Paying taxes, claiming rebates for medical bills, signing important documents, applying for jobs and getting access to information can be difficult anywhere. In developing countries, it can be even more so, especially for those living in rural and remote areas.
In Tanzania, e-services are transforming the way people do business with the government by enabling more people to access services on their mobile phones without the need for the Internet.
Michael Moshiro knows full well the benefits of digital transformation and is excited about future possibilities in his home country, especially given Tanzania has one of the highest penetration rates of mobile phone users in Africa.
As the Director of the e-Government Service Control at Tanzania’s e-Government Agency, Michael oversees the technical team advising on and implementing a large number of national e-Government initiatives. ‘Mobile phone use has surged over the past decade, with some reports suggesting around 81 per cent of the population own a mobile phone and the rest have relatively easy access to one,’ Michael says.
‘e-Government uses the information and communications technologies (ICT) to improve how public sector organisations work which, in turn, improves public services,’ he says, an Australia Awards alumnus. ‘It’s leading to more efficient, accountable and transparent government and greater citizen trust.’
Michael’s work is supported by the Master of Business Information Management and Systems he obtained from La Trobe University in Melbourne in 2011.
While in Australia, Michael honed his skills in aligning business and technology to solve socio-economic problems and strengthened his ability to work with different stakeholders, including the central and sectorial ministries, local government authorities and technical specialists.
Michaels says, ‘building my knowledge in this area has helped me analyse challenges like low e-service access in rural areas and better understand that services shouldn’t just be technology-focused, but citizen-focused.’
He was involved in developing the proposal for the government-wide mobile platform now used to deliver most services. Importantly, citizens don’t need expensive ‘smartphones’ because affordable mobile phones will do.
Government commitment is strong with the passing of the e-Government Act 2019 and plans in place to roll out e-services by building new and expanding existing ICT infrastructure.
The electronic payment system now used by 400 government departments and agencies is a prime example of the e-Government Agency’s important work. Not only is this system making it quicker and easier for citizens to make payments on their mobile phones, but it’s also increasing transparency regarding government revenue, he says.
Internal government operations are becoming more efficient through the e-Office System, another innovation Michael’s team spearheaded. This system—already being used by 40 institutions—has replaced the traditional, slow-moving, registry system. Now official documents are exchanged more quickly, making official government communications, decision making and policy implementation quicker than ever.
The digital technology work is not without its challenges, with Tanzania struggling to keep on top of rapid changes in technology—typical for a developing country—and low broadband coverage in areas further from urban centres.
Changing the culture and building trust are other issues being tackled, including convincing citizens—and sometimes public servants—to switch from traditional ways to new and innovative approaches. ‘In the end, however, they’ll benefit from more personalised and responsive services,’ he says.
Transitioning to a new e-world inevitably takes time, but Michael is thrilled with gains already made.
‘Providing better service delivery at reduced costs, increasing public sector efficiency, minimising corruption and improving the accountability, transparency and responsiveness of the public sector are all big benefits that have made working on these complex projects worthwhile,’ he asserts.
Photo Credit: Michael Moshiro
Feature from Alumni News Volume 28.