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MICT, OPM in tug of war over E-Governance

Mon, 22 September 2014 02:52
by Charmaine Ngatjiheue
News Flash

Confusion over which ministry is responsible for the implementation of the E-Governance Plan is slowing down the implementation of the initiative at various ministries, The Villager can reveal.
The World Bank sees e-government as the use by government agencies of Information Communication Technologies that has the ability to transform relations with citizens, visitors and businesses, and between all arms of government
Minister of Communication and Information Technology, Joel Kaapanda confirmed to The Villager this week, that there is some confusion between the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) and the MICT, on who should be responsible for the full implementation of E-Governance.
Kaapanda maintained that the MICT was never given a clear mandate on what role the ministry will play in the implementation of the initiative.
"The OPM was given the responsibility to execute it and we were also made part of it, but the challenge so far is that the OPM has not yet made a submission to cabinet to give explanation on how the policy is to be implemented and how we (MICT) are supposed to fit in," said Kaapanda maintaining that in a quest to establish the status quo, he recently engaged his ministry’s Permanent Secretary to establish whether "we have received communication on how the MICT will play a part in the policy because so far we are not certain where we fit."
Different ministries who have adopted the policy also concur that that they are struggling to use E-governance efficiently. Speaking on behalf of the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry (MaWF), the Acting Deputy Director of Information Technology, Andreas Joseph said that E-governance, at his ministry, has been used for people to apply for their animal movement permits online but they will need to go to the MaWF offices to verify their information, adding that these permits are for animals registered to owners.
“People may enquire for information regarding their permits through a system called Nam-lid but they can get the information via this connection. We have a portal of the ministry to access and download this information. We upload this information from the regional office,” said Joseph.
He added that the e-governance project was implemented a long time ago but it had to be reviewed and upgraded, adding that they are still waiting for the set up from the OPM which entails all ministries being connected to one hub since that is not yet in place.
“For now we are using Telecom Namibia’s network while we wait for the infrastructure to be put in place. This has already been put up in Windhoek and it will take years to implement in other districts,” he said.
The Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration’s Minister, Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana however, expressed enthusiasm regarding the E-governance strategic plan, saying that all their documents are electronic which includes their birth records, permits and passport information.
 “We are however trying to minimise the manual papers as this requires time and volume of capacity to store this documents. This process is an easy way and the personnel have been trained however we intend to make it easy for everyone,” she said.  
She added that the system has always been in existence even before she became the line Minister of the Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration but said that the E-governance is still a different case for foreigners as they have a different system.
“This process was introduced step by step. However for foreigners it is a different story since they have a different system in their countries, but they can still visit our office for things such as work and study permit applications online,” said Iivula-Ithana.
Deputy Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Health and Social Services’ (MoHSS), Norbert Forster said that his ministry has sent a request to the Prime Minister’s office (OPM) to also adopt the E-governance Strategic Plan in its ministry.
He added that this E-health system is to essentially propel it to utilise the system in such a way that it will aid government in advancing the health system and avoid the queues at the different health facilities in the country.
“For example, we have submitted requests for new posts and this will be expanded in all districts, in all referral hospitals and other health facilities. We have compiled the report and it is currently being looked at. This is a key step, in the right position,” said Forster.
He indicated however, the system will require skills to provide good service to patients. He further maintained that the system will provide in the billing process at hospitals – as anyone can go to the hospital and an electronic file will be opened for them.
"In the long run we will do away with the cards that patients come with to receive treatment,” he said.
The Polytechnic of Namibia’s (PON), Information Technology’s expert, Rudolf Redman says he is hopeful that the E-governance Strategic Plan will enhance service delivery in the public sector.
 “My concern is whether they have the skills and the transfer of this systems duty but however this for good grounds. I’ve looked at the portal and tested the services especially with the Identification number and when you query for that information, it is there.  Anyone can access the E-governance strategic plan for this,” said Redman.