says the use of illegal arms in criminal activities has increased in Botswana but the lack of a database of registered weapons is hindering police efforts to deal with the situation.

A recent report concluded that there is a pressing need for the introduction of a database to document legally owned firearms at the police Central Arms Registry. “This will assist in the investigation of crime and monitoring of permits and licences. The absence of a database means that verification of licences is not up to date and time consuming to reply to enquiries from police stations and other stakeholders,” the report says.

via Mmegi Online, 10 Dec 2009

Ghana’s national identity system on course

The Head of Public Affairs at the National Identification Authority (NIA), Bertha Dzeble, has assured Ghanaians that the Authority will soon establish offices in all ten regions of the country to register all those who in one way or the other, failed to be captured in the on-going registration exercise. “We will establish our district offices and people can, on a daily basis, just like the Birth and Death Registry, go and get registered. So it is not as if, maybe, if you don’t participate now, you are denied registration forever,” she stated.

According to her, the exercise currently going on in the Greater Accra Region has witnessed long queues and delays, leading some people to apportion blame at the doorstep of the NIA, whereas it is not. “There is only a certain number of people we can register a day with the machine, and we cannot exceed it. Also it takes quite some time for people who are filling the forms to get the correct information. We don’t rush them. It is actually delaying the process and creating some difficulty for us, so it takes a long time to process one person at a centre,” she stated.

Madam Dzeble said that after the creation of the national database, “many institutions both government and private, will be using it for the authentication and verification of personal data, and also use it to formulate data for this country to run effectively and develop faster than we have it in the past.”

via The Ghanaian Journal, 9 Dec 2009