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Prospects of E-Government Implementation in Nigeria

Robert O. Dode
Department of Political Science and Public Administration, University Of Uyo
P.O. Box 4262, Uyo, Nigeria
robertdode@yahoo.com

ABSTRACT centered. Hence, Yusuf [6] declares: “e-government is the use of


E-governance is a democratic practice that is gradually gaining Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) to
universal acceptance and applicability. It refers to a governmental transform government by making it more successful, effective and
type aimed at achieving effective service delivery from accountable”. The World Bank on its part sees e-government as
government to citizens, moving governance from traditionalist “the use by government agencies of information technologies
bureaucratization to modernist participatory administration. This (such as wide area network, and mobile computing) that have the
paper is situated within the global experience, where many ability to transform relations with citizens, business and other
countries have advanced in their practice of e-governance and arms of government”.
Nigeria, as a nation cannot relish in the disadvantages of being left To buttress the importance and fast spreading nature of this
behind in a globalizing world. We strongly propose that there is a practice, Abernethy, et al [1] has declared: Governments around
significant relationship between a country’s technological, the world are embracing electronic government. In every region of
political and bureaucratic advancement and a successful e- the globe - from developing countries to industrialized ones -
governance practice. This paper argues that with the present poor national and local governments are putting critical information on
state of social infrastructure (especially power supply and road line, automating once cumbersome processes and interacting
network) in Nigeria, the practice of e-governance is most likely to electronically with their citizens. We pause here to propose a
be negatively impacted upon. On this note, our paper recommends question which states that, is Nigeria among those countries that
a re-assessment of the country’s state of e-governance are embracing electronic government?
preparedness. It recommends the application of proactive steps
aimed at ensuring the adequate supply of electricity and the E-government (electronic government) thus implies the general
development of human resource capabilities of the populace with application of the tools and techniques of e-commerce (electronic
the aim of achieving high-level computer literacy. The interval commerce) to the business of government for the benefit of both
convocation of stakeholders at Abuja for talk-shops is not the government and the citizens it serves. Yusuf [6] identified the
enough. Rather, Internet facilities and services must of necessity following four main phases in the development of e-government:
be made easily accessible at the lowest cost, to all Nigerians, i) Publish: This stage involves using ICT to expand access to
irrespective of how remote their locations in the country may government information. Here, governments would generate huge
be. The world is on the move and Nigeria is an integral part of it, volumes of information, much of which is potentially useful to
hence, should not lag behind. individuals and businesses. Such information is made available
through the Internet. However at this stage, there would be no
Categories and Subject Descriptors form of interaction with users, who are simply allowed to navigate
D.3.3 [Programming Languages]
through the websites to find the information they require. This
Keywords phase is recommended for solving a number of problems
E-Governance, Globalizing World, Computer Literacy, Internet presently bedeviling Nigeria, like the Niger Delta crisis, among
Users, Public Servants others. Investigations in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria shows
that very little information about government and the oil
companies is made available to the citizens. Hence, they rely most
1. INTRODUCTION on rumors and exaggerated sources of information. Such
The concept, e-government has been subjected to a number of misinformation has given rise to avoidable suspicions, which have
definitions. These definitions to a large extent tend to explain the impacted negatively on the mindset of the citizens, thus giving
deliberate attempts by governments through policy and practice, way to the present state of insecurity in the Niger Delta region.
to bring government closer to the citizens. This is with a view to
achieving efficient and effective service delivery. It involves a The problem identified above is made worse by the fact that most
process of transforming government, to become more citizen– government documents are classified as “top secret”. Meanwhile,
citizens need as much information about the governments as
possible. This will enable them understand better, the reasons
behind the making of public policies. The “freedom of
Permission to make digital or hard copies of all or part of this work for
personal or classroom use is granted without fee provided that copies are information bill” proposed for the country since 1999 was passed
not made or distributed for profit or commercial advantage and that copies into law in the last months of Nigeria’s Fifth National Assembly,
bear this notice and the full citation on the first page. To copy otherwise, but did not receive the mandatory presidential accent to transform
to republish, to post on servers or to redistribute to lists, requires prior it into a full fledge law in Nigeria. Thus, the people are deprived
specific permission and/or a fee. access to needed information about government and its agencies.
ICEGOV2007, December 10-13, 2007, Macao
Presently in Nigeria, very few uncoordinated government
Copyright 2007 ACM 978-1-59593-822 -0/07/12... $5.00 websites exist in the Internet for Nigerians to navigate and gain

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necessary information. These websites include those of JAMB, economy since 1999 when a number of reform projects were
NECO, Corporate Affairs Commission, Nigeria Immigration injected into some sectors of the economy.
Service and SERVICOM, among others.
It is within this purview that we situated our study problem. How
This, as noted above, constitutes an avenue through which prepared is Nigeria for a full practice of e-governance? With the
misgivings about the workings of government are nursed, and has poor state of accompanying infrastructure available in the country,
led to suspicions, blood letting and numerous crises. is the government only paying lip service to e-governance
practice? In the face of the usual bureaucratic resistance to
ii) Interact: This stage involves the broadening of civic administrative changes, what are the chances of survival of this
participation in government. This is achieved through the practice in government ministries, departments and parastatals?
introduction of two-ways communication between users and the
government. This interact stage starts with basic functions like E-governance has indeed been identified as a positive innovation
email contact information for government officials or feedback in the act of managing the state. However, energy and computer
forms that allow users provide constructive feedback. This level experts in Nigeria argue that with the present state of
also includes the use of more sophisticated web pages, which are infrastructure in the country, e-governance cannot be practiced
dynamically created. effectively in the nearest future. Such pessimistic view is
supported by the fact that electricity generation and supply in the
iii) Transact: Government services are actually made available country is unreliable. Apart from Abuja, the Federal Capital
on line at this stage. While users interact with the government, Territory, where electric power supply from Power Holdings
there is also room for them to carry out “transactions” which Company of Nigeria (PHCN) is guaranteed for many hours in a
achieve specific goals. These transactions include financial day, the picture is the opposite in other parts of the country, worst
(paying tax or receiving a fund) and non-financial (submitting a hit being the Southern parts of Nigeria. Most of the rural areas are
tax return) aspects. Analysts insist that at this stage, security, not connected to the national grid; hence, such places record a
reliability and data integrity have to be guaranteed, to ensure “no-light situation”. We must be reminded that the primary tools
sophistication and stability of the system. of our subject matter are computers and the Internet, which are
iv) Integrate: This phase involves the organization of government powered by electricity.
services around the “virtual organization”, thus providing a single One other major problem, which the introduction of e-governance
point of interaction. Yusuf [6] stresses the point that the in Nigeria will encounter, is that which has to do with very low
government and its associated services are no longer simply percentage of citizens that are ICT compliant or literate. By this,
disparate. That the medium becomes intrinsic to the way of doing we mean the percentage of Nigerians who are not only computer
business and governments may re-structure them around the new literate but are regular users of the Internet. This problem is so
“virtual” organization. pervasive that many Nigerians who possess degrees in different
On the other hand, Ojo [4] has attempted a distinction between e- fields do not know how to use the computer in addition to the
government and e-governance. He refers to the latter as the use of majority of the population that are already illiterates. In the 21st
information and communication technologies to transform and century Nigeria, access to the Internet is treated as a status symbol
support the processes and structures of a political system. available to the few that can afford its cost of installation and
servicing. Others have to patronize cyber cafes to do their
2. THE PROSPECTS OF E-GOVERNANCE transactions, in the big cities. These services, we must note, do not
IMPLEMENTATION IN NIGERIA come cheap to their users.
From the above illustrations and data from countries that are fully The implication of this reality is that e-governance facilities and
e-governance compliant, it is a truism that the practice introduces services through the email will only be enjoyed by urban-
positive changes into the day-to-day management of government dwellers, thus, leaving out the rural dwellers from its
business. Examples of such practicing countries that have practice. Majority of the Nigerian population (put at 143 million)
recorded tremendous progress are Denmark, the United States of dwell in the rural areas of the country. If the majority in a state is
America, Singapore and the United Kingdom. These countries sidelined from a national policy, then such a practice is bound to
have through e-governance, brought changes in different record a high rate of failure.
government transaction sectors like licensing, permits, tax returns,
government procurement, tourism promotion, medical claims, The Federal and some State Governments have attempted to
budget process, grants administration and education support. proffer solutions to the above stated problems, unfortunately these
Others are procurement management, financial management, to a large extent amount to temporary solutions. This involves the
registration of citizens, human resources management, directory equipping of boats and buses with Internet facilities that are made
services, public information (records), and benefits management. to tour the rural areas. A state like Akwa Ibom, launched the
Through this process for instance, citizens get to know about new second phase of this program in March, 2007, through the
jobs, place to live, available medical facilities, further education Ministry of Science and Technology. The question is, how far and
and birth registration. how often can these two buses go to the remote areas? Available
evidence on the ground shows that some of these state policies are
Ojo and Estevez [4] thus talk about governance as depicting a set politically motivated and may not stand the test of time. By this
of processes, formal and informal through which social action we mean a practice prevalent in the system, where government
occurs. Government here refers to a collection of institutions that officials, devise schemes through which state projects are lunched
act with authority and concrete formal obligations. With this, with huge public funds, only to end up as conduits through which
governments can get their work done transparently and efficiently, they divert majority of such funds to their private accounts
as has been the case in the private sectors of the Nigerian abroad. Soon after such programmes are launched publicly, the

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equipments and site are abandoned, locked up and allowed to rot and effectively involves stakeholders, including NGOs, business
away. Investigations have shown that by the end of October 2007, and interested citizens in new ways of meeting public challenges.
the Akwa Ibom State Internet launch we referred to above had
already gone comatose. A new government is in place and To succeed in launching into this practice, we recommend that the
majority of the projects initiated by the former have been full practice of democracy with all the freedoms that go with it be
abandoned. This practice contrasts with Southern African encouraged in the country. Governments at various levels in the
countries, like Mozambique where farmers in the rural areas get to country could be assisted by international non-governmental
find international markets for their farm products like bananas agencies to find a lasting solution to power outages in the country,
export and other services, through the Internet services accessible thus providing stable electricity power supply to the masses. For
from their homes, among other transactions. Another factor about the hinterlands that are not yet hooked on to the national grid, in
the Nigerian case is that with the record of showcasing the highest the interim, solar panels could be acquired for installation in
levels of poverty in the world where majority of citizens live on strategic locations in chosen local government areas of the
less than $1 per day, the people will be more concerned about federation. This will be used to generate electricity to power ICT,
how to get the next meal ready on their family tables than going to Internet and other equipment necessary for e-government practice.
chat away their time with government officials on how to improve Closely related to this, is the need for the federal government and
upon government policies. This apathy is already compounded by agencies concerned to declare a state of emergency on the
the fact that in Nigeria, the people’s votes hardly count. Nigerian roads; local and high ways.

The e-governance practice is bound to meet with strong The various levels of government and the bureaucracy should be
opposition from the bureaucratic quarters of the polity. By this, encouraged to embrace the practice. Here, the government has a
we mean the over bloated public service whose members will key role to play through the passage of necessary legislations that
analyze this practice as a deliberate attempt by the government to will give legal backing to the practice. Presently, very little has
throw majority of their members out of their jobs. Majority of the been achieved in this area because the much that seem to exist are
public servants are thus, likely to use their positions to frustrate institution-to-institution relationships. National portals do not yet
the effective application of e-governance in Nigeria. They will exist, but are necessary to help cut down on duplication of
definitely dislike a system that will reduce to the minimum, face functions and easy access to relevant information.
to face contact between citizens and government service The practical teaching and impartation of computer knowledge
providers. It is also a reality that majority of these public servants should be encouraged from the primary to the tertiary levels of
are not computer literate and may not be interested in acquiring education, irrespective of the course of study. This will require a
the needed skills at their various duty post. Experience at the total re-designing of the curriculum and syllabus of the various
various public offices like tax, VAT, immigration, customs, road academic institutions in the country. Such schools should also be
safety and NNPC; have shown that these public officials engage equipped with functional computers and teachers for practical.
in sharp practices on a daily basis with the citizens that go to them
for one service or the other. Some of these offices serve as the Organizations that can provide the Internet services to all
arrow heads of corrupt practices in Nigeria and the beneficiaries Nigerians at the minimum costs should be encouraged to come
are likely to resist and frustrate a new form of government- in. This has been achieved in the telecommunication sector and is
citizens transactions that will put an end to such illegal conducts. likely to produce the same results if experimented in this
They would prefer the current system that makes face-to-face area. This calls for public-private initiatives and partnerships. This
contact between citizens and government officials compulsory will serve as a boost for citizens to get interested and involved in
from the beginning to the end of such transactions. the entire e-government program.
Public servants should not only be trained to acquire ICT skills,
3. CONCLUSIONS but should be carried along in the various stages of the reforms.
This work started by looking at the concept and practice of e- This recommendation should go in tandem with the policy of staff
government and e-governance in the world. We then delved into rationalization in the public sector of the economy. With this
the Nigerian situation by asking a number of questions relating to policy initiative, only citizens with requisite qualification and
its state of readiness for this global trend and practice. Our competence are likely to retain public sector jobs. The political
analysis came to the fore that Nigeria faces a lot of infrastructures, class should be willing to embrace and practice the principles of
social and human problems, which if not properly tackled, may transparency and anti-corruption, for sustainable development.
make the practice of e-governance a very difficult task. Funds that would have been corruptly diverted by public officers
Daunting as the identified problems in Nigeria may appear, the can be meaningfully injected into the economy to encourage
country seem to have no option than to embrace and make the massive job provision and empowerments of the unemployed to
environment ready for the practice of e-governance. Cases like enable them establish small and medium scale businesses.
Singapore and Macau have succeeded greatly in this angle and
their citizens are reaping the accruing results. The world is now a 4. REFERENCES
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Programme” Paper presented at Abuja: UNeGov.net
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Workshop on e-Governance, July 2006.

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[3] Clift, S. E-Democracy, E-Governance and Public Net-Work. [5] The eGovernment Handbook for Developing Countries.
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