Africa’s governments must look to technology to reimagine the continent’s future

By Kendi Nderitu

This year has been one of uncertainty and unexpected challenges. While it’s nothing new to say that things have changed as we’ve all experienced that change as it has happened and seen its impact around us, it is clear that Africa will continue to go through accelerated transformation as we move forward into the future.

When it comes to digital, the continent was on a steady paced trajectory to adopting technologies particularly in regard to governance. Digital transformation in government was still in its early stages in Africa when the COVID-19 pandemic compelled countries to leverage technology to find innovative solutions to the limitations placed upon them, such as the need for social distancing.

Transformation in government is vital to enhancing public services that enable a better quality of life for citizens as technology can help to support better decision-making and ensure the efficient use of resources while strengthening transparency and accountability.

But, now as we are moving past only responding to these obstacles placed in our way and are looking to ensure the recovery of the continent, there is a need to increase transformation efforts to create an improved future for the continent that is capable of weathering disruption and come out on the other side relatively unscathed.

Government’s responsibilities cover a huge range of different areas from public safety and healthcare to road infrastructure and city planning.

While African countries have made significant steps to improve governance, there remain a number of service delivery challenges. Apart from lack of resources, education, health, water, and sanitation continue to be some of the most daunting obstacles that African governments continue to tackle.

Technology is a powerful enabler and can have a monumental positive affect on service delivery. It has the ability to re-engineer current systems and processes to improve the functionality and quality of services, promote innovation and inclusion, and facilitate a better relationship between the government and its people while enabling developmental growth.

A key area where African governments must invest in technologies is communication and collaborative technology.

Collaborative solutions enable centralised and coordinated communication between teams, agencies and leadership. Through a shared workspace, governments are able to increase transparency for workers in one department of projects underway in another, thus having a greater overview of the entire picture and how it relates to the work one group is doing. Open lines of communication make participation easier through chats, calls and shared files and facilitates co-creation and collaboration.

Meanwhile, remote government access solutions can increase the flexibility of government agencies by curating personalised government services, when and where it’s needed, while providing faster response and resolution times which create a better customer experience. Collaborative technologies can also scale up the services government provides, helping to expand access to communities that have not had it before and makes government more inclusive to all people.

Government agencies store, generate, and process a massive amount of sensitive data. Meanwhile, cybercrime is rapidly increasing around the world, particularly during the pandemic as cybercriminals aim to take advantage of people and organisations who are vulnerable during this time.

As more technologies are adopted and connectedness increases, it is imperative that government ensure that data is secure and deploy systems that cannot be breached. This requires an overhaul to modernise legacy systems and enhance cyber-resilience.

Africa’s governments must look to robust and trusted security solutions that will help protect critical infrastructure and information and ensure privacy and compliance. Strong cybersecurity can help to prevent data loss while agencies share critical information during collaborative projects that enhance service delivery. This will facilitate public trust in government agencies across the continent.

Good governance is crucial to promoting the wellbeing of citizens and e-government solutions can help to reduce inefficiencies in a secure environment that can build better governance and service delivery.

The world is changing at a much faster rate than has been seen before. External and uncontrollable factors have majorly impacted government and the public sector, and now government must transform and adapt into something new, not only to enable recovery and growth, but to create a new digitally led and inclusive future.

(Kendi Nderitu is Country Manager, Microsoft Kenya).


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