Electromagnetic Savannah
Commentary on science, technology and economics in Nigeria and beyond

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Nigerian Federal Government Organises ICT Summit for LGs

From ThisDay comes a news story about an ICT/e-governance compliance summit being held next month for Nigerian local governments. The idea, according to Mrs. I. A. Akhigbe, Director of Local Government Affairs and a facilitator at this event is to enable Local Governments implement the SERVICOM dictates to the fullest, SERVICOM itself being a social contract between Nigerians and their government which gives them the right to demand good service.

Leaving aside whether SERVICOM itself is a realistic idea, my problem with this summit (as with so many summits involving technology) is that it seems about information delivered from the top rather than information requested from the bottom. Looking at the story in detail, I see the usual buzzwords about "e-governance" and "web portal" and I wonder whether the usual idea of technology as a silver bullet isn't rearing its ugly head again.

I know that information technology is a tremendous enabler - but there are many other things that need to be in place before the benefits can be felt. First of all, the local governments have to define exactly and in great detail what they want to achieve. Then they should define with the same exactness and detail the different kinds of activities they should be performing to achieve their goal, and they should concentrate on the activities where information is passed around or stored. Then they should look at all the possible ways of handling this information (including, of course, using information technology) and determine which is the best both on cost and efficiency. And cost isn't simply about buying computers - it includes training, it includes maintenance, it includes Building Your Own Infrastructure if the government hasn't yet been kind enough to supply you one. Given all this, IT will typically only justify itself if there are such large volumes of information being shunted around that it would be impossible to achieve anything with a manual system. But that is rarely the case with most Nigerian local governments.

But it's not just the cost of providing IT that makes me sceptical of its application in local government. I believe that the real problem is actually a management one. The staff suffer from low morale and don't really care about their work - so there's not much point in trying to improve the efficiency of an activity that nobody really cares about doing. However, when all that is weighed up against the opportunity to go a-junketing in Abuja, I think it's a no-brainer for local government bosses...

3 Comments:

  • With a government that assumes that the people in power knows what exactly is good for the populace, what would you expect? Even if someone sponsored a survey, the money is more likely to be 'eaten' than used to carry it out.

    Nigeria!

    By Blogger azuka, At 28 April 2007 at 07:00  

  • Someone (or several) just smiled to the bank!

    Your last paragraph nails the issue on the head; conference organizers make a killing in Nigeria. How many LGAs are in Nigeria today? This gives you a sense of how large the booty!

    By Anonymous imnakoya, At 10 May 2007 at 14:03  

  • Good for people to know.

    By Anonymous Morgana, At 10 November 2008 at 17:22  

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