By Adekunle Adekoya
WHILE the Federal Government seeks solutions from the private sector to the nationâ€™s identity management crisis, winds are already being taken out of its sails with last Fridayâ€™s launching of the Edo State Citizens Identification Card by state governor, Comrade Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole
Last Friday, at the Oba Akenzua Cultural Centre in Benin City, the Edo State Technology Day held, with the theme, â€œTechnology in Capacity Building and Governance,â€ with the citizens registration project being the high point of the event. With this development, the message is clearly being sent that the Federal Government has failed the nation woefully with the National ID Card Project, and the nation can no longer wait to get on the information super highway that will properly place them in the 21st century information age.
Of course, it is no longer news that a crippling dearth of reliable data in every sphere of life in Nigeria is partly responsible for failures of governance, which probably made Governor Oshiomhole remark at the occasion that â€œas we speak, we lack the data that we require to plan for citizens of Edo State as a whole and for specific segments such as women, children, students, people with disabilities or specific occupational groups.â€
Ordinarily, such data would have been called up from the national database, if the identity project had been successful. To get around the problem however, the Edo State Government, according to Oshiomhole â€œembarked on the Edo State Citizens Identification Card Project to help us generate a comprehensive data bank of residents and citizens, in order to enhance our capacity to plan effectively…..
This project is designed to improve our capacity to plan for the welfare of our people and for the infrastructural and economic development of our State. The old culture of throwing money at problems without proper planning is neither desirable nor sustainable. We can do so much for the people if we can correctly determine their needs.â€
Of course, the solutions to this project reside firmly in the ICT sector, and as the governor noted, â€œwe have applied a holistic ICT solution to meet this challenge. In developing this solution, we have partnered with the leading players in the global ICT industry.
Listing the benefits of the project, the Edo governor said:â€œFrom today, we would commence a process of enrolment of citizens and the issuance of ID Cards. The smart card to be issued meets international standards in terms of the wide variety of information it contains.
The smart card contains a wide range of information that can be used across several transactions and for several purposes. Indeed, we are the first state in the federation to develop a citizensâ€™ ID card with these sophisticated features.
â€œThe ID Card Project is designed to interface with our e_tax solutions, which have been adopted to improve tax administration.
â€œAs in other parts of the world, the identity data will enhance the delivery capacity of our security agencies. The data will also help us develop information systems, especially in our priority sectors, namely health and education.
â€œOur vision at the end of the day is to develop capacity to determine accurately, the needs of our people, based on their gender, socio_economic, physical characteristics and age profiles.â€
However, unknown to many outside government, the Edo ID card project was not a spur-of-the-moment thing; not long after assuming office, Governor Oshiomhole brought to life the Edo State ICT Directorate, headed by Ms Yemi Keri.
The Edo ICT Directorate is the implementing agency of the e-governance programmes of the state government, and for the effort, no less than 400 graduates were employed by the agency, and for the biometric (ID card) project, about 1,000 more were recruited, thereby underscoring the propensity of the ICT sector to tackle unemployment.
Solutions providers, Microsoft Nigeria were at the occasion.
In his presentation, Ken Spann, Development Platform Manager, Microsoft Anglophone West Africa said that e-governance helps provideÂ greater access to government information; promote civic engagement by enabling the public to interact with government officials; make government more accountable byÂ making its operations more transparent and thus reducing the opportunities for corruption; andÂ providing development opportunities, especially benefiting rural and traditionally under-served communities.
Spann spoke further of what he called the Connected Government Framework, which he said â€œ is a platform which helps….support communities while operating in a cost-efficient and compliant manner. It provides a set of solution scenarios designed to solve the needs of a particular aspect of a governmentâ€™s IT requirements; the scenarios include a secured managed infrastructure, enabling business integration, improving case worker productivity, and enriching the citizen connection.â€
There were goodwill messages from several dignitaries, present or represented. Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State in his remarks noted that the importance of ICT in government can no longer be taken for granted, and added that bringing players from the private sector was a testimony to the fact that the private sector had a role to play in government and that government could not do much without partnering.
Mr Steven Oronsaye, Head of Service of the Federation was also at the event. Oronsaye, an Edo indigene remarked that â€œthe bold step taken today will be the generation of a citizensâ€™ identity database that government can rely upon to plan adequately for its citizens and residents.â€
Minister of Science and Technology, Professor M. K. Abubakar, represented by the Director_General of the National Information Technology Development Agency, Professor Cleopas O. Angaye, commended Edo State for joining the ICT train.
That is not all, as Governor Oshiomhole disclosed that his administration has begun â€œthe automation of several processes of public administration, such as budget preparation; procurement; expenditure management; financial management; and human resources and payroll administration.
â€œTowards this, we have started the Government Financial Management Information System Project. The project encompasses global best practices in the application of ICT to governance.
On e-payment, he said: â€œwe have also adopted the E_payment Solution, as a strategy to reduce cash transactions, which aids leakages within the system. Payment terminalsÂ have been distributed across the state to enable the collection of fees, levies and tariffs electronically.â€
To flag-off the ID card project, Governor Oshiomhole was formally registered biometrically (colour of eyes, fingerprints, etc.,), and presented with his ID card by the Executive Director of the Edo State ICT Directorate, Ms Yemi Keri.