The African Development Bank (AfDB) recently joined other major development-oriented institutions in considering ICT as the most compelling challenge facing African countries in developing e-governance. At the ICT Best Practices Forum in Ouagadougou held from June 7-9, 2007, co-sponsors of the Forum - the Burkina Faso Government, UNECA, AfDB and Microsoft called on African governments to develop appropriate e-governance policy and strategies, supported by legislation for e-governance that are linked to strategic development objectives of countries and National Information and Communication Infrastructure (NICI) Policies. In the Ouagadougou Declaration adopted on June 9, African governments in conjunction with the private sector and civil society were called upon to develop sustainable strategies for ensuring that all citizens could reap potential benefits of e-government by ensuring that public information and services remain accessible to all; support start-up initiatives implementing e-governance solutions through appropriate incentives; enact specific procurement law to promote e-government systems. In partnership with the private sector, they should put in place innovative and affordable broadband security infrastructures, as well as technical hardware, software and associated reception facilities with easy access to all ICT infrastructures.
The AfDB reaffirmed its position that proper skills and frameworks should be put in place in order for e-government projects to be implemented and sustained. During the day-long workshop on "Enabling Environment" sponsored by the AfDB and ECA, presenters addressed the need for top-level political and administrative leadership and commitment across all functions and sectors of public administration to ensure the success of ICT. They pointed out that civil servants, women and neglected rural communities who make up the privileged segments of targeted ICT users should be trained, to ensure a successful transformation of society.
In the context of a persistent digital divide within urban and rural areas, presenters projected ICT as a support tool for the development of public services, stressing that assistance could only be based on development strategies owned by countries, which also need to partner with the private sector. The Bank defined its intervention policy in the ICT sector around 3 key pillars: (i) Mainstreaming ICT into national development strategies, (ii) promoting ICT industry, and (iii) Stimulating investment in infrastructure and applications. The Bank’s interventions aim at supporting countries in getting the benefits of ICT and providing a platform for investment, particularly in support of its focus areas that are infrastructure and governance. The thematic pillars of the Forum represent the process necessary for successful development within the public sector.
The workshop also addressed the need to create an enabling environment as a pre-requisite. Once the infrastructure has been developed and the regulatory framework established, in tandem with strong and transparent policies defined and fine-tuned on a regular basis, citizen information databases can be built. This is the foundation for applications and online citizen services.
Programs and strategies, participants, proposed would not be successful unless adapted to local situations and fully integrated within development agendas. Governance, accountability, sound policies and their consistent enforcement are key factors of development effectiveness and therefore constitute pre-requisites for the financing of development projects.
Regional harmonization of ICT-policies and the creation of a regional framework are facilitated when sound policies have been formed at national level. Several speakers echoed the need for leadership across society and at different levels in order to give way to the successful implementation of IT strategies. Governments were urged to view the value of Public-Private Partnerships in a different light as they bring expertise and not just money.
ICT planning should be agile to scale and integrate new technologies to address the demands of regulatory bodies, citizens, businesses, and world markets. ICT is a key tool for regional integration as long as standards harmonized for interoperability.
Workshop organizers indicated that GAP principles are the 3 fundamental things necessary for effective ICT implementation. Those principles arose from a study conducted by the World Bank it was realized that 60% of their ICT projects were not very successful.
The Forum was a success in bringing people together and sharing practices which is line with NEPAD objectives. To foster the dissemination of information on best practices in ICT, the Bank wishes to continue the exchange of ideas, associate with the creation of an online platform for sharing best practices in ICT, continue participating in communication strategies and make this an ongoing event.
The Bank is supporting Regional Member Countries in the formulation and development of ICT projects and in the reformation of public administration with specific emphasis on e-governance and e-commerce.
The Bank can assist countries based on their development strategies both through the public sector windows of the Bank. The Bank has already initiated a process of building a body of best practices in infrastructure development and is planning a forum to publish its report and launch the event. The two initiatives therefore compliment each other.
"The AfDB has supported a number of projects in Burkina Faso and it looks forward to financing more projects that meet the Bank’s criteria. As the AfDB continues to dedicate its resources to the development of our continent, it is important that African countries be proactive in ensuring support for policies that support e-governance", Mrs. Antoinette Dinga-Dzongo, AfDB Resident Representative in Burkina Faso, said in a recent interview.
During the last three decades, the African Development Bank Group has placed at the disposal of more than 30 countries, more than USD 1 billion for the financing of information technologies. Between1995 to 2005, the Bank allocated more than USD 440 million for the development of telecommunication infrastructures. It has also provided support to regional projects such as the African Regional Satellite (RASCOM) and the East African Submarine Cable System (EASSY). The Bank has financed national and regional projects and programs integrating ICT in the sectors of health, education, agriculture and rural development. It has played an important part within the NEPAD in the development of the ICT program, particularly in the preparation of the NEPAD Short Term Action Plan (STAP) and the Medium to Long Term Strategic Framework (MLTSF) for infrastructure development.
The AfDB’s approach for facilitating the development of ICT in Africa is to systematically support member countries that strive to integrate ICT in their projects and their development activities, encourage co-operation, partnerships and the management of the regional networks to accentuate local and regional development efforts.
The AfDB is a multilateral development bank whose shareholders include 53 African countries (regional member countries—RMCs) and 24 non-African countries from the Americas, Asia, and Europe (non-regional member countries—non-RMCs). Established in 1964, the AfDB provides loans to its clients on non-concessional terms.