Dr. Emmanuel Johnson PhD: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 20 December 2019:
The parliament of Representatives in Sierra Leone should enact the Modernizing Government Technology Act, and 2019-2020 budget negotiations are soon to begin.
The Bio administration now moves beyond merely improving agency operations to invest in new digital services that enhance the taxpayer experience. By improving citizens’ digital interactions with the government, this administration can help boost the public’s opinion of the government.
Past administrations made snail-spaced contributions toward a more digital-friendly government. For instance, the Koroma government understood the importance of the Internet and never urged ministries to develop websites.
The Bio administration should advance the concept of “e-government,” moving sites from paper view-only to transactional. President Bio’s team should help launch sierraleone.gov, the first official web portal of the Sierra Leone government.
President Retired Brigadier Julius Maada Bio should push for the government to adopt the latest commercial trends, with launch of different ministries, the Sierra Leone Digital Services, and the Big Data initiatives.
He also contributed to the government’s digital transformation by cultivating a significant presence on social media, where he can conduct meetings and give an online persona of the President of Sierra Leone (POSL).
The challenges of a digital environment aren’t new to government but are daunting. Consider that Siloes operations, legacy systems and a lack of visibility into virtual networks have set in place strenuous, unnecessary processes that consume countless time and resources.
Also, internal and external security vulnerabilities mean that the government must work to mitigate potential threats to protect citizen data.
Next, agencies must work to remedy the insufficient processes that most citizens experience when interacting with the government online.
And finally, the shortage of qualified candidates for the incoming workforce is a major obstacle, as these tech experts will become the lifeblood of a digitally capable government.
1.Help agencies modernize software and support the Internet of Things (IoT) – Replacing outdated paper systems allows agencies to spend money smarter and more efficiently, enabling projects that will directly benefit citizens, such as education initiatives and public infrastructure improvements.
Embracing IoT and IT modernization reduces siloes within the government and provides digital footprints for auditors. This will help improve citizen services as they increase information sharing and address common government challenges, such as inefficient application processes, corruption, and insufficient online resources.
2.Encourage a cultural shift that embraces cloud usage – Independent contractors are key to developing IT in government as they present solutions, software, and expertise that are secure, trusted and proven. Promoting programs such as Gov-ramp allows government agencies to access private contractors who offer cloud solutions to ensure they meet high-security standards.
3.Foster an environment that encourages innovation and forward-thinking – It is imperative for agencies to appeal to the next generation of their workforce. These individuals are well-versed in the latest technologies and provide in-demand IT skills that will bolster government capabilities with renewed insight and expertise.
4.Establish stronger security standards – Strengthening security for data storage and management in government will instil trust in the public. Heightened security will ensure that critical citizen data, such as healthcare records, financial information, and NASIT security numbers, are uncompromised.
5.Implement automation and data analytics to streamline services – Automation reduces maintenance costs and cuts the time needed to maintain IT systems. This enables agencies to allocate additional resources toward citizen-focused IT enhancements, such as speeding up online response times and increasing the transparency of interactions.
6.Tap into the private sector for innovative ideas and practices – The hypothetical Office of Sierra Leone Innovation would show that this administration understands how the private sector opens government to ideas, concepts, technologies and information sharing capabilities that were previously inaccessible. For government IT to evolve, this administration must continue to consult the private sector for solutions to the toughest technology issues (my expert opinion is free).
Strong development in these six sectors—or even a few of them, would alter the way citizens of Sierra Leone interact with agencies and experience government services.
Such changes can enhance cyber, networking, security capabilities while improving overall agency functions, education, health care, infrastructure, and citizen services across government.
It is my opinion that this administration can improve the government’s digital identity and bolster its reputation across the country.
By investing in public-facing digital technologies that facilitate the user experience, this administration can remind the nation that the government exists foremost, to help them.