By Liban Obsiye
A good starting point for E-Government in Somalia is that the population is predominantly young and technology savvy. In addition, internet coverage in Somalia is reliable and the cost of connectivity is falling due to fibre optic opportunities.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Investment Promotion of the Federal Republic of Somalia has launched a website, SomInvest to showcase all the national laws and policies pertaining to investment.
The website will ensure that the “Invest in Somalia” message is heard, understood and scrutinized internationally by all investors. The use of this ICT platform is also evidence of rising sophistication, a commitment to clarity and an opportunity to solicit actual and potential investor feedback.
The creation of the SomInvest website alongside many others in Somalia is evidence of the country entering a new age of public service reform through the adoption of E-Government. The World Bank, a partner in ICT upgrade in Somalia, defines E-Government as, “The use by government agencies of information technologies (such as Wide Area Networks, the Internet, and mobile computing) that have the ability to transform relations with citizens, businesses, and other arms of government.
These technologies serve a variety of different ends including but not limited to better delivery of government services to citizens, improved interactions with business and industry, citizen empowerment through access to information, or/and more efficient government management. The resulting benefits can be less corruption, increased transparency, greater convenience, revenue growth, and/or cost reductions.
E-governments arose out of evolution in technology, management styles and government.
Just like most innovations, the use of technology was pioneered by the private sector and governments have replicated these models. As a result of it been nonlinear, non-hierarchical and available 24 hours a day, every day of the week, E-government allows the public to seek information anytime they want to, without having to physically visit an office.
In Somalia, public services are limited and unaffordable where they exist. Legislations and jurisdictions are confusing and implementation of policies leaves much to be desired. This is no surprise to those who live in Somalia but there appears to be a dangerous acceptance of drip-drip semi reforms which rely on too many partners to come to successful fruition.
E-Government is a revolutionary idea that can truly transform Somali. It is a way to improve service delivery and responsiveness to citizens and a way of creating public confidence in government. It is also a way of reducing corruption, increasing and sharing innovations and bringing the cost of public and private services down.
The key challenges for improving Somali public services have always been lack of funds, corruption and poorly trained public servants. All these can be resolved with the use of technology. E-Government platforms that allow for online payment and training for public servants in customer service, ethics and national laws can be created easily. Given the advancement in programming and technology in general, these services can be available in the Somali language and the revenue generated from the transparent tax collection be safely returned to sustaining and improving public services.
“Business licenses are offered in hard copy paper form from the Ministry of Commerce in Somalia for USD300 without any information on national commercial laws including Labour, tax, Land and Corporate Governance. Yet, without these, no Foreign Investor would risk investing in Somalia.” Liban Obsiye
Currently, business licenses are offered in hard copy paper form from the Ministry of Commerce in Somalia for USD300 without any information on national commercial laws including Labour, tax, Land and Corporate Governance. Yet, without these, no Foreign Investor would risk investing in Somalia.
A simple way to overcome this situation and to substantially bring down the cost of registering a business in Somalia is to do it online through the SomInvest Website which ought to contain all the relevant laws, policies and costs for registering a business in Somalia. Furthermore, this One Stop Shop for Investment in Somalia will make the entire process transparent and raise investor confidence through the provision of clear information, guidance and support.
E-Government has the potential to transform Somalia and create the environment for economic progress and national prosperity underlined by both internal and foreign investment going forward. However, this process itself will most certainly need Government commitment to comprehensive digital education, ICT infrastructural investment and public service reforms. Further, the Government will also have to address and strike a balancing act regarding online security and privacy and service delivery through ICT.
A good starting point for E-Government in Somalia is that the population is predominantly young and technology savvy. In addition, internet coverage in Somalia is reliable and the cost of connectivity is falling due to fibre optic opportunities. While there is a digital divide as a result of poverty, it is not so wide that it cannot be bridged successfully by a determined government and through successful partnerships with international IT firms with enormous Corporate Social Responsibility programs seeking customers in the developing world.
The writer is the Senior Advisor to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Investment Promotion, Federal Republic of Somalia.