Experts and leaders agree to expedite ICT-based governance in Africa

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Rwanda’s Minister of Youth and ICT Jean-Philbert Nsengimana (3rd from left) and other experts at the E-Governance Forum Africa in Kigali

The Commonwealth e-Governance Forum Africa 2015 kicked off today in Kigali with experts calling for governments to put emphasis in bridging the ICT gaps between poor and rich countries.

Professor Tim Unwin, the Secretary – General of the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation highlighted how “Governments globally have adopted e-enabling governance in order to improve services, efficiency and transparency” but said that the gaps in ICT access are still a cause of slow growth of e-governance in Africa.

“ICT is evidently growing faster and Africa is no longer leapfrogged because things are happening, but we also know that technology remains the greatest divide of economies of rich and poor countries. This poses the question of how technologically are we ready to drive the public sector”? Unwin said.

Dr. Katherine W. Getao. ICT Secretary of Kenya said gaps between generations of communities for example in Kenya have been an issue that has slowed down the pace of e-governance.

She said that policy makers need to find a way of developing ICT facilities that are user friendly and tap into these generations of age-groups that differ in mind-set.

Some ICT professors also argue that the gaps in ICT use have been created partly by the lack of political will as government officials keep dragging their feet as far use and sustainability of existing ICT programs in communities is concerned.
Experts also contend brain drain has affected Africa’s ability to develop its own models of ICT initiatives, since many graduates in the field are hired by foreign companies.

Rwanda’s Minister of Youth and ICT, Jean Philbert Nsengimana said although “e-governance in Rwanda forms a pivotal part of national development agenda, the issues of financial capacity and putting up proper infrastructure remain a major challenge to African economies.”

While Nsengimana was proud of how ICT has become part of lives of Rwandans he acknowledged there is still need to have global and regional new approaches to addressing the gaps in e-governance, saying the already existing development forums like the Northern Corridor Summit could be used to discuss regional agendas to propel and implement inclusive ICT programs.

In the case of Rwanda which is globally recognized for ICT initiatives, a number of initiatives, policies, legislations and investments have been put in place to enable and promote the government’s digital transformation, whose target is to turn the previous agrarian economy into a knowledge based economy.

Nsengimana boasted Rwanda is working to leverage latest ICT capabilities such as big data, analytics, social media, mobility, internet of things among others to deliver a transparent, efficient, citizen-centric and accountable governance.
More than 200 participants from across the globe including policy makers, regulators, academia, implementing agencies, internet providers and telecom company representatives will explore topics geared towards promoting ICT as a new form of service delivery during the two day forum.