Microsoft: E-government Critical in Africa

There is an urgent need for African governments to practice e-government, since technology will help bring about a much-needed transparency in political systems on the continent, according to Microsoft Chairman for Africa, Cheick Modibo Diarra.

"If e-government was in place in Kenya and Zimbabwe, their post-election era would not be what we saw happening, because when e-government is in place there is transparency that comes with the system," observed Diarra, speaking this week at the African ICT Best Practices Forum in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

Diarra said that e-government can help eradicate corruption by, for example, bringing about transparency in the taxation process. He referred to e-government as the use of Internet technology as a platform for exchanging information, providing services and transacting business with citizens and enterprises.

E-government may be brought about by legislation or through administrations as a way to improve internal efficiency. Primary business models for e-government include government-to-citizen; government-to-business; government-to-government; and government-to- employee.

The delay in implementing e-government in Africa is primarily due to a lack, on the part of decision makers, of clear ideas about where to start, Diarra said. Cape Verde has started implementing e-government by allowing e-voting, which has helped the country tally votes within minutes of poll closings and avoid conflicts about results, he noted.

Earlier in the week, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer spoke at the conference, emphasizing the need for transparency in business and government.

"Technology alone will not turn these goals into achievements," Ballmer said. "Technology is just a tool to empower people to make progress. It is an enabler."