Mission to Swaziland – 26 – 31 August

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Objectives

  • Conduct 3 day workshop on strategy development with the existing e-governance committee (egovCom), assess gaps and pinpoint emerging issues
  • Meet with local counterparts to explore synergies with other sectors that can benefit from related e-governance work
  • Liaise with UNDP CO and strategize on how to integrate current and pipeline programming using e-governance as a cross-cutting catalyst

Summary of Mission Findings

  • The composition of the egovCom, which has 25 members (at least officially, as more people attended the workshop), prove to be a challenge during the workshop as current members have different levels of expertise and knowledge on e-governance, ranging from full understanding to little to no knowledge of the subject matter. After over a year of functioning as a group, EgovCom has yet to develop a singular and agreed vision on e-governance. In addition to capacity gaps, issues regarding the internal governance of the group also surfaced during the discussions at the workshop
  • Initial support for the elaboration of the e-governance strategy has been provided by the Commonwealth Secretariat who also provided expertise for the completion of a scoping study submitted to egovCom early in the year. A Commonwealth consultant was recruited to finalize the strategy document which was supposed to be submitted to government on 29 August. Apparently contractual issues prevented this from happening and effort by egovCom to finish have a document of its own proved to be futile as not one single member of the committee is dedicated full time to support the work
  • e-governance policy and programming has support from the highest levels of government. It is currently being spearheaded by the chairperson of the cabinet of ministers who is also the head of the Ministry of Public Service (MPS). The mission had a session with the Cabinet of Minsters, presented some of the key recommendations and noted across the board support for e-governance. Current policy documents such as the Economic Recovery Strategy and the Investors Roadmap explicitly mention the use of ICTs in and by public administration as one of the requirements for pushing the country ahead. There is thus ample room at the highest levels of government to move the e-governance agenda forward
  •  The Management Service Division (MSD) of MPS is leading the process of state modernization and is currently assessing ways in which the recommended reduction of state employment will affect service delivery (for example 43% of state employees are teachers and yet there are not enough teachers in the country to cover needs; on the other hand, the IMF has demanded that 7,000 state jobs be cut; that’s 20% of all state employees). MSD has launched 10 or so initiatives to address the challenges as the suggested blueprint responses provided by IFIs did not fit local conditions. Some of these new initiatives are lagging however. MSD are now starting to seriously consider the introduction of ICTs into the process as a away out of the current impasse
  • The IMF and other IFIs have asked the country to reduce the size of government to sort out the fiscal crisis, and have made specific policy recommendations (and demands!) in this regard. UNDP Mbabane is currently working on anti-corruption and starting to support public sector modernization with MPS. While UNDP might want to steer clear from such recommendations, it can also position its governance portfolio at the core of these processes by taking an integrated approach to the area and bringing in ICTs and e-governance into current and pipeline governance programming
  • A Huduma ( http://huduma.info/) representative from Kenya was part of the workshop and shared Kenya’s experience with mobile technologies. Kenyan NGOs are now working to development an Open Date/Open Knowledge platform as an alternative to proprietary and closed models being currently used (such as Kenya’s Open Data portal, WB and UNDP’s open data sites). Huduma invited UNDP to join a meeting in Helsinki on the subject to explore ways in which we can collaborate (see http://okfestival.org/)

Recommendations/Actions to be taken:

e-gov strategy

  • egovCom is in a bit of an uncomfortable position as it was unable to deliver the draft strategy by the initially agreed deadline. Although the drafting team continues to work on the document, the best way out of the situation is to get the Commonwealth consultant to submit the document in the short term. Given the delay in the submission and the inputs UNDP provided at the workshop, it is feasible that the 8 members of the egovCom steering group might be wiling to submit their own inputs to the Commonwealth’s draft. For example, at the workshop egovCom members agreed on a vision and a mission for the e-gov strategy and also identified priority areas and capacity gaps that need to be included in the strategy. UNDP could facilitate this process within the egovCom if the committee requests such support. BDP/DGG has informally offered support to egovCom
  • One of the glaring missing components of the current e-governance strategy process is the lack of a comprehensive stock taking and mapping of ongoing activities in this area. A quick scan done by the mission revealed that several ministries are indeed making public investments on ICTs to increase their efficiency and effectiveness. However, egovCom does not have such knowledge handy. The Commonwealth has recommended the completion of an Infrastructure audit which is a step forward. However, the stock taking and mapping exercise should also factor in software and applications, business processes and services to be delivered and existing capacities. In a nutshell, the mapping exercise needs to take into account the complete ecosystem to ensure that gaps are identified and duplication of efforts is identified and avoided. Committee members, which represent most if not all of the ministries in the country, can take the lead here and get the required information from their own ministries. BDP/DGG has supported other countries in completing other countries and can furnish inputs and sample survey forms to complete the mapping exercise
  • On the substantive side, it is essential that the e-governance strategy fully captures the latest developments and trends in this are. In particular, the strategy should include as key components mobile technologies and open government approaches.Latest data indicate what while only 8% of the population have access to the Internet (in a country where 70% of people live in poverty and close to 25% of the population is infected with HIV), 65% have access to a mobile network. In addition, calls by IFIs to “modernize” the state can be partially address by bringing in Open Government innovations, etc. The same approach should be taken for the selection of the so-called quick wins that egovCom has identified. A high impact quick win needs to be focused on mobile technologies given the current levels of ICT access and the wide variety of mobile applications that already exist (Kenya being the best and close example)
  • Another important missing piece in the current process is the apparent lack of consultation with and involvement of stakeholders both within government and the public. It is thus important to share the final draft of the e-governance strategy will all relevant stakeholders before it is formally finished and submitted to the chairperson of the cabinet of ministers. With this In mind, UNDP should suggest to egovCom to organize a public consultation meeting which UNCP can facilitate to which key stakeholders will be invited to provide inputs and suggestions to the document. This will not only increase the visibility of both e-gov and egovCom but also provide a sound validation process to the strategy which can then reach the cabinet with even stronger support and endorsement

egovCom

  •  The institutional arrangements for the successful completion of the e-gov strategy and its implementation are not yet in place nor is it clear if they will be in the short or medium terms. In most countries where e-gov has been successfully developed and implemented, top government officials have supported the creation of high-level steering committees or similar mechanisms. While it is true that government is wholeheartedly supporting the process, it is also clear that the current economic and fiscal environment of the country might not be the best for creating new institutional mechanisms. UNDP should support the creation of such mechanism, bring up the topic with the chairperson of the cabinet of ministers as frequently as possible and seek innovative ways to make this happen (for example, can MSD be brought into the picture? Are there any other existing mechanisms that could be used for this purpose and require little input? Etc.). In addition, egovCom should also strategize on ways to mainstream its functions into such mechanism, as well as use some of its leverage to increase awareness and exposure within the ministries that have nominated representatives to the egovCom
  • To address some of the capacity gaps of egovCom, UNDP should continue to support the committee by organizing additional flash working sessions with them on various topics (mobiles, open government, comparative case studies, etc.).Same goes for the current governance issues and capacity gaps. For example, egovCom has not clear terms of reference and many of its members are not entirely sure what role they could play in the process. On the other hand, egovCom members have a wide variety of skills and capacity that if mastered properly, can not only increase the quality of work of the Committee but also potentially lead to larger impact. A skills/capacity map of committee members should thus be undertaken

 

  • While egovCom has already undertaken and completed several key tasks, the diffusion of results to key stakeholders in both government and the general public has not been systematically undertaken. The Committee should thus develop a communications strategy to fill this gap in the short term. A simple web site could be easily established; use of social networks such as twitter for example could enhance international visibility; use of traditional communication channels can reach local stakeholders, etc. In a nutshell, egovCom needs to capitalize on these tools to increase the “noise” level, using language that is not technical nor sophisticated.In this light, the vision and mission concepts completed during the workshop could be used (and massaged) to communicate the real objectives of the e-governance strategy, etc.

 

Public Service 

 

  • As MPS/MSD is looking for home grown alternatives to the blue prints for downsizing state employment provided by IFIs. MSD is currently working on an overall strategy to address this issues and fast track some core initiatives. ICTs can certainly play a catalytic role here but MSD must make sure that ICTs are part and parcel of the overall reform strategy and be explicitly included in the overall picture. Otherwise, any of the gains that could be obtained by fast tracking a few quick wins might not find the policy and political space at the top, specially given the apparent lack of capacity and technology inside the house. UNDP can provide help to MSD to ensure this takes place

 

  • In terms of quick wins MPS/MSD should identify a list of services that are more susceptible of being easily impacted by using ICTs, can cover a large sector of the population and can thus have wider impact. Criteria for service or process selection should include: cost-benefit analysis, use of mobile technologies, existing managerial and technical capacities, potential for outsourcing to private sector, use of private cloud services to minimize infrastructure investments. UNDP has already offered support to MSD in this regard. At any rate, MSD should also carefully document the process, and be able to quantify results and show impact on the ground. This will facilitate the process of buy-in for large e-government projects that will need to take place in the medium and long run

 

UNDP’s Approach

 

  • While support for e-governance is flying high, it is essential that UNDP Swaziland take a wider view of the issues and links the ongoing process to state modernization efforts/public administration, and ongoing anti-corruption and accountability programmes. While these initiative have already started or area about to start on their own, UNDP can still bring them together under its governance portfolio and bring ICT as the catalyst and glue. In the end, this will strengthen more UNDP’s governance interventions while providing an integrated approach to key national issues that re demanding agile responses and rapid implementation

 

  • UNDP Swaziland has already agreed with the recommendation of bringing an international e-governance expert to implement the various recommendations presented in this report. BDP/DGG will provide both ToRs and consultant names to the CO so it can start recruitment. UNDP Swaziland has also agreed to identify additional local funding to support the work and augment the financial portfolio of the current governance practice. UNDP Swaziland will also bring into the picture the governance advisors at the Johannesburg Regional Service Center. These missions should take place once the e-governance consultant is on board and working in Mbabane

Huduma/Open Knowledge

  • While egovCom showed keen interest on Huduma and other mobile applications from Kenya, the same cannot be said of MPS. This should not come as a surprise, it is important for UNDP to present solutions such as this as solutions to concrete and specific issue MPS and other ministries are facing today. For sure, MSD can do this both within MPS and for other line ministries
  • Huduma has invited BDP/DGG to participate in the upcoming Open Knowledge fair that will take place in Helsinki the week of 17 September. UNDP should be there to explore partnerships with CSOs that are working on Open Data platforms that use Open Source. This can be an integral component of UNDP current work on the Open Knowledge Partnership

A copy of this report can be found here:

http://blog.raulza.me/?p=1584

 

Raul Zambrano, Senior Policy Advisor – ICTD and e-governance

Maartje Mol, E-governance Specialist

Democratic Governance Group

Bureau for Development Policy

UNDP HQ

31 August 2012

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