16 January 2013

Tanzania: Isles Keen On e-Government Implementation

DRESSED in white T-shirts bearing words 'e-revolution', a team of employees of an Information Communication Technology (ICT) project joined other Zanzibaris at the launch of e-government programme in the Isles.

Zanzibar has chosen to use e-revolution instead of egovernment because the former means 'everything' for the islands.

It is e-revolution, argues Mr Mohamed Juma Ame, head of the project facilitating committee adding that "e-government is comprehensive revolution in internet, convenient telecommunication, education, e-health, etc."

Briefing the gathering at the launch of e-government programme Ame said soon it will be possible for Zanzibaris to get treated by medical doctors from abroad, "for example, a doctors in Cuba will in the near future be able to communicate with a patient in Zanzibar online!"

The launch was one of activities to celebrate the 49th anniversary of the Zanzibar revolution. Implementation of the e-government project in Zanzibar will be the responsibility of the Information Communication Technology (ICT) department. He adds: "E-revolution (egovernment) has been going on gradually because it is a big and expensive project."

Mr Ame said in the development of infrastructure, the backbone fibre optic cable has been laid covering more than 350 Kilometres on Unguja and Pemba islands. The facilitating team leader said that 12 sub stations for e-government link have been constructed:

Fumba (entry point from Tanzania mainland), Kizimkazi, Paje, Kiwengwa, Nungwi, Amani, Jamhuri Garden, and Mazizini (central base) on Unguja islands, while in Pemba islands it is Chunjuu, Wete, and Konde.

He said that the second part of the project is to have all government departments, at national and regional levels linked to the e-government system at Mazizini Street, and that already four ministries are linked at the central e-government, and other department will follow.

He recalled that the plans for implementation of e-government project in Zanzibar started way back in 2006, but the ground work was finished in just one-year! "We have to celebrate the success," he said as the Minister for Public Service and Good Governance, Mr Haji Omar Kheri, thanked the retired President Amani Abein Karume for supporting the idea when it was first proposed.

Kheri said that e-government has a lot of advantages and that Zanzibaris should expect and get prepared for changes through the use of the modern ICT. Pemba North Regional Commissioner (RC) Dadi Faki said that the project will transform the life of people in Pemba Island. The fiber optic cable has the capacity of 40G, while the requirement is only 2G.

The surplus will be used in private sector and businesses including commercial advertisements. Currently we are negotiating with ZANTEL on how we can expand the use the cable." "For us e-government is e-agriculture, e-health, eeducation, e-tourism and other programmes, said Mr Dadi after a televised video conference with President Ali Mohammed Shein during the launch of egovernment programme.

Launching the programme, Dr Shein also emphasized that the first ever initiative is meant to improve communication, economic growth, employment creation and quality of life for our citizens, since all public institutions will be connected through the new technology.

"ICT changes are inevitable, we cannot dare to isolate ourselves and remain behind while our colleagues in other parts of the world move ahead," said Dr Shein emphasizing that Zanzibaris have to change so as to fit in the fast growing world of information technology.

Visibly joyful Dr Shein informed enthusiastic Zanzibaris and delegates from the Chinese Embassy that e-government is to increase greater efficiency in government through the use of information and communication technology. He thanked China's ZTE, Helios-Tech of Israel, Microsoft from USA, and local companies:

Salem Construction Limited and Kemmisy Investment Limited that have been working on the e-government project in different ways including the laying of the fibre optic cable, construction of the centres and making connections. Dr Shein also thanked China for providing a 19 million US dollars soft loan for the project while its Ambassador to Tanzania, Mr Lu Youqing, pledged continued support to Zanzibar.

Although there are views that Zanzibar is still far from making e-government programme a reality, authorities say implementation of the work has been faster than expected. A representative from ZTE, which lay the cable, said that in comparison with similar projects in Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda, Zanzibar has been moving very fast.

The ZTE official commended relevant Isles leaders for their seriousness in implementing the e-government programme which entails the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to improve activities of the public sector.

Some definitions restrict egovernment to Internet-enabled applications only, or only to interactions between government and outside groups, but in Zanzibar authorities say all digital ICTs and public sector activities are included.

The authorities say further that the ICT and e-government solutions will contribute towards Zanzibar's social and economic development. Dr Shein encourages increased awareness and understanding so that people benefit from new technology.

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