• Friday, July 19, 2024
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The role of technology in fostering productivity and accountability in government parastatals

The role of technology in fostering productivity and accountability in government parastatals

The Federal Government has reiterated its commitment to facilitating a 6percent growth in Nigeria’s GDP in the coming years. One of the key players that will determine if the target will be achieved or not is the civil service comprising various Ministries, Departments and Agencies across the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory.

Generally, the sentiment held by many is that civil service operations are steeped in opacity and unproductivity. This begs the question, what can be done to reposition government parastatals for productivity, transparency and accountability? I submit with conviction that widespread adoption of technology is the primary solution to this mammoth challenge.

For fear of being accused of suffering tunnel vision because of my background as a veteran software developer and successful entrepreneur, it is important to state that history is replete with case studies of various points of industrial revolution driven by mass adoption of technology which in turn facilitated seamless production in public and private enterprises.

Furthermore, the current digital age has been labelled the fourth industrial revolution, due to the disruptive power of groundbreaking technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain, Machine Learning among others. As such, I make bold to claim that government parastatals cannot be left behind because they are the primary machinery for driving economic growth in Nigeria and there is a cogent need for governments across the three tiers to embrace technology.

One may ask, what are the prospective benefits of a widespread adoption of technology in government parastatals? I will posit that the opportunities are endless. I have had the privilege of leading private-public partnerships as the founder of Nugi Technologies, a legacy company with offices in Cross River, Lagos and Abuja, so I will be drawing from my empirical insights to explain how mass adoption of technology will benefit the civil service.

At Nugi Tech, we have been privileged to develop technology solutions such as 360 Governance for Ministries, Departments and Agencies in Cross River, and I can state that adoption of technology in government parastatals is integral for facilitating efficient service delivery. There is no gainsaying that manual operations over the years have enabled nonchalance and incompetence, but technology-driven automation facilitates efficiency. For instance, the Internal Revenue Service in Cross River has been able to boost internal revenue generation through digitisation of services such as tax collection and issuance of tax clearance.

Same way, digitisation is capable of reducing profligacy in government parastatals. For instance, the IRS in Cross River used to spend so much on printing tax clearance, but with digitised operations, that expense has been eliminated. As a result, cost of operation can be optimised to offer more valuable services and broaden state capacity to collect taxes from individuals and businesses that had been avoiding taxation. Besides, perception of efficiency can inspire confidence in tax payers and improve remission of taxes.

Similarly, digitisation of processes promotes data integrity and record keeping. It is common knowledge that we struggle with data and record keeping as a country. But this problem can be solved with technology if MDAs are required to digitise their operations. This way, records are transparent, accessible and safer, efforts are not duplicated and sustainability is guaranteed. For instance, challenges prevalent with issuance of Certificates of Occupancy can be eliminated if the process is digitised across states.

In addition, the perennial problem of ghost workers can be eliminated if MDAs are mandated to digitise their registry and files. Regular audits of data registers will expose anomalies in the system, promote accountability and block loopholes for manipulation. Similarly, when data integrity is assured, this can facilitate data-driven governance. Ideally, governments across the three tiers should be able to design and execute policies that are based on data obtained from MDAs rather than conjecture.

Meanwhile, as a democratic state, the government should be concerned with leveraging technology to boost citizen participation in the process of governance. Through our partnership with the Cross River State Government, we built an app called My Cross River with features such as Eye Report to allow citizens to document and report notable occurrences in their locality for the government to act upon in a bid to foster a sense of ownership among indigenes and residents.

It is noteworthy that as a result of the technology solutions we created for parastatals in Cross River, the state was awarded “The Most Innovative State” prize at the 8th Innovation, Science and Technology EXPO convened by the Federal Ministry of Innovation Science and Technology in March 2024. This award, I believe, is a testament to what public and private partnership can achieve and we are still scratching the surface.

Without a doubt, numerous challenges are currently impeding the widespread adoption of technology in government parastatals. The Federal, State and Local Governments need to address perennial challenges such as unstable power, poor internet penetration, data security and untrained civil servants among others. Truth is these challenges have been solved in various countries, we just need to learn from them.

As such, the government needs the political will to address these challenges and leverage public-private partnerships with notable technology companies in the country to fasttrack the revolution in Nigeria. That way, we can make tremendous progress and transform government parastatals to frontline drivers of economic growth.

 

.Ugi, is a software developer and CEO, Nugi Technologies.