– Enhancing Government Service Delivery with TechnologyTHISDAYLIVE – THISDAY Newspapers

Emma Okonji writes on the need for increased technology adoption in governance in order to make government services more accessible to citizens and to boost revenue generation for government
Government across all levels have a lot of services to offer to the citizens but slow in technology adoption that will enhance citizen’s access to government service delivery, thus creating a wide access gap between government and the people.
The 2021 Nigeria e-Government Summit, organised recently by DigiServe Networks Services, however stressed the need for increased technology adoption in government service delivery that will make government services more accessible to citizens and to boost revenue generation for government. The summit also emphasised the need for increased collaboration between government and technology service providers that will foster adoption of the right technologies for governance.
Technology Adoption
Highlighting the objectives of the e-Government Summit, which include: Building a mutual beneficial relationship between government and technology service providers that will impact on citizens and the Nigerian economy; Encouraging collaboration between government and technology service providers that will foster adoption of the right technologies for governance; Creating awareness about technology adoption in governance; Creating more channels for revenue generation for government, through the use of technology in tax collection; and Growing capacity building to boost local content development
through the use of technologies, the Executive Chairman, DigiServe Network Services, Mr. Lanre Ajayi, also stressed the need for increased technology adoption in government circle.
According to Ajayi, technology service providers were not engaging government enough and they were not coming up with adequate technology solutions that would enhance the delivery of e-government services.
“Those who suffer most from the lack of sufficient government engagement are the Nigerian citizens, because citizens no longer get quality service delivery from government. Citizens are not getting quality service from government because technologies are not efficiently deployed in government service delivery. In order to bridge the gap, Digiserve, decided to use its e-Government Summit platform to bring together, government and technology services providers to share experience on the way forward,” Ajayi said in his welcome address.
E-Government Strategies
The Global Chief Public Services Industry Scientist, and Enterprise Business Group at Huawei Technologies, Mr. Hong-Eng Koh, in his keynote address at the summit, spoke of his experience about e-Government, using Singapore as an example of countries that have successfully implemented e-Government strategies.
He stressed the importance of ubiquitous internet access in driving
e-Governance, and the need for government to make online businesses user centric in order to fully engage the citizens. He said government must be transparent and should offer a platform that is one-stop-shop for various government transactions. He also said connectivity remained key and that every government seeking to adopt e-Government strategies, must also ensure connectivity to all databases to enable citizens have unhindered access to databases when they are in search of information. According to Koh, each country seeking to adopt e-Governance, must develop a national portal where all the captured citizens’ data are stored and retrieved, when needed. He also spoke about convergence of all national databases into a single database for easy access. He listed five stages of e-Governance strategies that Singapore adopted 20 years ago, to include: Emerging e-Governance, Enhance e-Governance, Interactive e-Governance, Transformational e-Governance and the Integrated e-Governance. He added that all transactions of government were means to an end, and emphasised the need for collaboration between government and the citizens.
The Director General, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Dr. Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, who was represented by a senior management staff at NITDA, Dr. Vincent Olatunji, during the summit, stressed the need for technology adoption across Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of government in order to promote effective delivery of government services to the citizens. He said NITDA, which has the responsibility to oversee Information Technology (IT) development in the country, would continue to support technology adoption for efficient service delivery in the digital age. According to him, in 2012, NITDA developed the National E-Government Master Plan, which he said was signed by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019, that sets the well documented plan for e-Government in Nigeria. He said NITDA was already working with relevant government agencies for the successful implementation of the National e-Government Master Plan.
“Aside the National eGovernment Master Plan, Nigeria also has the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy, which was championed by the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ibrahim Pantami. With these two documents, NITDA is working hard to harness them for effective delivery of government services to the people,” Abdullahi said.
The Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta who also delivered a keynote speech at the 2021 e-Government Summit, said technology remained an essential factor that would enhance government service delivery.
Danbatta who was represented by the Executive Commissioner, Stakeholders Management at NCC, Barr. Adewolu Adeleke, said
e-Governance remained an essential component of the Digital Economy and that such discussion at the 2021 e-Government Summit, demonstrates Nigeria’s collective commitment to the realisation of the full potentials of the Digital Economy in Nigeria.
According to him, direct access to government services had reduced the involvement of middlemen and significantly reduced corruption in the provision of government services.
He said NCC had been working assiduously with all stakeholders to deepen penetration of broadband infrastructure and services, which support the growth of e-Governance and other critical digital economy objectives throughout Nigeria.
The Executive Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), and Chairman, Joint Tax Board (JTB), Mr. Muhammad Nami, who was represented at the summit by the Group Lead, Digital Support Group at FIRS, Mrs. Chiaka Ben-Obi, spoke on the benefits of technology adoption by the federal government to enhance e-Government service delivery.
Nami said technology remained a key enabler and the cornerstone of any nation’s development, thus providing huge opportunities for e-Government service deliveries.
According to Nami, “The path to successful implementation of eGovernment is complex, sometimes requiring legislative support, effective design of administrative and technical procedures, and extensive consultation processes with key stakeholders. FIRS is ready to partner with Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs); Technology Companies and Multinational Organizations and other stakeholders, for eGovernment initiatives that will increase tax compliance, increase revenue generation and accelerate Nigeria’s economic growth.”
Technology in Tax Administration
The summit, which had different panel sessions, discussed about the use of technologies in tax administration in one of the panel sessions.
The session, which was chaired by the Group Lead, Digital Support Group at FIRS, Mrs. Chiaka Ben-Obi, explained that global nations were already using technology to grow their economies. Participants said Nigeria remained blessed with different natural resources, which could be converted to huge businesses and wealth, through the use of technologies. The panelists said if there were insufficient businesses in the country, the FIRS would not have enough businesses to task and that government would not be able to generate much money from taxes. Chairman of the panel session, Ben-Obi, said: “Nigeria has the population and should be able to develop several indigenous businesses that are taxable to generate money for government.”
The panelists who discussed the lead paper, said there was need for Nigerians to think out of the box to develop businesses that would make them employers of labour. They also advised FIRS to be more technology savvy in their tax collection process.
The panelists stressed the need for accurate data gathering to drive relevant applications that would help to identify taxable businesses in the country. The Lagos State Internal Revenue Service decried the situation, where less than five million tax payers are captured in the tax data record of Lagos State, whereas the state has over 20 million population, thus depriving the state of huge sums of money that would have been paid as tax, if the data of all taxable adults was well captured by the state government.
The panel session was of the opinion that if the states generate sufficient money from taxes, there would be enough money for the states to develop infrastructure that would benefit the citizens.
Positioning Telecoms Infrastructure
Another panel session at the summit, which discussed about the positioning of telecoms infrastructure for e-Government deployment, emphasised the need for the security of government infrastructure to enable better delivery of government services. The panelists said government must leverage ICT and telecoms infrastructure to provide quality services to the people. They decried the situation where most government agencies still operate manually with lots of paper work and file carrying, instead of leveraging on emerging technologies to provide quality services to the people. The panelists suggested that connectivity intelligence should be imbibed as a culture among government agencies.
They advised that access to connectivity be made available to all Nigerians, especially to those in hinterlands and rural communities.
Delivering the lead paper at the panel session, the Group Managing Director, VDT Communications, Mr. Biodun Omoniyi, discussed broadband penetration, data generation, telecoms infrastructure and government policies. According to him, all these would enable government to deliver quality services to the masses, and boost e-Governance in Nigeria. He defined e-Governance as the application of Information Technology to the processes that will improve government functions in smart and transparent ways. To achieve this, Omoniyi said connectivity would play a key role. He spoke on the need for automation and digitisation of government services, which he said, would increase efficiency and reduce corruption in government circles. He said VDT developed robust infrastructure that supports government services.
International Best Practices
Participants at the e-Government summit, also discussed international best practices in e-Government and the Lagos State e-Government use cases.
While delivering a lead paper on International Best Practice in e-Governance, the National Coordinator, Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI), Mr. Olusola Teniola, talked about governance, public private partnership and international best practices in e-Government. He said e-Government would need a lot of energy and commitment on the part of government. He urged government to engage widely with the private sector to enhance eGovernment services. He said e-Government would lead to positive interaction of the public, and he gave example of international best practices of e-Government strategies with Singapore. He advised that government must develop digital skills and adopt the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) approach in implementing e-Government strategies.
While discussing the lead papers of the session, Africa Public Policy Manager in charge of Connectivity at Facebook, Mr. Fargani Tambeayuk, said: “e-Government relates to how government interacts with the citizens and Facebook has developed tools that will help government interact effectively with the citizens.”
Country Manager, Infobip Nigeria, Mr. Olatayo Ladipo-Ajayi, highlighted the growth indices of e-Government across continents, and stressed that Africa must be ready for e-Governance. He however emphasised the need for citizens engagement by government in order to achieve more with e-Government strategies.
Partner and Lead for Emerging Technology at KPMG, Mr. Ladi Asuni, talked about the need for citizens to engage with government in order to access government services. He said technology would help citizens to reach out to their representatives in government and also afford them the opportunity to do business with ease, while remitting taxes promptly. He said e-Government would continue to enable government business and foster collaboration among government agencies.
Asuni listed eight factors that could enhance international best practice in e-Government to include: Accelerated modernisation of legacy technologies; Adoption of Cloud Technology; Attracting Security; Incorporation of one-stop-shop to access government services; Agility and responsiveness in time of crisis; and Building a viable workforce; Establishment of Open Data. He called for visionary leadership on the part of government in order to drive e-Government services among citizens.
In the area of the Lagos State e-Government use cases, participants said the adoption of Lagos State eGovernment Use Case was apt because Lagos State has gone ahead of other states in implementing successful e-Government strategies.
They said Lagos State had though the use of Global Positioning System (GPS), mapped the entire Lagos to generate data that would help the ease of e-Governance in the state. Other participants said e-Government must reflect and address the challenges of the citizens, especially in accessing government services, which they said, was exactly what the different agencies in Lagos State was set up to achieve.
The Solution
Participants at the 2021 e-Government Summit, raised some challenges militating against the adoption of technology for easy delivery of government services to the people. After discussing the challenges, they came up with solutions that will address all challenges raised. They were of the view that government should adopt emerging technologies that would help it to deliver its services seamlessly to the Nigerian citizens. They said government should also adopt local content development and local capacity building processes, while building security around government activities in order to protect online activities. Participants stressed the need for private sector collaboration with government in order to create awareness for Information Technology (IT) development in Nigeria, and that Nigeria must develop businesses that are taxable in order to grow revenue generation for government. Participants recommended the issuance of Internet Protocol (IP) addresses to businesses to enable FIRS track such businesses and tax them in order to generate more income for government.
They also suggested the need for training and re-training of government workers at the local, state and federal levels to make them think differently and be more productive in managing government businesses.
They further said government should develop sufficient data of citizens in order to identify those who are capable and eligible to pay their taxes, and that government should use Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology to develop enough data of people, especially those involved in e-Commerce and online businesses, in order to tax them and generate more money for government.