Tanzania: “Glaring shortcomings” in government websites

By Al-Amani Mutarubukwa, The Citizen, 27 Oct 2010

Dar Es Salaam — The glaring shortcoming in accessing timely information from public agencies and other government institutions – especially using information technology – has been aptly unravelled by the official website of the National Electoral Commission (NEC).

With only four days to go before the 2010 General Election, information on the NEC website is shockingly outdated, while very little facts and figures are available about the October 31 elections. The total number of visitors to www.nec.go.tz, currently standing at about 3,500, is an indication of the big number relying on it as a source of information, although the outdated and limited details can be frustrating.

A quick visit proves that NEC was yet to post up-to-date details of voters and polling centres, or the presiding officers as deployed countrywide. Coupled with constant breakdowns, and the continued use of obsolete information, the site could mislead those intent on using it to monitor or follow the voting progress on Sunday and the subsequent counting exercise. It is not clear why NEC is yet to update some of the information, including changing the names of former MPs, some who are deceased and others who had already been replaced during by-elections. There is also no list of presidential candidates running this year. Under the tag of Voter Register, the latest entry is an update for 2007/2008 that put the total number of voters at 18 million, with an additional 2 million new entries. NEC had indicated this year that those who have been cleared to vote stand at over 19 million.

Yesterday, the NEC principal education officer, Ms Ruth Masham, told The Citizen in a phone interview that the Commission had been experiencing technical problems in running the website. Asked why they had not updated it, she said: “This is an internal matter whose details I can’t disclose to you but we are working on it and will soon bring it to date.” However, part of the problem appears to be a shortage of staff, including those with IT skills. “We have been overwhelmed by preparations for the General Election and as a result the person tasked to update and manage the website could not get time to do so,” Ms Christina Njovu, NEC’s public relations officer told The Citizen last week in a telephone interview.

Only a few websites including that of the Bank of Tanzania, parliament and the national bureau of statistics appear updated, modernised and busy.

Some websites belonging to ministries have not been updated with critical information for the past year.

The ministry of East African Cooperation is another huge non-performer. Unlike the corresponding websites of other East African partner states, the local website has no single material posted regarding the East African Common Market protocol that came into force in July.

For more than two years, the ministry of Energy and Minerals website is more or less like a “dummy.” It has neither energy nor minerals statistics posted on it. “Statistics coming soon,” it reads.

The director for Information and Communication Technologies at the ministry of Communication, Science and Technology, Dr Zaipuna Yonah, says the responsibility to manage the websites is within the ministries and agencies themselves. He said the authorities have realised there is a deficiency in ICT utilisation for communication and has called a meeting for tomorrow (Thursday) to discuss, among other things, matters pertaining to mismanagement of government websites.

via allAfrica.com: Tanzania: NEC’s Website Shame As Oct 31 Nears.

Africa Parliamentary Knowledge Network meets

26 October 2010

PAP

Midrand: Senior parliamentary officials, academics and information and communication technology experts from Africa and beyond met in the First Plenary of the Africa Parliamentary Knowledge Network (APKN), which was jointly hosted by the Pan-African Parliament (PAP) and the Parliament of the Republic of South Africa. As a broad platform for the promotion of African agenda, an Africa Parliamentary Knowledge Network will develop new responses to today’s challenges and common solutions to regional problems. “It is in this light that the Network will assist the Pan-African Parliament and the African Union in achieving regional and continental integration”, the Secretary of Parliament of the Republic of South Africa Mr Zingile Dingani said.

The APKN Plenary adopted the APKN 2011/2012 Plan of Action. This plan seeks to share knowledge among African parliaments, build the capacity of members of parliaments, managerial and professional staff of African parliaments and develop and implement tools, systems and processes to improve management of African parliaments.

According to this plan, the APKN would share its knowledge through the linking of parliamentary libraries, linking of parliamentary websites and the organization of forums for exchange of ideas and new knowledge among parliamentarians and staff of parliament. Further, the African Parliamentary Knowledge Network would for the next two years impress on individual parliaments, as a matter of urgency, to inculcate the freedom of information, access to information, open access to knowledge, policy development lawmaking and oversight as well as management oversights into its parliamentary processes.

As part of this Plan of Action, the APKN would establish law clinics to provide legal education to legislators, parliamentary staff and other relevant stakeholders, while aiding in the professional development of graduate law students. The clinics shall be directed by partner institutions, in consultation with members of APKN and will teach evidence-based legislation through the use of well known theories and methodologies that have been developed over the years.

via Affiliated Network for Social Accountability (ANSA-Africa).

Nigeria: 132,000 notebooks for Electoral Commission

Abuja — In what appears to be a recurring decimal, the Independent National Electoral Commission has for the second time in weeks issued three Requests for Quotation to manufacturers of computers and other hardware appliances needed for the voter registration exercise expected to commence in January 2011.

The firms that got the RFQs are Nigerian firm Zinox Technology, Chinese-based Haier Electrical Applia-nces Technology and Avante Technology, a U.S. ICT company.

All three will be expected to deliver 132,000 pieces of notebook computers along with other components that will used during the voter registration.

Under the RFQs, Zenox, was asked to submit quotations for 80,000 units for biometric data capture, an increase from the 42,000 units initially awarded to it before the invalidation of original tender process started by INEC two months ago.

Haier Electrical, which was expected to deliver 90,000 units before the cancellation, will now supply 30,000 units while Avante, which previously was dropped for not meeting the Bureau of Public Procure-ment’s criteria, was asked to quote for 22,000 units.

INEC sources said 12 companies applied for the multibillion naira contract, which based on the commission’s budget of $2,000 per unit, is estimated to cost over N40 billion ($264 million), but only three were considered capable after they had made their presentations last week.

It was also reliably gathered that the quotations submitted by the three ICT firms are expected to be screened by the BPP between now and Monday, while the Federal Executive Council may give final approval for the contract during its meeting next week.

It was further gathered that the benchmark for the supply of the DDC machines has been pegged at $1443 per unit, which was the lowest quote submitted by one of the companies.

Other companies will be expected to match the lowest quote, in the process saving INEC $557 per unit or $$73.5 million.

Haier had previously bid $843 per unit, which it did to undercut other companies, with the hope of asking for a contract review as the contract progressed.

But the tactic forced INEC to cancel the entire process and restart it from scratch.

via allAfrica.com: Nigeria: INEC Shortlists Zinox, Haier to Supply Ddc Machines -Signs Contract Next Week.

World e-Parliament Conference Opens

The 2010 edition of the World e-Parliament Conference has officially opened at the Pan-African Parliament (PAP) with delegates from eighty (80) parliaments and five continents attending. The conference is aimed at sensitizing parliaments across five continents on the need to use modern technology to help improve communication with their constituents, particularly at the grassroots.

Thomas Stelzer, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-agency Affairs of the United Nations stressed the need for national parliaments to use information and communication technology (ICT) as a tool to reach out to the less privileged people for the betterment of their countries. He indicated that the use of technology has helped tremendously in the improvement of some major sectors of the economy, hence the need for parliaments to make judicious use of it.

via World e-Parliament Conference Opens.

UK supports Ghana’s Financial Management System with £12m

Accra, Oct. 21, GNA – The United Kingdom, on Thursday, signed a memorandum with Ghana to provide the nation’s public financial management system with a £12 million support towards better revenue utilisation and accountability.

The Ghana Integrated Financial Management Information System (GIFMIS) is a project that aims to improve the effectiveness of expenditure, reduce wasteful spending and make it easier to track what government monies have been spent on.

Mr Eric Hawthron, Country Director of the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development, (DFID) who signed the agreement on behalf of his country, explained that £10 million out of the total grant will be directed to the GIFMIS while the remaining two million Pounds will be used to support technical assistance for specialized consultancy services when necessary.

He stressed that the GIFMIS would help the country improve service delivery and the allocation of resources by using new tools and processes as well as ensuring best practices.

Mr Hawthron also announced UKaid’s intention to provide additional £1.863m to the Project and Financial Analysis unit of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning to ensure that value-for-money considerations were taken into account in major public investments.

The Project and Financial Analysis Unit was created in 2007, funded on a pilot basis by the UKaid, and has now been mandated to take on responsibility for policy on Public-Private partnership as well as reviewing proposals.

Dr Kwabena Duffuor, Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, who signed the agreement on Ghana’s behalf, said under the GIFMIS project, the government would publish standard annual financial reports and strengthen internal controls and auditing capabilities.

The GIFMIS, he said, would also enhance annual budget preparation, modernize revenue collection processes, empower local government units, modernize electronic data transmission, storage and disaster recovery systems, among others.

via UK supports Ghana’s Financial Management System with £12m.

Namibia to host HIS forum 

Windhoek – Namibia, through the Ministry of Health and Social Services will host the second regional leadership Health Information Systems (HIS) Forum in Windhoek, from 25 to 29 October.

The key note speaker will be Andrew Mwenda, a well-known journalist from Ugandan, and head of a leading uncensored premier news magazine ‘The Independent’ in Kampala.

He will zero in on country ownership strategies for Health Information Systems.

Participating countries will work together to develop country specific strategies to strengthen their national HIS and prepare a country-led action plan.

The facilitated sessions will also help country delegates to reach a common vision and to articulate immediate next steps to implement their country-owned action plans.

The forum is supported by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), funded by PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief), the World Bank, Health Metrics Network (HMN), International Telecommunication Union (ITU), DFID (the Development Fund for International Development) and Norad.

More than 100 delegates from Ministries of Finance, Health, Science, Information and Communication Technology and Central Bureau of Statistics are expected to attend.

A media release from the Ministry of Information and Communication in Namibia said: ‘Health care policy and services are only as good as the information systems supporting them. Without consistent accessibility, knowledge of what is available, credibility and reliability, and leadership support for a well managed and maintained health information system, the provision of quality health care services around the world will continue to suffer with potentially serious consequences for those in need of these services. Hence, health care can be vastly improved by strengthening the information systems that can support care.’

The forum was held in Ethiopia last year.

Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe will be represented by national HIS leader and top policy makers.

The primary objective of the forum is to foster country ownership in meeting the challenges to national Health Information Systems.

via Southern Times – Namibia to host HIS forum .

Nigeria: FCT Judiciary to Begin E-Court System Jan 2011

Abuja — Justice administration within the Federal Capital Territory has assumed a new dimension as FCT Judiciary yesterday said it had perfected plans to commence electronic-Court system from January 2011.

The Chief Judge of FCT, Justice Lawal H. Gummi, who made this disclosure while commissioning a new high court and family court complex at Apo, a suburb in Abuja yesterday, said the system would make it possible for litigants outside the country to file and monitor the progress of their cases via the internet.

Describing the e-court initiative as a novelty, Justice Gummi maintained that the system would further enhance justice delivery in the country, stressing that the computerized legal method was inline with international best practices.

According to him, “judges from 2011 will be assigned to hear cases filed electronically and also determine same through the e-court system.”

Under this system, which is already practiced in countries like Malaysia, litigants can institute their case even from outside the country, select their counsels online, monitor the progress of the case from inception to judgment and a certified true copy made available to them within 24 hours.

via allAfrica.com: Nigeria: FCT Judiciary to Begin E-Court System Jan 2011.

Africa gets real-time fire information system

October 20, 2010 – Africa: The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has upgraded its Advanced Fire Information System (AFIS) to deliver information on locations of active fires in southern and east Africa in real time, it says.

The satellite-based fire information tool, developed in collaboration with Eskom coupled with cellphone technology for distributing alert messages (or SMSs), is the first of its kind in the world, the CSIR said.

The new AFIS II uses data that is available within 10 minutes after the satellite passes overhead.

Its features mean that government departments, such as the department of agriculture, forestry and fisheries, civil organisations such as Working on Fire and local fire protection associations, and utilities such as Eskom, are able to set up predefined user profiles to assist them in their tasks at national, municipal and provincial levels.

“For example, Eskom receives alerts whenever fires burn within one km of their transmission lines, which may cause line faults,” the CSIR explained.

The system can provide active fire location data and it is also possible to get burnt area estimates from the satellite images.

It also integrates information on wind speed and direction from 130 automated weather stations every hour.

via Africa gets real-time fire information system.

Video conference brings virtual courts to Kenya

KENYA’S judiciary has launched the country’s first ever video conferencing solution for the hearing of cases in a partnership between Cisco, Safaricom, and the judiciary.

The first case was televised from Mombasa city where the Court of Appeal heard three cases via video conference where the bench sat in Nairobi while the respective lawyers were in Mombasa.

Launching the Judiciary ICT Policy and Strategic plan at the Nairobi High Court, Chief Justice Evan Gicheru said the adoption of technology would speed up the delivery of justice.

“Virtual courts have the potential to transform how the justice system deals with cases. They are vital in the drive to deliver swift justice, resolving cases faster and improving service given to victims, witnesses and defendants,” said Gicheru.

Video conferencing is among other ICT initiatives to be adopted by the courts in the next three years including digitalisation of court records and electronic recording of proceedings.

via Video conference brings virtual courts to Kenya.

iBorders Advance Passenger Processing used to control World Cup visitors

South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs today celebrated the success of Advance Passenger Processing (APP), the border management solution from air transport IT specialist SITA, during the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The system, which was implemented in just nine months, successfully kept “undesirables” from entering the country during the tournament.

More than 1.5 million passengers were processed in June and July using SITA’s technology, 350 were subjected to extra examination while more than 60 people were stopped from entering because their names appeared on South Africa’s Visa and Entry Stop List or watch lists provided by Interpol and soccer’s governing body FIFA.

SITA’s solution, iBorders APP, effectively moves the country’s borders to the point of departure. It allows airlines and governments to transfer passport details in an interactive and real-time manner enabling instructions to be sent as passengers check-in, to prevent those who would be denied entry to the country from boarding the aircraft. As it eliminates fines associated with the transportation of inadmissible travellers, airlines flying to South Africa are expected to save millions of dollars in processing and repatriation fees.

via SITA helps secure South Africa’s borders | SITA.aero.

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