Zimbabwe in e-govt drive

HARARE - Zimbabwe has intensified efforts to introduce e-government services with the objective of improving information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure in the country.

E-government refers to the use by government agencies of information technologies that have the ability to transform relations with citizens, businesses and other arms of government.

These information technologies could contribute to improved delivery of government services to citizens, better interactions with business and industry, citizen empowerment through access to information, or more efficient government management.

Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa said the country, which is lagging behind in ICTs, will soon establish an e-government platform that will enhance access to government information and services, promoting transparency and efficiency in public services delivery. There will be an increased investment in software licences, specialised computer services, system advisers, and system development.

“In this regard, fiscal resources amounting to $6,9 million will be used to set up the National Data Centre to support the rollout and use of e-government services by citizens, which should contribute towards easing the cost of doing business in the country,” he said.

This comes as the rapid spread of digital devices and greater Internet access in both urban and rural areas is enabling dissemination of critical information and knowledge that empowers households and other institutions in various activities.

Chinamasa sad the Universal Services Fund will also earmark $11,7 million towards the setting up of 70 Community Information Centres in rural service centres, roll out of computerisation and E-learning facilities to 1 300 schools, and introduction of tele-medicine facilities in 20 rural health centres.

ICT experts, however, said despite government awareness of the importance of and need for digitalisation, current expenditure is mainly limited to day-to-day ICT requirements across national and provincial departments.

Creating a fully digital government is challenged by legacy systems necessitating upgrades, limited infrastructure investment to connect all public sector buildings and lack of a co-ordinated plan to enforce ICT standards and ensure inter-operability within national and provincial departments.

Other challenges in the ICT sector include security concerns surrounding shared and cloud computing services, shortage of skilled resources and limited Internet reach and citizen access to online content, preventing two-way interaction with the government.

“Defining clear roles for ICT agencies and building partnerships with the private sector will be crucial to this endeavour,” ICT analyst Robin Craig said.

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