BY TIMI OLUBIYI, PhD
Democracy Day is observed to commemorate the country’s restoration of democracy in 1999, and it has since become an annual event. True democracy, on the other hand, comes when the environment encompasses safety, ample economic benefits, free, fair, and trustworthy voting system, as well as the decrease of the hydra-headed difficulties, most notably the ravaging poverty and unemployment in the country. Electronic governance is one of the methods that may be used to achieve full and true democracy. The World Bank defines electronic governance as “the government’s use of information technologies (including Wide Area Networks, the internet, software applications, cloud infrastructure, and mobile computing) to transform relations, safety and communication with citizens, businesses, and other government agencies.” It may seem overwhelming, but if the nation is genuinely dedicated, e-governance may improve public access to government services, information, dependable security, adequate oversight roles, accountability, and regulations. To name a few, the scope of e-governance may include simple citizen identification; e-registrations; e-voting; e-courts; e-policing; e-licensing; e-taxation; e-mobilization; e-education; e-service delivery; e-feedback; intelligence collection; and the analysis of public financial records.
Passionately, governments around the world are taking steps to incorporate technology into all governmental processes, which is a seamless service option as well as a way to achieve a meaningful data-driven decision-making system at a low cost and with less human interactions, which ordinarily aids corruption and bribery. What is the significance of this e-governance? For example, the government cannot fully provide social infrastructure unless it knows the nation’s population or how many people live in the country, and it cannot adequately provide educational infrastructure until it has data on children. More so, the number of automobiles, road users, unemployed youngsters, and even the country’s unbanked and illiterate rates must be known for adequate and meaningful planning purposes.
Citizen data, in my view, is a development infrastructure and a real asset that the government may employ to increase economic well-being. Because it could tell us a lot about how people act, what they do, and how that affects society as a whole. It is long past time for all levels of government to think about how to use technology through e-governance in running the country.
No doubt, Nigeria has the fastest growing information and communication technology market in Africa, particularly in financial technology (FinTech), according to reliable records. However, the country still ranks low in terms of providing e-governance services to its citizens. So, it is only necessary for the Nigerian government to adopt digital innovation and fall in line, like other countries where technology greatly supports governance via e-governance. Many countries and government agencies around the world rely more and more on electronic methods and technology to keep records, provide services and communicate with their citizens. Nigeria should not be an exception, especially because of the constant security issues.
With no doubt, Nigeria has a large population, which is projected to be 400 million by 2050. It is clear that digital applications in national planning are critical and unavoidable for the country to achieve the needed growth and stability. Because current infrastructures are more likely to be overstressed in the absence of a reliable data-driven decision-making system and adequate scientific projections. So, e-governance and the use of information and communications technology (ICT) in government operations are needed to make government services more available to the public.
Therefore, if e-governance is fully implemented, it can help in the areas of security, defence, judiciary, economic monitoring, social and national planning as it relates to demographics, electioneering, and even tax administration. Furthermore, if implemented, data such as offenders, criminals, and violators’ lists may simply be shared and made available where necessary. This will aid in not having people with dubious characteristics or criminals in areas they should not be.
It is important to stress that no meaningful government can improve the lives and livelihoods of its citizens without reliable citizen data and a national database portal. As it stands, a large number of Nigerians are still without government-regulated identification, and this is a huge risk to national development, security, and planning. In rural locations and some areas, people are generally born, grow, reach maturity, retire, age, and die without the government knowing or being aware of their existence. This should not be the case; birth data is crucial and should serve as the foundation for other types of registrations and records in the country. As things stand, we may have all kinds of foreigners pretending and claiming to be Nigerians.
Therefore, it is a clear and indisputable fact that to be able to govern with any degree of meaningful impact, the government needs to be able to know and be able to identify not only its citizens but all other people living within its borders. It appears national identification number registration alone cannot adequately achieve this without formally having a national census and resident survey. The government should think about e-governance policies, especially the e-citizen portal, which will make it easy for people and businesses to use all government services in the country.
Thus, it is beyond doubt that the implementation of e-governance and a national database portal is imperative and crucial for national development. More so, e-governance can smoothen the working procedures of the government and also reduce crime and insecurity in the country, due to the availability of intelligence and information for the government to use from time to time. If well managed, it will be extremely useful in administrative, legislative, and judicial agencies (including both federal and local governments). Besides, e-governance, when implemented, will help in developmental policies to fix or alleviate social issues, help with inequality, social intervention improvement, and determining the rate of unemployment in the country meaningfully, among others.
To summarise, the e-governance system is long overdue in Nigerian ministries, police force, prisons, courts, ports, and many other places. Thus, if widely implemented, it will reduce the perennially suffocating administrative costs and regulatory burdens on citizens and businesses. It will also promote good governance by increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of the public sector, which will encourage more public-private partnerships, foreign direct investments (FDI’s), and an open government ecosystem. Citizens’ attitudes toward government will invariably change as a result of increased trust and public value. Although e-government requires significant initial investment in hardware, software, and expertise, it yields significant long-term benefits when compared to bureaucratic ones. Here’s to you a belated, “Happy Democracy Day”, and best wishes to Nigeria and Nigerians!