A farmer in a remote village in Sierra Leone, focused only on planting his seeds and ensuring that his crop reaches the market in good time so that he can achieve the best possible price, may seem far removed from the reach of digital government. However, during Sierra Leone’s 2020/2021 planting season, the Ministry of Agriculture successfully planned and deployed a digital e-voucher system for the distribution of subsidies to farmers to procure seeds and other agricultural inputs two months before the ideal planting time.
Because the process of distributing these subsidies was historically completed three months too late to be effective, this key government initiative significantly improved the opportunity for rural citizens to increase rice yields and move towards the national objective of rice self-sufficiency. In a country where the main staple is rice, increased domestic production means that farmers are better able to feed their families while generating a surplus to sell at market. The expeditious delivery of this vital service was in part the result of the ministry adopting an innovative digital dashboard to track and monitor commitments and key results.
Africa Delivery Exchange 2021
Sierra Leone’s digital dashboard at the Ministry of Agriculture is one of the several examples of African governments successfully adopting technology to enhance service delivery for citizens that will be discussed at the third Africa Delivery Exchange (ADX) conference later this month, on 15 and 16 December.
The two-day virtual event will bring together government leaders and policymakers from at least 20 countries across Africa. Those attending are expected to include former heads of state, ministers, permanent secretaries, chiefs of staff, heads of delivery units and technical directors. ADX is designed to serve as a platform for leaders to connect, learn and exchange experiences to enhance government effectiveness in service delivery by bringing together a range of experts and delivery leaders from African governments, development agencies and their international development partners. One of the themes of this year’s ADX forum is “technology solutions for enhanced service delivery by African governments”. The conference will examine this theme in the context of a variety of sectors, including health care and agriculture.
Digital Health Records
The Covid-19 pandemic has reminded us of the importance of effective public health serving all citizens, irrespective of where they live. Many governments across Africa are embracing technology solutions to digitise health records to improve the robustness of the data, reduce fraud and save time.
In Rwanda, the government is using technology to reduce incidences of cervical cancer, the most common type of cancer among women. The HPV virus is the principal cause of cervical cancer, and effective HPV vaccines can prevent up to 90 per cent of cases. As with Covid-19, HPV vaccines are multidose and so the ability to follow up and deliver the second dose on time and to the right people is essential. This imperative motivated the government of Rwanda to enhance its vaccine-distribution programme across 100 schools through the digitisation of its records using an electronic health-management system. Hassan Sibomana, manager of the Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) at the Rwanda Biomedical Centre, noted that moving from a paper-based system to a digital vaccination programme will make it “very easy in the future to monitor the impact of this vaccine”. This long-term benefit will enable policymakers to better target future investments in Rwanda’s health infrastructure and reduce rates of cervical cancer.
The government of Senegal is placing technology at the centre of its response to the Covid-19 pandemic by issuing a digital health pass for people who have been vaccinated. The system allows people to present a QR code, which links to their vaccination status, for travel or domestic use. The digital health card, which is underpinned by an electronic health-management system, is one way that the government is helping citizens to return safely to normal life. Digital versions of an individual’s clinical information, such as vaccination history or test results, have the potential to revolutionise health care in Africa, in the same way that mobile money revolutionised financial inclusion. By adopting this technology, Senegalese citizens are able to go about their business safely and can travel internationally with fewer obstacles.
Similarly, the digitisation of health records will enable governments to improve the planning and monitoring of complex initiatives.
Digital Delivery Dashboard
Coordinating multisector initiatives with a variety of funders and objectives often involves a surfeit of Excel files. The Tony Blair Institute for Global Change (TBI) has developed a Digital Delivery Dashboard, a secure online platform to coordinate stakeholders and track milestones for governments to plan and monitor large-scale projects.
The dashboard provides government leaders with visibility into key metrics and project updates that they can use to inform decisions, such as the quantity of fertilizer delivered to a specific location in a rural community. The platform allows government employees in the field to give real-time updates, while technical directors and policymakers back in the office are given an overview of staff performance and project implementation. Because it is a live platform, government staff need not concern themselves with version control as the platform serves as a “single source of truth”. The dashboard also provides automatic reminders to teammates and managers to monitor and manage staff.
Figure 1 – An example of TBI’s Digital Delivery Dashboard
More than $2.5 billion are currently being tracked within 27 active digital delivery dashboards across 13 African countries, with 269 users registered to date.
One such dashboard is being used to monitor Sierra Leone’s National Agricultural Transformation (NAT) Programme, which serves as a five-year strategic plan of priorities and as a roadmap for the country to progress towards self-sufficiency in rice production. The NAT Plan has four components, 29 strategic interventions and 98 outputs, all of which must be regularly monitored and tracked. Ministry of Agriculture officials adopted TBI’s Digital Delivery Dashboard to serve as a central hub for tracking the implementation of this strategic plan. The dashboard was regularly used in management meetings to serve as an incentive for activity owners and it resulted in the accelerated delivery of seed-distribution exercises for the 2020/2021 rice-planting season. When technology works and meets the needs of users, its adoption by governments can have a tangible impact on people’s lives.
The experiences of governments in Rwanda, Senegal and Sierra Leone in adopting technology solutions can help other governments across Africa. Despite the commonalities of challenges that governments across the continent encounter, there are limited opportunities for African leaders to exchange knowledge and build capacity for effective digital-government implementation. For governments across Africa to fully realise the benefits of technology to enhance service delivery, it is important for them to learn about the experiences of their peers in integrating innovative solutions. On this basis, the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, in partnership with the African Development Bank, is hosting the third Africa Delivery Exchange on 15 and 16 December 2021, giving government officials and thought leaders the opportunity to share the experiences of governments across Africa who are using technology to enhance service delivery for their citizens.
For more information about the event, please contact email@example.com.
Main image: Getty