RBAS Regional Strategy

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RBAS had prepared a draft regional strategy which is supposed to present UNDP’s response to the current crisis -and the ones emerging almost on a daily basis. We received the strategy document on Friday and were asked to provide comments by Sunday morning. Here is what I shared with DGG.

1. Not surprisingly, there is not one single mention of ICTs or e-governance in the strategy. But there is lots of stuff on communications and one reference to media. This in spite of the role that technology played in the “revolutions”

2. For the last few years, RBAS has focused on youth, youth as champions of change. But it this same youth who are the main users of the new
technologies (mobiles more than Facebook), who are eager to be employed in the technology sector and are looking for new job opportunities. In Tunisia
for example, 25% of those graduated from university are unemployed). This applies to the first two types of countries as categorized by the paper.

3. The so-called democratic deficits which have prevented the creation of a strong civil society (and new media using ICTs) can and should also be
tackled using ICTs that promote networking and allow non-state actors to keep an independent eye on transparency and accountability. There is no way
that in the 21st century a “vibrant and active” civil society can survive without using the new technologies.

4. There is also another big governance issue which relates to access to the Internet and mobile technologies. We saw in the case o f Egypt the power
that governments in this region in particular has over the Internet et.al. This is based on as series of approve policies and procedures that have received tacit endorsement of the international community. The so-called Internet “kill switch” which Egypt used (and which the US Congress is at this very moment trying to create to prevent another Wikileaks!) must be dismantled. This will entailed that in both Tunisia and Egypt existing Internet governance institutions be revisited and reformed to create a national level playing field, etc.

5. The region is also well known for important advances on e-government. As you are aware, just last summer UNDESA awarded Tunisia as the most advanced country in the region on e-government. Our work in the region also indicates that ARE, SA, etc. are also doing well in this area. But they are all weak when it comes to e-governance. That is to say, most of the investments that these countries do on e-government are essentially focused on the inner
workings of public institutions (or e-administration). But there is little work done on e-service delivery, e-participation and access to information.

6. Another opportunity at hand, specially for countries in the first two RBAS categories, can be found in e-service delivery for the poorest sectors
of the population. And here South South cooperation with countries in the region and outside will be critical.

7. It is essential that the strategy makes a sharper distinction between very short, short, medium and long-term. It seems to me that paper is taking
a very short-run and pragmatical approach. This is good. But on the other hand we all know that governance processes are mostly medium and long term,
and have learned that whatever we do in the short-term will determine the long term. In junctures like this where the governance opportunities are
enormous we need to be a bit more strategic so that we can ensure the countries in the region that are most weak do not return to the previous
situation.

Cheers, Raúl

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