4 March 2013

Zimbabwe: E-Government Way to Improve Service Delivery


In an election season, many politicians seek to be in tune with the people's aspirations and for those that have been in the game before and not succeeded in winning the hearts and minds of the people, it is important to point out that it does not take complex concepts to win the electorate over.

We know that many politicians conveniently swear to serve the electorate when seeking votes and then translate that into an oath of convenience for themselves as they help themselves.

What the electorate needs is improved service in all sectors and it also borrows three Ps from marketing's four Ps in that the people need a product, at a place near or convenient to them and at a price that they can afford.

A villager from some remote part of the country might not make much sense of vociferous debates over decentralisation and e-Government, but they certainly have lived a bitter experience of having to queue for identity documents overnight far away from home, seeking public service vehicle permits hundreds of kilometres away and investing more on a journey than expected returns as they seek to travel to the capital to acquire a liquor licence to sell their opaque beer, produced a stone's throw away.

Last week, we reported that the acquisition of liquor licences would be decentralised starting this month, with beer outlet operators able to make applications for licences online.

"We are introducing e-Government so that people can apply for the licence using this facility.

"A person in Binga needs not come to Harare to get a licence to sell three or four crates of scuds a day when he might probably be getting a profit of 50 cents. By March, we must be online," Secretary for Local Government, Rural and Rural Development Mr Killian Mpingo told a Parliamentary Portfolio Committee.

While we are fully in support of e-Government, it is quite imperative for Government to raise awareness on such a development so that it is utilised by those for whom it was meant.

Also, having leap-frogged from filling in forms and bringing them to Harare for processing to sitting before a computer and performing the same task online, it might be necessary to ensure those that cannot use the facility are given an opportunity to submit their applications through their nearest local Government office.

We say this since it is not everyone with access to a computer and the Internet.

We have seen the Registrar-General's office introducing the online application route for passports though the impact of that innovation is yet to show since the office is still characterised by long queues.

We believe there are more Government services that could be added to the e-Government project list to do away with the bubbling anger of thousands of people that queue at various offices.

Members of Parliament and different ministries should be seized with ensuring accessibility of public services to the people and the Government should award the best ministry in terms of service delivery to usher a competitive spirit that puts people first.

In the business world, the cellphone has introduced much convenience ranging from voice communication to money transfer and internet connectivity.

It is either you innovate or your business dies.

Government has a monopoly in the services it provides and the consumers of the services make their evaluation and pass their verdict through the ballot box. It is better to decentralise and ensure efficient and prompt service delivered right where the people are than risk their wrath.

Government should ensure that it has a deliberate programme of gradually computerising operations and must have no room for ministers and senior staff who are not computer literate since there is no way they can lead us to the promised land in this era where Information Communications Technology is the way globally.

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