By James Ratemo in Cape Town South Africa
A new report on Mobile Government Readiness Index shows Kenya tops list of African countries with robust mobile government implementation.
Dubbed “Mobilizing public services in Africa” the Informa Telecoms & Media’s White Paper, available at the ongoing Africa Com event in Cape Town, ranks Kenya after South Africa and ahead of Egypt as an African country most ready to embrace mobile government services.
Joint authors of the Informa’s reportNick Jotischky and Sheridan Nye however note that until now mobile government implementations have been far slower to take off in Southa Africa than in Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania.
The report says Kenya is leading in quest to realize the benefits to citizens and small businesses (agricultural advice, payment of utility bills, commodity pricing information) of delivering public services using cellular technologies.
E-government is being seen increasingly by African governments as a source of economic, social and political development that encourages greater citizen engagement and improves access to services. And yet two-thirds of respondents to a C-level industry survey that Informa recently commissioned believe e-government services are still under-developed in Africa.
“It is striking when looking at e-government strategies in Africa that there is no clear articulation of the role mobile devices can play in the spread of e-government services. Given the importance of mobile in Africa’s economy and culture over the last decade, this appears strange. After all, not only does the continuing growth in wireless access ensure a wide audience reach, but messaging and data usage trends suggest many consumers in Africa are already using mobile for a variety of purposes. Furthermore, the mobile device market continues to mature and smartphone penetration is accelerating,” says Jotischky.
Informa projects that by 2016 over a third of mobile connections in South Africa will be via smartphones.
Informa’s mobile government readiness index is based on mobile penetration; 3G penetration; mobile broadband penetration forecasts; proportion of population living in rural areas; the size of public sector as a percentage of GDP; UN’s e-Government Readiness Index; fixed broadband penetration and literacy rates.
The index excluded countries with a population less than 5 million.
Kenya became the second country this year to launch an open data portal, after South Africa, bringing to an end days where hoarding of information was the norm in government circles.
With the open data portal which is now shoving kenya to global limelight, it means public data will no longer be kept in shelves to gather dust and in formats unusable by the general public.
The government has released several large datasets, including the national census and statistics on government spending at national and county level to enhance transparency in governance and access to information.
The data presented in user-friendly format is available online via the open data portal (www.opendata.go.ke) launched by President Mwai Kibaki in July.
The report notes that many of the mobile government services already implemented are in east and north Africa. Most of these services are directed at citizens and businesses but as yet, governments have not used mobile technology as a way of overhauling internal processes and providing more flexibility to their workforces.
“Technology providers in Africa have an opportunity to enable mobile government by encouraging the migration of public sector services to the cloud. Virtualisation of infrastructure and flexible, usage-based pricing would allow government agencies to pay for what they need and flex costs accordingly to match demand. Mobility services should form an integrated part of the public sector’s cloud migration,” Nye advices.
In an Interview with The Nation on the sidelines of the Africom Conference in Capetown on Wednesday, Lars Linden, Head of and President of Ericsson sub Saharan Africa said African governments major challenge is to reduce connectivity cost s and increase Internet penetration to the masses.
Mr Linden said mobile operators should change gear and ensure increased revenue from data since voice revenue is quickly dipping.
“Today in Africa data revenue is below 5 percent compared to 40 per cent to 50 per cent in mature markets…penetration level of 3G networks is still very low in Africa even as we talk about adopting 4G…governments across the continent have a role to play in taking connectivity to rural areas,” said Mr Linden.
Craig Hosken, Ericsson Kenya Managing Director, Head of Engagement practices said Lower cost of mobile devices and dipping calling rates in Kenya is aiding to increase connectivity.
“Calling price wars in Kenya has been good for subscribers…now operators need to compete on quality and speed of services,” advises Mr Craig.