The entire world is suffering and encountering the invisible and invincible coronavirus, aka Covid-19 which erupted in December last year and was born in China. The zoonotic deadly virus vanquished all the countries regardless poor or rich, irrespective developed or fragile. Any kind of physical interaction among the communities became impossible in order to avoid the spread of the notorious virus. Though, the whole countries are struggling with the damage of the Covid-19, and trying to recuperate, but yet there are some countries that are less-affected the virus because of their preparedness. These countries tended E-Government and E-Governance. They serve their people via E-Service, which means less-physical interaction among the people.
These countries we can mention Estonia, Finland, Korea and some others. Because, the citizens of these respected countries can get the service via online, and this impeccable action led them to survive while the rest is bemoaning.
E-Government is the use of ICT to ameliorate the functions of the public-sector organizations. Not only using the Internet Communication Service, but also improving the government process (E-Administration), connecting citizens (E-Citizen), and establishing exogenous interaction (E-Society).
Moreover, when it comes to the usage of the E-Government, according to the 2018 UN report on E-Governance, Africa is far behind the other continents like Europe. Europe is leading from the top, while Africa is leading from the bottom. For instance, Europe has the highest average of E-government (0.7727), especially Denmark becomes the global leader (0.9150), Estonia is in 16th place (0.8486). The sickening and unholy is, the whole African continent, only six countries are in the list namely Ghana, Mauritius, Morocco, Seychelles, South-Africa and Tunisia. The disappointing was, my country (Somalia) is the last in the list just (0.0566). The report also mentions that, only 22% of the African population has an access to the internet, while Europe is 80%. So, we can extract here how Africa tended backward-trajectory because of their notorious leadership which tended short-sightedness, and lack of gist of the leadership skills.
Grueling factors of Digital Government and Governance in Africa
There are enormous challenges which restrict the accessibility of the internet in Africa, but let us mention some of them:
A. Insufficient electricity: There is a shortage of electricity and blackout in many countries in Africa which diluted and dwindled the availability of the Internet, and makes the E-Government and E-Governance a pipedream.
B. Deep-rooted conflicts within the society: Majority of the African countries are still confronting different conflicts, internecine communal-violence, and some of these conflicts is the legacy of the colonialists which carved up the continent, while some is
intra-conflicts among the community. For instance, there is border disputes in many countries in Africa such as Ethiopia and Somalia border conflict of the (Somali region), Eritrea and Djibouti border conflict, Kenya and Somalia border conflict (NFD) and plenty of others. So, the governments are busy on how to resolve and hammer out these conflicts, and they de-focused the developmental issues including this sophisticated idea of E-Government and E-Governance.
C. Lack of trust between the governments and the citizens: Majority of the African governments do not convey the basic services to the citizens, rather they tended all bark and no bite, lip service and hollow rhetoric. Because, politicians are the product of nepotism, and tended self-aggrandizement and bloodsucking. They are reckless about how the civilians are complaining, they just run-after their singular interests. As a result, there is conspicuous dichotomy between the governments and their citizens. And this dismay situation undermined the governments to initiate and catch up the developmental ideas such as E-Government and E-Governance. I am not only denigrating the governments, but equally the citizens became apathy, feckless and passive about the government’s businesses.
Possibilities of E-Government and E-Governance in Africa
Despite the conspicuous challenges of Africa’s usage of E-government, there are also potentiality that Africa can join the race sooner or later including:
A. You can find all the capitals of the African countries 3G smartphones, which means people are ready to consume E-State services, especially the young-generation.
B. In Africa, there are several countries which are digital champions in Africa including Morocco, South-Africa, Rwanda, Botswana, and Mauritius. So, these countries have an opportunity to extend their usage of E-Government and E-Governance.
Even some countries which is recuperating the conflicts, are nowadays offering E-Service. For instance, Somalia is one of the countries ridden by conflicts, religious extremism, internecine tribal-violence and natural disasters is offering E-Service. Because, majority of the population is young and tech-savvy, the internet coverage is reliable because of the cost of connectivity is lowering due to fiber optic opportunities.
Furthermore, Somalia has the longest-coast in Africa but did not benefit the connectivity because of some challenges including Alshabaab who is still controlling some parts of the country is rejecting because of fear of tracking them. But, Somalia signed an agreement with her neighbor Djibouti to share submarine optic fiber. For instance, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Investment Promotion of Somalia has launched a website, (SomInvest) in order to expose and upload all the national laws and policies which are relevant the investment such as Somalia’s Company Law which was adopted in 2018, and Foreign Investment Law in Somalia which
was initiated in 2015. These relevant laws, and SomInvest website will enable the foreigners to invest Somalia, and the economy of Somalia will boom incrementally.
KOREA as a role model
Korea is one of the top-echelons in the world when it comes to the major international E-Government and IT indexes. Since 2004, Korea has been the champion in the Digital Opportunity Index (DOI) of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). Additionally, in 2005 up to date Korea remains safely within the top five countries in the UN E-Government Readiness Index. Not only these, but also Korea is one of the leading countries globally when it comes to the IT and ICT sector. That is why, Korea becomes a role model during the pandemic. The Korean government handled wisely and meticulously the Covid-19 case. Because, the government was full-fledged, and there is impeccable trust between the government and her citizens. Unlike many countries including US which the Covid-19 paralyzed and diluted its economy and the unemployment rate skyrocketed accordingly. Because, the pompous and flamboyant notorious president Trump was despising at the beginning the Corona’s effects to the people. His naivety, cluelessness and obliviousness led the country to be susceptible and spread unprecedentedly the deplorable Covid-19.
The usage of the internet is not the only aim of E-Government, but also there is a drastic need for democracy, citizen participation, Participatory Governance, E-Service, Trust among the governments and their respected citizens. Majority of the African countries are complaining about cesspool of corruption, election fraud, hefty bribery, lack of democracy and participation tended by their leaders. So, E-Government and E-Governance can be panacea for all these infamous issues.
Anwar Abdifatah Bashir (Freelance Journalist/Horn of Africa Geopolitics Analyst, and Independent Researcher)
The Author is currently undertaking his Fourth Post-Graduate Study in Korea, at Korean Development Institute (KDI) for Master of Global Governance and Political Economy.
The writer is the Author of Four Books, and more than 150 Articles