Experts push for private investments in public service digitisation projects

Rwanda has been promoting ICTs as one of the enablers of socio-economic development and transformation, and part of the journey was to digitise public services.
Delegates visit one of the stands at the India Africa ICT Expo which ended yesterday in Kigali. Emmanuel Kwizera.

Many countries across the globe currently recognise the role of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in promoting government initiatives and driving services delivery.

However, it should not only be the responsibility of the Governments to drive the digital transformation agenda but rather a stronger involvement of the private sector.

Experts at the India Africa ICT Expo, which ended on Tuesday in Kigali, said for countries to achieve full digitalisation journeys, it should be a collective role played by both governments and private players.

Rwanda has been promoting ICTs as one of the enablers of socio-economic development and transformation, and part of the journey was to digitise public services.

While the Government has been instrumental in realising that journey, Innocent Muhizi, the Chief Executive Officer of Rwanda Information Society Agency (RISA), told participants that private partners have played a big role.

“Having really credible partners not only national organisations but also private companies that are ready and willing to jump in and partner with the Government has been key,” he said.

In 2015, Rwanda commissioned its first online portal for e-governance services widely known in Kinyarwanda as ‘Irembo’ which is loosely translated as ‘gateway’ in English.

The portal was meant to offer e-government solutions that fast-track service delivery and increase efficiency in public institutions. Through this, all Government to Citizen and Government to Businesses services could be digitised.

This could be made possible as a result of a 25-year public private partnership that the Government entered with Irembo Platform Ltd, a local technology company.

Today, citizens are able to access about 98 public services through Irembo platform.

Faith Keza, the Chief Executive Officer of Irembo Platform, noted that when the organisation entered the partnership with Government, the ground had been laid and they brought in their expertise.

“The Government has invested a lot in infrastructure and prepared the ground. What we (Irembo) brought in was the ability to attract talent capacity and innovate,” she said.

The expertise the organisation brought on board, Keza added, also included the ability to anticipate what citizens want and to go out there to mobilise investment to do what they want.

That is exactly what she thinks the private sector’s comparative advantage and what private players introduce when the environment is conducive.

For Amit Pasari, an Indian ICT investor, when governments agree to work with the private sector, the latter steps in with a different thinking that governments could not achieve alone.

“While governments are able to put in place policies that give us direction, the private sector comes in with different design thinking, like being sensitive to costs of operations,”

That thinking, Pasari believes fast-tracks the process and the pace at which governments are able to deliver needed services to the citizens and citizens are then relieved of stress.

Ravi Krishnan, another expert from India, noted that establishing public and private partnerships will accelerate digitalisation, allowing for streamlining of processes, improving efficiency and enhancing productivity.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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