ICT uptake will deliver quality services

Last week’s “Transform Africa Summit,” held in Kigali, pledged to bolster the ICT sector whose aim is to achieve ‘smart cities’ across the continent.

On this note, President Paul Kagame, in his speech, pointed out two fundamental things, among others: the need for political will to enable the implementation of digital integration and rollout of initiatives; and the need to engage in Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) to invest in ICT projects.

The prime objective of the Transform Africa agenda, it was observed, is to achieve high quality ICT services in day-to-day life. Digital integration in every aspect of life is of paramount importance.

Today, the digital penetration is considered as one of the greatest drivers of quality of life.

Quality of life, the agenda for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), is unachievable without integrating ICT in all essential services. In Rwanda, some of these services have become part of normal life, as highlighted below.

To start with, the introduction of e-procurement. E-Procurement is the complete e-tendering process starting from online publishing of tender enquiries and online bid submission by the bidders, to online bid opening, online bid evaluation and publication of award of contract.

It is worth noting that e-Procurement is one of the basic tenets of the e-Government programme whose prime objective is to improve the labour productivity of the public sector and, as a result, contribute to a number of intermediate outcomes, such as improved services, cost savings, time savings and transparency.

E-Procurement is expected to enhance public procurement in curbing corruption by reducing physical contacts between bidders and procuring entities. On the economic side of it, it will in turn have organisational efficiency, simplification as well as increase of GDP.

Inherently, this is a system that does away with the routine paperwork.

A pilot test of e-Procurement was launched in eight public entities namely, Ministry of Infrastructure, Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, Ministry of Health, Rwanda Development Board, Rwanda Transport Development Authority, Rwanda Public Procurement Authority, Kicukiro District and Gasabo District.

Second, the advent of modern technology has had a dramatic impact on nearly all social domains, including justice sector, where the government introduced a new electronic justice (e-justice) or a web-based software, dubbed ‘Integrated Electronic Case Management System (IECMS)’, specially designed to improve the efficiency of the judicial system.

The Integrated Electronic Case Management System (IECMS) is a potential facilitator of improving the efficiency and accessibility of justice.

Another related interesting development is the construction of the National Forensic Laboratory, which will certainly use ICT to accurately serve its purpose.

DNA evidence remains the most accurate identifying evidence.

Third, the innovation of the digital signature that ensures the security of the internet users. A digital signature, also called an electronic signature, means data in electronic form that is used for security and trust in electronic business and communications.

On the whole, the purpose of digital signature is to build public confidence in the security of digital transactions and to encourage more people to use electronic signatures, by demonstrating to individuals and businesses their advantage over handwritten signatures.

People and businesses are able to transact within a borderless digital single market, that is the value of the internet. The particular benefits of this technology include increased efficiency, lower costs and increased customer satisfaction.

Besides, the government embraces a cashless economy, which is reflected in the ‘Smart Rwanda’ blueprint, the use of mobile money has continued to emerge as a paradigm shift from informal to formal financial services and to reduce predominant reliance on cash.

Today, the use of mobile money is considerably an important landmark in digital age, especially in Africa. It enables Mobile-money-users to pay bills (e.g. water, electricity etc.), remit funds, deposit cash, and make withdrawals using e-money issued by banks and non-bank providers such as telecommunication companies.

This service, in particular, has enabled many people without access to financial services—known as the unbanked—to access an increasing range of financial services, from payments to savings and probably loans.

In a bid to smooth over ICT legal challenges, the government recently adopted ICT law (law n°24/2016 of 18/06/2016 governing information and communication technologies), which is the most comprehensive policy ever adopted in the ICT industry. Its purpose is to establish a comprehensive legal framework for information and communication technologies.

As Rwanda is steadily advancing in modern technologies, it is important to regulate the gaps in ICT law and IT applications. This ICT law applies to electronic communications, information society, broadcasting sector, and postal sector, which are all demonstrably linked.

Interestingly, this law guarantees personal data privacy protection, establishing conditions for securing reliable electronic records through regulations. Individuals, whose data are routinely transferred around the world via the internet, especially by social media, often do not know to whom to turn to protect their rights.

Therefore, regulation of personal data privacy is crucially important, especially in technologically evolving society.

The writer is an international law expert.