Digital services in governance are no doubt very critical in delivering efficient and robust services to citizens. With the implementation of seamless e-Government system, time will be saved, Government will save cost, Ministries, Departments and Agencies of Government will be more transparent and accountable.
This led to the adoption of e-Government by developed Nations, moving from traditional governance to electronic governance over the years. Today, many nations have adopted their own framework, but Nigeria is yet to have one. This has led to execution of IT projects in silos by the various MDAs with the attendant negativities. However, Nigeria has had some success stories since the implementation of the Treasury Single Account, TSA and Integrated Personnel Information System, IPPIS.
The two account for monthly savings of N24Bn and N20Bn respectively. These are in addition to other successes achieved through the implementation of Government Information and Geographical Systems, GIGS; e-taxation, e-passport, e-wallet etc. Despite these gains, the MDAs still face mountainous challenges because they operate in silos rather than having a coordinating body that would ensure that the implementation among them is interconnected, as it is being done in developed climes.
The realisation of this imperative, however, prompted the National Information Technology Development Agency, NITDA, last week to gather stakeholders in Abuja to strategise on how to harmonise the e-Government Interoperability Framework, tagged Ne-GIF. The idea of harmonisation, according to NITDA is to offer a seamless e-Government operation within the entire governance process, knowing that Information Technology, IT projects cannot be executed in silos. The stakeholders’ engagement forum was meant to seek stakeholders input to the draft framework before the final presentation to the general public. It also means that, if adopted, Nigeria can have a workable document that creates a seamless synergy across all sectors of the economy.
As part of its responsibilities, NITDA is mandated to develop guidelines for IT deployment in Nigeria, monitor data interchange, and compliance, which formed basis for the event. Another idea behind the framework was to ascertain if agencies wanting to implement IT projects have the capacity to implement such projects in order to have value for money, considering that Nigeria is already lagging behind in e-Government index.
Before seeking this harmonised framework, NITDA had made it mandatory for all MDAs to seek its clearance before embarking on any implementation of any IT project, considering that e-Government is very important and Nigeria is lagging behind in it. Addressing the stakeholders, Director General of NITDA, Dr. Isa Ibrahim Pantami said: “The agency came up with this draft on e-Government Interoperability Framework, for stakeholders to review and see how they can add value to it.
We believe that when we have a general look at the document in this manner, that the contents could be enriched; that is also when it wouldn’t be a problem for us to implement because all stakeholders have a responsibility to it.” He added that, with the framework in place, all the agencies of Government operating in silos will be linked together for data exchange in a seamless manner. According to him, it will be difficult to quantify what Nigeria loses in the absence of this framework because the systems are not integrated. “The framework is about integrating IT projects in Ministries, Departments and Agencies, knowing that IT projects cannot be executed in silos. We think there is need to come up with a framework.
Many Nations have their own framework, but in Nigeria we are yet to have one. It is better late than never. A few stakeholders who participated in the document review applauded the idea, saying it would save the country a lot of time and money. For instance, managing director of New Technology Connection, Mr. Jide Awe, described the move as a timely intervention by NITDA in order to democratize governance through citizens’ participation. Awe said the proposed framework when adopted would make e-Governance more practical in Nigeria because, according to him, too many of e-Government projects are being implemented in isolation.