The Infocomm Development Authority (IDA), together with other agencies are working towards Singapore’s vision to becoming the world’s first smart nation. That’s why World Bank Group colleagues were eager to hear from Mr. Chan Cheow Hoe – IDA’s Government Chief Information Officer (CIO) – and his team during their visit to World Bank on September 24, 2014, about their vision of a “smart nation”.
Mr. Chan opened the conversation by offering his understanding of the basics: what is “innovation”? Innovation, according to him, is a means to very concrete ends: solving people’s problems. When pursuing innovation in certain areas of life, we should first ask ourselves “what problems are we going to solve?” The answer to this question should guide our search for technologically enabled solutions.
A “smart” nation is one whose government employs innovative technologies to effectively respond to its peoples’ needs, improving their social and economic prospects. It does so inclusively, so that all sub-segments of the population benefit. This citizen-centric approach is the key to understanding governance in a smart nation; unlike business entities, the government cannot choose its customers and must serve all citizens. In doing so, the government has to deal with diverse subjects and issues, which adds complexity to the task. For this reason, the government should have a long term view and plan.
Earlier this month, the Government of Rwanda convened a “Smart Rwanda Days” conference, bringing together participants from seven countries. During the two-day event, attendees were asked to “take the pulse” of digital development across Africa – as well as within their own countries – and then set concrete roles and responsibilities for current members of the Smart Africa alliance (Burkina Faso, Mali, South Sudan, Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda, and Gabon). The event was co-sponsored by the International Telecommunications Union, the African Union and several private-sector companies.
- More on Smart Africa: http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2013/07/17/imagining-a-smart-country-Rwanda
- More on Smart Rwanda: http://smartrwandadays.rw/spip.php?rubrique1
- International Telecommunication Union
- information and communication for development (ICT4D)
- Information and Communication Technologies
- broadband policy
- Private Sector Development
- Public Sector and Governance
- Information and Communication Technologies
Over the past several years, I have attended many Open Data-related events in Washington, DC and elsewhere. But as far as I remember, no one has addressed the opportunities and potentials of Open Data for greater government accountability, citizen engagement, empowerment of the poor, and inclusive rural growth as speakers and presenters did in early September in Hyderabad, India.
Being transparent — through Open Data in this context — is an achievement itself. Transparency has been at the center of attention of the Open Data movement for some time. However, as many of us know, being open is a means to an end — the more important questions are what to open, as well as for what purpose, for whom and how.
On the morning of September 4, 2014, I was sitting in a packed conference room for a workshop with high-level government officials, members of the project implementation unit, civil society organizations, academics, IT firms, and media. We were all blown away by the opening speech delivered by the Honorable KT Rama Rao, Minister of IT and Rural Development for the Government of Telangana, one of India’s 29 states. This opening speech set the tone for the workshop on Open Data Solutions for Rural Development and Inclusive Growth.
“There is almost nothing that government can or should do alone,” said one of the panelists at a recent global webinar on the future of digital government.
This was just one of the many signals of the disruptive and creative impact that digital platforms, dynamic connections and cross-sector co-design and participation are having on the role and practice of governments. While some are resisting, the outcomes that many predicted in the early days of e-government are now possible through “silo-busting,” merged back-office infrastructures and focused collaborative relationships with civil society, businesses, citizens and communities. To some degree, this reflects Professor Carlotta Perez’s creative construction phase of a revolution (also described in this paper) and reinforces two critical success factors: execution and deployment capabilities.
Eight senior government leaders from the World Bank-sponsored High–Level Experts, Leaders and Practitioners (HELP) network, together with participants from 35 countries, led a discussion on the challenges and opportunities associated with digital government.
A news item from Computer Weekly casts doubt. A recent report notes that, in the United Kingdom (UK), poor data quality is hindering the government’s Open Data program. The report goes on to explain that – in an effort to make the public sector more transparent and accountable – UK public bodies have been publishing spending records every month since November 2010. The authors of the report, who conducted an analysis of 50 spending-related data releases by the Cabinet Office since May 2010, found that that the data was of such poor quality that using it would require advanced computer skills.
Far from being a one-off problem, research suggests that this issue is ubiquitous and endemic. Some estimates indicate that as much as 80 percent of the time and cost of an analytics project is attributable to the need to clean up “dirty data” (Dasu and Johnson, 2003).
In addition to data quality issues, data provenance can be difficult to determine. Knowing where data originates and by what means it has been disclosed is key to being able to trust data. If end users do not trust data, they are unlikely to believe they can rely upon the information for accountability purposes. Establishing data provenance does not “spring full blown from the head of Zeus.” It entails a good deal of effort undertaking such activities as enriching data with metadata – data about data – such as the date of creation, the creator of the data, who has had access to the data over time and ensuring that both data and metadata remain unalterable.
Nigeria is home to Africa’s largest population (approximately 174.5 million) and the continent’s biggest economy (more than $500 billion in annual GDP). It is also the center for a wide range of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) activities, from policy to practice – many of which are supported by the World Bank.
Since the establishment of the Ministry of Communication Technology in 2011, the Nigerian government has made notable progress in advancing its ICT agenda. The government has catalyzed significant efforts in the area of policy and regulation, with an ICT Policy developed in 2012, a National Broadband Development Plan developed in 2013 and an e-Government Strategy now in the works.
On June 5, 2014, the World Bank will host a Global Webinar on the Future of Digital Government from 9:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. EDT. You can join us by signing up here. You can also follow the webinar through the World Bank ICT Twitter page, using the hashtag #digigov.
My first day at the World Bank found me flying to Moscow to participate in the Open Government Conference.
Open Government is increasingly perceived as a new paradigm for ICT-enabled government transformation offering a number of instruments for improved governance, transparency and innovation. Ulyanovsk Oblast of Russia has already made substantial progress in e-government, IT industry development and IT literacy, and has taken practical steps that have made it an early leader in Open Government initiatives in Russia, as recognized in a study published in May 2012 by the Russian Institute of the Information Society.