• Saturday, April 13, 2024
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Reforming the Nigerian civil service: A technological paradigm shift for efficiency and accountability

Towards reforming the Nigeria’s civil service

The Civil Service, an integral component of governance in countries across the world, has historically grappled with systemic inefficiencies and accountability challenges. Rooted in a complex historical backdrop, the institution has struggled to adapt to the evolving needs of modern society. However, technology integration presents an unparalleled opportunity to revamp and rejuvenate this foundational institution, fostering efficiency, transparency, and accountability.

Inefficiencies in the civil service are a global issue, affecting countries across various regions. Issues include bureaucratic red tape, slow processes, delayed decision-making, and increased administrative costs. In some European countries, lengthy bureaucratic processes hinder swift policy implementation and public service delivery.

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In addition, there needs to be more transparency and accountability, notably evident in the corruption and lack of transparency in countries across Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Countries like Nigeria struggle with outdated systems and technologies that impede efficiency, over-centralization of decision-making and services, and inadequate performance measurement and evaluation systems, resulting in a lack of clarity regarding goals and outcomes and leading to inefficient resource allocation and service delivery.

How far can the Nigerian civil service build

During the recent graduation and award presentation ceremony of some civil servants under the Leadership Enhancement and Development Programme initiative, the Head of Civil Service of the Federation under the President Bola Tinubu administration, Folasade Yemi-Esan, stressed the need for human capital for nation-building: “Investing in human knowledge and skills is an urgent necessity for development. This is because people are the main engine for growth, and without skills, knowledge, and personnel, it’s impossible to achieve the growth, development, and advance rates that nations aspire to.”

Unfortunately, the history of the Nigerian civil service is also littered with political interference, including nepotism and patronage, that have consistently undermined merit-based decision-making, impacting the quality of service delivery. Therefore, addressing these inefficiencies demands concerted efforts, innovative approaches, and a commitment to reform. Successful strategies and best practices implemented in one country can offer valuable insights for others seeking to enhance efficiency and effectiveness.

Technological integration: A catalyst for change

Advanced technologies like AI, machine learning, and automation can revolutionise the civil service by streamlining processes, reducing bureaucracy, increasing efficiency, and enhancing transparency. They also facilitate data-driven decision-making, enhance employee efficiency, and improve service delivery to citizens.

Modernising Identity management

A well-designed digital identity system that utilises modern technologies such as biometrics or blockchain can greatly simplify employee verification and attendance tracking. This can serve as a central repository of employee information, making it easier to manage and authenticate employee data. Similar to India’s Aadhaar system, this kind of system can significantly improve authentication processes, leading to better service delivery and reduced fraud cases.

Using biometrics, such as fingerprints or facial recognition, can help ensure that employees are who they claim to be, adding an extra layer of security. Blockchain technology can also make the system more secure by creating an immutable record of employee data.

Integrating OKRs and performance measurement

Adopting a technology-driven framework can be immensely helpful in setting and tracking key performance indicators (KPIs) and objectives and key results (OKRs) for employees in the civil service. As evidenced by case studies from across the world, it is possible to align the institution’s objectives with national goals more streamlined and efficiently.

A great example of such successful digitised management of objectives and outcomes is Estonia’s e-Governance model, which encompasses digital signatures, online voting, and centralised data systems. This digital ecosystem extends to managing objectives and outcomes within the civil service, through which the country has revolutionised how objectives and outcomes are managed, setting a blueprint for other nations to follow.

Estonia’s success serves as a guide for global e-government cooperation, emphasising accessibility irrespective of economic capabilities. The country has pioneered a digital society, meticulously rebuilding its government infrastructure and creating an information society where IT integration is central to governance.

Automation and process streamlining

Automation technology, including AI and ML, can significantly reduce bureaucratic bottlenecks by optimising processes, enhancing efficiency and responsiveness. Countries like Singapore and South Korea have successfully implemented automation in various sectors, showcasing the significant improvements in their systems.

Both countries employ electronic HRM systems, streamlining processes, securing digital talent, and enhancing digital skills, ultimately improving public service efficiency. Korea’s success in automation is ultimately bolstered by an overarching national innovation system, which drives economic performance and technological advancements.

By incorporating automation technology, organisations can streamline their processes, reduce human error, and achieve greater accuracy in their operations. Furthermore, automation technology can also provide real-time insights and analytics, which can help organisations make data-driven decisions and stay ahead of the competition.

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Enhancing transparency through technology

The digitalization of procurement processes and financial transactions in Georgia has significantly improved transparency and government accountability. By utilising advanced digital tools, the government has streamlined procurement and financial processes, eliminating fraudulent activities. This has saved time and resources, and increased public trust in the government’s efficiency, demonstrating the potential of technology in eradicating corruption and ensuring transparent governance.

The World Bank credits Georgia’s success in combating corruption to strong political will, early credibility, strategic communication, adapting international experience, technology, and close coordination. The Economist highlights the importance of leadership, political will, and early credibility in saving resources and fostering public trust in efficient service delivery. This model demonstrates the potential of digitalization in promoting transparent and accountable governance.

In conclusion, the transformation of the Nigerian Civil Service through technological integration represents an unprecedented opportunity to address longstanding inefficiencies.

By drawing insights from successful global models and customising solutions to local needs, Nigeria will forge a modern, efficient, and transparent civil service that is pivotal for national development and progress.

Therefore, integrating technology within the Nigerian Civil Service is not merely a recommendation but necessary to propel the nation towards a future marked by efficiency, transparency, and accountable governance.

 

Wale Oyepeju is a highly experienced entrepreneur and leader with over a decade and a half of pioneering innovation in the African technology sector. As a co-founder and Chief Technology Officer at Vendease, he brings extensive knowledge and expertise to the company, leading the design, development, research, and innovation of Vendease’s Enterprise Resource Planning Suite (ERP) suite of products aimed at automating the global food supply chain and ultimately making food businesses grow.