e-Governance in West Africa
In 2009 FAIFE funded a small research project to assess the state of e-Governance in West Africa. Moustapha Mbengue, a PhD student at the Université Cheikh Anta Diop de Dakar, completed the research which is here presented in its original French as a Word and PDF file, with an English abstract below.
Enjeux et pratiques de la gouvernance électronique en Afrique de l’Ouest /
The Issues and practices of e-governance in West Africa
Dr Moustapha Mbengue
Enseignant- chercheur, École de Bibliothécaires, Archivistes et Documentalistes (EBAD) – Université Cheikh Anta Diop de Dakar
Pour le compte de l’IFLA
Far from being a mere slogan or a phenomenon brought into fashion, we are witnessing in some African countries to real attempts ICT to make contribute to governance. This contribution is measured first in the process of modernizing the Administration services which succeed in satisfying the needs of citizens by providing them with electronic services to get informed on administrative process and other websites displaying the state’s actions. Therefore, it is remarkable that the e-procedure enabling a citizen to pay incomes or to ask for an administrative document online is at an experimental step in West Africa.
Consequently the e-governance in Africa is expressed through the various phases of an electoral process (before, during and after the vote).
In fact, ICT offer to African citizens possibilities to access to all information necessary to be aware of the democratic stakes of an election. Therefore, the fact of displaying the electoral files online enables each citizen and political party to examine them before the vote. Besides, Internet enables a securized diffusion of electoral results on real time, which guarantees more transparency.
Beyond providing information, Internet really contributes to the citizen participation to public debate. The State, local and political authorities no longer decide in the place of the citizens without associating them to decision making. Today, we can affirm that Internet is contributing to the training of populations to citizenship and enables them as well to better understand the mechanisms of the deliberative process which concern them. For this reason, it satisfies two major principles, namely open access to information which presides decision making and the necessity to report decisions taken on behalf of the community, it means more transparency in the management of public affairs.
Nevertheless, the development of e-governance in West Africa is not only the work of the states. Other actors like the civil society, private enterprises, some individuals and modern libraries greatly contribute to the training of populations to citizenship. Thus, the library constitutes from now on a social area where citizens are being shaped through training programs, conferences, forums and debates on politics and the citizen’s life, not considering the fact of providing populations with tools to access to the Web resources and a quality-based information at low cost. It gives to the citizen the opportunity to evolve in a more and more numerically governed society.
Governance technologies contribute therefore to revalorize the library and the librarian, who has become an information mediator.
Finally, we can consider the possibility of a greater implication of populations in the deliberative process through electronic consultation systems as well as in other democratic countries like Scotland and France. The electronic vote cannot be then considered in a short term in West Africa. It must be gradually tested at a local scale and at parliamentary level, before being extended to a national level. Thus, it will be a necessity to prepare culturally and technically the African citizens to the electronic vote by implementing hybrid systems like tactile screen systems and voting boxes.
Information and Communication Technologies are not fundamentally empowered to solve all problems related to governance throughout the world, at least in West Africa. The perfect efficiency of electronic governance in Africa needs simultaneously political backing at the state level, sufficient infrastructure, a democratic culture in the citizens, but also technical and intellectual abilities without which one cannot take advantage of all the possibilities offered by the use of ICT to governance purpose.