Latest News Editor's Choice


News / National

Zimbabwe govt websites are stuck in the stone age

by Mike Murenzvi
15 Feb 2024 at 10:16hrs | Views
Here is one odd fact you may not know; Zimbabwean government-linked websites under the domain gov.zw, all go to bed for the night. You cannot access them for about 10 hours from around 10PM to 8AM the following day.

In an age where information and online resources, especially government ones, should always be available, this is disturbing.
An aversion to email

Anyone who has tried to email government ministries or embassies has noted one major issue – the email addresses given are largely Yahoo or Gmail. Rarely do you see an official letterhead or contact information that has gov.zw at the end except for certain agencies.

IT administrators will tell you that email is one of the easiest things to configure, and yet very few ministries use official email addresses. This also extends to our embassies across the globe.

It is a wonder that for a seemingly security-conscious country, the government chooses to use public email service providers. One wonders whether there's sensitive Zimbabwean government information floating around on Google and Yahoo servers.
Enter GISP

Formed in 1997, the Government Internet Service Provider (GISP) is mandated to be the sole provider of internet services to Government Ministries, Departments, and Parastatals. It also provides these services to the Judiciary and Parliament.

This specialist entity is meant to oversee the mess that is government websites and online communications, yet its own site has been down or under maintenance for a very long time. Very little information is available online about GISP, especially with their website being down for maintenance.
Ministry of ICT: the mandate

The Ministry of Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services spearheads the National ICT Policy, the latest available version of which is from 2016. A key component of this policy is E-Government. This policy is meant to direct all electronic information movement, interactions and transactions that facilitate service delivery within government and between government, business and the people. This relies on ICT to provide convenient, timely, efficient, and effective access to interactive information, public services, and business transactions.

The E-Government policy is summarised into the following policy statements:

1. Facilitate the development of a single national strategy and blueprint for the planning, design and implementation of e-Government infrastructure and services. This will avoid fragmentation, duplication and focus the country on areas of achieving maximum results.

2. E-Government will be deployed to reduce government institutions operational costs and to bring Government closer to the people.

3. The e-Government Strategy will maximise and leverage on national ICT infrastructure to optimise capital and operational expenditure requirements.

4. Avail e-government services to all citizens in a language that they understand.

Such lofty aspirations require a certain level of dedication and investment to bring them to fruition. The National Development Strategy (NDS) 1 blueprint has an entire section focused on the digital economy. We are now into the fourth year of implementation and very little has been done towards this key element. In fact, in examining the sector, NDS1 aptly identifies sectoral problems but stops short of introspection by government itself.

In paragraph 534 it states that, "Further, the sector has been adversely affected by lack of access to capital, low investment in both hardware and software ICT components, shortage of critical ICT skills and low investment in Research and Development. Application of ICTs has also been weighed down by erratic power supply."
Where there's a will, there's a way

Several of the issues dogging online access and the presence of Zimbabwean government are fairly simple and easy to fix. These are things like having presentable, functional websites for all ministries, agencies, and parastatals. This means websites that are also current in their information, and useful to both internal and external parties. With the advent of website templates, these can be up and running in no time. There are skills and tools available to make these sites secure. It just takes the right mindset within the ICT cluster of government to put the necessary resources into action.

The implementation of official email addresses along with the structured digitisation of services gives a level of credence and trust to communications, along with speed to responses.

Some strides have already been taken, such as ZimConnect, a single government services portal that was designed to bring the application processes for many services in one place. This may require restructuring to modernise it, but the principle is a step in the right direction.

The implementation of such measures would make a significant, tangible impact on the ICT Ministry's performance. With these small things, the current minister can exceed what her predecessors achieved. Go back to the policy of E-Government and implement the basic elements – how government communicates and interacts within itself; how government interacts with industry; and how government interacts with people.

_______________________

Mike Murenzvi writes in his personal capacity and his views are not associated with any organisation he is, or may be, affiliated with.

Source - newZWire