BY: Amadu Femoh Sesay , Information Officer-Cabinet Secretariat :
Secretary to the Cabinet (right) chatting with the President of Mauritius (left)
The Secretary to the Cabinet and Head of the Civil Service, Dr. Ernest Sahid Alie Surrur and Mohamed M. Jalloh, e-Government Coordinator, Ministry of Information and Communications have attended the 11th Forum of the Commonwealth Heads of African Public Services on the theme ‘e-Government for Inclusive and Sustainable Development’ from the 8th-10th July, 2014 in Port Louis, Mauritius.
Dr. Surrur said the Forum which brought together 48 participants from 16 African Commonwealth member states was to identify workable strategies for promoting effective e-Government implementation that will facilitate sustainable development in Commonwealth Africa.
The Head of the Civil Service disclosed that the Forum enabled Heads of Public Service to have a common understanding of e-Government and its linkages to inclusion and sustainable development; discussed the benefits and challenges of e-Government as a mechanism for streamlining and injecting efficiency into public service delivery and agreed on the role that Heads of Public Service can play in promoting the greater use of e-Government and proposed possible solutions and strategies that could ‘fast track’ implementation.
The Secretary to the Cabinet told the gathering that the Government of Sierra Leone is leading in putting in place the necessary ICT infrastructure that positions the country to harnessing the benefit of e-Government.
Outlining some of the e-Government activities undertaken in the country, Dr. Surrur said Government has created an ICT Cadre in the Public /Civil Service and landed the ACE Fiber Optic Sub-Marine Cable.
He said one of the key priorities in the Government’s Agenda for Prosperity is the promotion of universal access and services through the ‘Connect a School Connect a Community Project’. This, he observed will act as a catalytic tool to promote services to the most marginalized population, children and youths.
The Secretary to the Cabinet stated that Government is in the process of reviewing the 2009 National ICT Policy and Strategy and implementing Broadband Connectivity project to provide faster, cheaper and affordable broadband service for all Ministries, Departments and Agencies.
He said with the necessary infrastructure in place, e-Government applications can affect the interaction and transaction between inter-agency government relationships; government and business enterprises; government and citizens, in a more friendly, convenient, transparent and inexpensive way, mentioning the Administrative and Registrar General’s office as a good example worthy of emulation.
Chairing one of the sessions, Dr. Surrur said e-Government approach has added value to the worth of Africa as a continent. He observed that the implementation of ICT is changing the face of Africa from the ‘Dark Continent’ with communications blackout, low development, health and security risk, unsafe investments because of citizens’ dissatisfaction leading to unrest and war to a bright, well illuminated Continent with connectivity enhancing transparency and accountability due to open data availability thereby reducing interface between Customer and Public Service provider therefore limiting corruption and improving satisfaction among citizens leading to peaceful and stable states.
The Secretary to the Cabinet emphasized that ICT is a cross-cutting tool that needs to be prioritized for ‘National Development’ adding that there was need to determine the e-readiness of states and passing of good laws that work in harmony with neighbouring states so that cyber criminals will have no escape.
Making the Keynote Address, the President of Mauritius, Rajkeswur Purryag said connectivity has become the key to sustainable development with ICT and internet taking the leading role. He said e-Government is now being inclusively used as a powerful tool to transform the nature and meaning of service delivery to the public. President Purryag observed that we are living in an exciting and challenging world characterized by an outstanding rate of change fuelled by technology. He stated that technology is now changing the way governments and organizations do business.
Commenting on Sierra Leone’s Country Report, Tim Newman, Director, Governance and Natural Resources Advisory Services, Commonwealth Secretariat applauded the Secretary to the Cabinet for the reform processes going on in Sierra Leone particularly at the Cabinet Secretariat and the e-Government approach the country is applying. He re-affirmed that the country’s e-Government approach is on the right track and emphasized that the idea is to “think big, act small and fast track implementation”.
Mr. Newman reiterated that the use of e-Government is a crucial tool in strengthening service delivery in a modern era. He said it promotes efficiency, transparency and reduces transaction costs for end users and citizens in general. He pointed out that the Commonwealth delivery model in public sector governance is based on government approach which is critical in ensuring that public services are cost-effectively delivered for inclusive an