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Policy makers from Central and East Africa have concluded a knowledge event designed to address gaps in policy and operational aspects of e-Government services. The African Development Institute of the African Development Bank organized the workshop under the theme, “Digital Economy and e-Government: Bridging the Digital Divide”.
The capacity building and policy dialogue sessions, convened in collaboration with the Korea-Africa Economic Cooperation (KOAFEC), took place in Nairobi, Kenya, between 19 and 21 February 2019. Similar workshops under the Korea Knowledge Sharing Program were held in Mali (2011), Lesotho (2012) and Algeria (2013).
The 120 participants included public sector officials from 18 countries representing regulatory bodies, communication and technology ministries, UN agencies, and representatives of foreign missions. The African Union, the Central African Economic and Monetary Community, the East African Economic Community, the African Telecommunications Union and International Telecommunications Union were also represented.
“Data and knowledge are the new currencies of the global economy,” Nnenna Nwabufo, Deputy Director General of the Bank’s Eastern Africa Regional Office said in her welcome remarks. “The application of e-government tools, techniques and technologies is therefore urgently required to improve the quality and efficacy of public service.”
Nwabufo said the Nairobi workshop was designed to address knowledge gaps in the policy and operational aspects of e-Government services. She urged public sector agencies to revolutionize their approach to development issues in anticipation of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. “As the continent’s fast-growing population begin to exert pressure on the infrastructure and current governance systems, governments must begin to accelerate the digitization of public services,” Nwabufo stated.
Participants also discussed the latest ranking of African countries on the e-Government Development Index (EGDI), published in the United Nations e-Government Survey for 2018. The EGDI is a composite indicator of three equally weighted indexes (Online Service Index, Telecommunication Index and Human capital Index), covering a broad range of topics that are relevant for e-government.
They commended the six best performing African countries on the index, namely, Mauritius, ranked globally at 66; South Africa, 68; Tunisia, 80; Seychelles, 83; Ghana, 101 and Morocco, 110. While Ghana was the only country that moved up from medium to high EGDI category, 12 countries – Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gambia, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique and Sierra Leone – transitioned from the low to the medium category of the index.
“As at December 2017, internet penetration in Africa was about 35.2% compared to a world average of 54.4%. This may still be commendable considering the immense challenges faced by some African countries, however, factoring in the expected huge population increase, more needs to be done,” Nwabufo said, highlighting the correlation between the development of ICT industries, youth employment and inclusive and sustainable economic growth.
Africa has experienced rising tele-density and internet penetration rates since the 1990s, when the telecommunications sector began to be liberalised across the continent. In 2017, Eritrea and Kenya recorded the lowest and highest net penetration levels in Africa at 1.4% and 85%, respectively.
“Learning about the digital economy and how to bridge the digital divide in the 4th industrial revolution era will help Africa build more feasible and effective policies and further close the digital gap,” Kang-Tak Oh, Vice President of NIA said.
The NIA executive affirmed that the strategic partnerships between the Government of Korea and the Bank on one hand, and increased collaboration between Korean businesses and private sector entities in Africa, on the other hand, bodes well for the continent’s ICT environment
Yeonghan Choi, ambassador of the Republic of Korea to Kenya agrees. “We need more Africa-Korea Public-Private Partnerships (PPP),” Choi said. “The Korean Government is committed to supporting development in Africa and this knowledge sharing experience between Korean experts and African officials is one way,” Choi said.
Interview with Ambassador Yeonghan Choi, Korean Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya