By Emeka Aginam,
For any country to achieve a true socio-economic freedom, governance must adapt to the mechanisms of the 21st century defined by Information and Communications Technology (ICT).
Experts say that technology is evolving at an exponential pace and with its relentless integration into various facets of our everyday lives, government, which is the most important aspect of our daily and national life must migrate to the digital ecosystem of improved governance.
The United Nations defines e-government as the use of internet technology to exchange information, provide services and transact with citizens, businesses, and other arms of government.
E-governance is also said to facilitate the interaction between government and citizens or businesses while improving internal government operations to boost governance and the economy.
In country like Korea, which won the United Nation, UN, global e-governance 2010 and 2011 awards, citizens can petition the government, complain about government services, pay their taxes and apply for patents online.
In Sweden, all government agencies have been handling invoices electronically since July 2008, while in France, there is a portal which enables the filing of personal income and corporate returns and online payment of taxes.
Though many developing countries are making conscious effort to connect better with its citizens, e-governance is still very much in its teething stage and requires quick interventions in order to move along with global drift.
Although most federal government Ministries, Departments, and Parastatals in Nigeria have a website, the apparent truth is that they are not usually updated frequently to satisfy the needs of visitors.
The reason for this may not be unconnected to the fact that many of the officials who are charged with the responsibility of maintaining the sites either do not have access to managing content of the sites or do not even have state-of-the art personal computers to familiarise themselves with the needed skills.
Another impediment to e-governance in Nigeria is the level of computer literacy among the citizenry.
Despite its admirable digital growth, Nigeria may not be committing enough to ICT development as evidenced by the 2015 rating of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) which puts her ICT Development Index (IDI) at 2.61%, below the global standard of 5%.
The ICT Development Index is based on eleven ICT indicators, grouped in three clusters: access, use, and skills.
When placed against the advocacy for education, ICT development lags behind to an insignificant number.
With this development, government private sector must begin to invest massively in ICT literacy programmes, which are designed to sensitize, educate and empower citizen to participate and contribute to national growth.
The Government must declare access to ICT services as a fundamental human right of every Nigeria, as well as provide an enabling environment for attracting the right level of investment.
One of the ways to deepen ICT penetration is by promoting the use of Personal Computer (PC). While the PC is largely indispensable in the implementation of e-governance, sadly, access to it is considered a luxury than a necessity, for a lot of Nigerians who cannot afford it.
Perhaps, if the cost of purchasing a PC is subsidized and made available by government to citizens, it could scale up usage; this is bearing in mind that it government is making plans to connect better with the citizens by 2020 through the click of computer buttons which will enable her to collate the ideas of millions of Nigerians as prompt and invaluable input in policy, evolution and development.
As the Federal Government conclude plans to roll out its e-governance master plan, the hope is that the plans will also encourage organization driving Nigerians PC adoption so that increase in ICT and entrepreneurial skills can indeed be actualized for a better Nigeria.