By Yinebeb Bahru
ICT offers prospects for economic growth and is critical for developing countries to accelerate economic development, enhance productivity, and enhance global competitiveness.
Delivering government services digitally has several benefits, such as reducing operating costs, improving service quality for citizens, increasing accountability and transparency in government operations, and increasing citizen involvement in decision-making.
In a previous article, I gave a general overview of the benefits of e-government and its current status in Ethiopia. In this article, I’ll attempt to address the main challenges related to Ethiopia’s digital transformation of government services (e-government).
For e-government to work, a solid communications infrastructure is required. The proper sharing of information requires a strong internet connection, the development of new communication channels, and the use of any other online services.
Governments should focus on improving connection quality and browsing costs. The same applies to Ethiopia, where the infrastructure challenge is also present. According to the World Bank’s recent census, only 28.8 million or 24% of Ethiopians, have internet access; this shows that the telecom infrastructure is in its infant stage.
Lack of skilled manpower
Behind any successful digital transformation process, there is a highly skilled and talented IT staff. However, it is difficult to form this team easily, specifically in Ethiopia and other developing countries. As more organizations embrace new technology, there is a shortage of skilled manpower. According to KPMG, 54 percent of organizations face a shortage of skilled manpower, affecting their digitalization plans.
Especially in the areas of AI, data analytics, blockchain, and cybersecurity, government agencies should hire highly skilled IT professionals and technical consultants to supplement their own IT teams.
Organizational cultural transformation
Creating a digital-first culture in the organization plays a vital role in cultural or organizational transformation, and this presents a chance to implement agile workflows within the organization. However, establishing a thriving digital-first culture within the organization requires a clear, revised road map and methodology, as well as the incorporation of new technologies and approaches.
Typically, attention switches from product functionality to customer service and inventiveness. When internal teams obtain digital processes and become aware of their ability to alter institutional norms, cultural shifts frequently occur naturally.
In general, any corporation should recognize and comprehend the main obstacles to digital transformation within the organization before beginning the process and then develop a clear plan of action to overcome those obstacles.
Financial or budgetary
Lack of funding is one of the most significant and critical obstacles to the development of e-government. Due to the high cost of developing and maintaining computer systems, e-government infrastructures require significant investment to be built and maintained.
The lack of funding for capital investments in new technology, especially in poor nations, is a significant barrier to e-government. Budgetary constraints have made it difficult for government agencies to offer their services electronically.
Generally, the entire cost, which includes system hardware and maintenance, software, training, and education, is the biggest obstacle facing government and non-government organizations from using the technology.
The leadership’s dedication at all administration levels is one factor that propels successful ICT project implementation. E-government activities have a history of being expensive and rife with failure. The leadership’s commitment to funding and implementing ICT infrastructure is crucial to overcoming resistance to change and implementing ICT in daily activities. Finance is a major issue in Ethiopia.
Globally, there is an urgent need to initiate capacity-building measures and modernize the e-government system using the most advanced technology.
Therefore, all state agencies operating in Ethiopia should also recognize the need to adopt an e-government system. Low Internet penetration and poorly developed telecommunications infrastructure, lack of a proper legal and regulatory framework for e-government, leadership commitment, and the high cost of the Internet are the main challenges to the development of e-government in Ethiopia.
So what’s the solution?
The Ethiopian government should first prepare a national e-government strategy following worldwide standards established by internationally recognized information society principles and then implement the strategy with modifications (localization) per their determined needs.
Yinebeb Bahru is a digital channel officer at Awash Bank and is passionate about technology, startups, innovation, and content. In the upcoming weeks, Yinebeb will try to identify the major challenges of e-government and digital transformation in Ethiopia.