Despite years of anarchy, Somalia has a successful ICT sector, providing one of the most cost-effective voice and data service in Africa. More than 2 million people make their way into the internet and the onset of COVID-19 pandemic and measures imposed to contain the spread of the pandemic has exacerbated the use of the Internet. The COVID-19 crisis has also brought new needs for digitalization of public and private services to the citizens. With increasing availability and quality of internet connectivity as well as new communication technologies in Somalia, private sector has been moving into the digital and embraces new digital services every-day. Many services are available online today such money transfers, transportation, food delivery and shopping.

With realization of fast growing Internet, digital information technology and Somalia has the cheapest data in Africa where 1GB of data costs $0.55 on average, ranked top seven in the world. Mobile money is the primary access point to financial services in Somalia where 73% of the population over the age of 16 use mobile money services according to the World Bank Report in 2017. With all these developments, Somalia ranks 191th worldwide in adoption of the e-government system according to a recent survey published by the United Nations in 2020.

More and more often, people see no reason why public services should be paper-based and that government does not take advantage of growing Internet connectivity and new technologies to transform its public services. Despite of development of first ICT Policy and Strategy 2019-2024 to facilitate Somalia’s digital transformation, local authorities still rely on legacy systems in a time of 89% of the people would like to see digitization of government services. Due to limited advocacy and concentration, the adoption of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to improve better delivery of government services to citizens is the least progressive area, and there’s little chance of meeting ambitions laid out in the country’s ICT Policy and Strategy.

With support of Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA), Bareedo Platform organises a roundtable discussion for Mogadishu Municipality’s officials, commissioners of Mogadishu’s districts, academia, media and other important stakeholders in Mogadishu, Somalia. The main objective of this discussion is to advocate and push for Mogadishu Municipality to adopt e-governance practices and use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to improve better delivery of government services to citizens, empower citizens through access to information, and improve interactions between citizens and public officials.

Mohamed Abokor, Director of Bareedo Platform says “There is no excuse and hesitation to stay at paper-based era while we have a good Internet connection and that 80% of our population has mobile phones. We need to come up something that can pave a way to the adoption of e-governance practices in Mogadishu”

In this discussion meeting, officials will know more about e-government concept and also examples of cities that successfully adopted e-governance. And after, they will have an open discussion focusing on adopting e-governance system at Mogadishu Municipality, how to be adopted and implemented the digitization of public services and the challenges surrounding to the process. The discussion is also expected to address the challenges and barriers that residents and Mogadishu Municipality encounter on the process of effective and efficient service delivery in the face of continued insecurity and political instability weights particular to Mogadishu.

At end of the meeting, Bareedo Platform will produce a detailed report covering entire discussion and hope that this will add weight on ongoing efforts to encourage government to digitize its services.

In the occasion of commemoration of International Day for Universal Access to Information, Bareedo Platform commends the Puntland Parliament’s positive move toward adopting and practicing openness of information to the public, the first move ever in Somalia. Puntland parliament is one the three legal structures of Puntland government founded in August 8, 1998 as an autonomous state government after collapse of Somalia’s central government in 1991. Puntland parliament practiced a culture of limited openness to the public and less engagement of citizens in the parliamentary work to improve access to information, accountability and transparency. 

Puntland citizens were hard to find or know what their representatives do, the media coverage of the opening session in the first day of parliament’s scheduled sessions has been the only information that public could heard. In an online poll conducted by Bareedo Platform in 2019 indicates that 89% of the citizens unaware of and not familiar with the parliament’s work, sessions and proceedings. And 81.5% of respondents said they are curious to know information and work of the parliament to ensure that they are fulfilling the mandated work and not pursuing their own interests.

Bareedo Platform advocated openness of the parliamentary information and engagement of citizens in the parliamentary work to improve parliamentary accountability and transparency in Puntland as well as citizens’ right to know to ensure that their representatives are working for their benefit and not pursuing their own interests.

In November 14, 2021, H.E. Abdirashid Yusuf Jibril, a member of the parliament and former Presidency’s Information and Communications Director is elected as the new Speaker of the Parliament. Mr. Jibril who had understanding of this matter quickly moved to establish a communication office for the parliament first time and appointed Abdiweli Hassan Abdi “Gooni” , a well-known journalist and long-time media practitioner as the director of the new office.

Mr. Abdi quickly proceeded to lying foundations of the Parliament’s Communication Office and created a website where all parliament work, information and legal documents are openly available to public as well as created social media pages such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram where parliament information and updates are constantly published. From 2020, the parliament’s work, information, meetings and reports become available to the public first time ever in Puntland and generally Somalia. And public began to follow, discuss and comment on parliament’s discussions, proceedings and reports first time ever though they are hardly engaged.

“I have started the office from scratch and with no single support available for such activities. I have put priority on establishment of the parliament’s public information channels such as social media pages, a website as well as recruitment and training of a competent team to work with me in delivering of the office’s mandate” the Parliament’s Director of Communications Mr. Abdiweli Abdi said. 

“Before this office, people couldn’t know what their representatives are doing or what is going in the parliament, but now I’m proud of that Puntland people and generally Somali people are fully aware of and follow the parliament’s daily work more than ever.” Mr. Abdi added

“I’m now fully aware of the parliament’s sessions, live discussions and schedules, something limited before now. I feel happy for seeing parliament’s work on daily basis while their sessions are ongoing…” a member of Puntland Diaspora Mr. Ahmed Jama said.

“Since 1998, the parliament has been endorsing countless legal documents and policies and has been hard to find single copy of these documents, but now I can download these documents from the parliament’s website easily..” A lawyer and social rights activist Mr. Sharmake Nur said.   

This is an impressive and positive move forward in the face of the looming access to information situation in Somalia, but there is still more need to be done and looking forward to adoption of access to information laws to fully absorb the people’s right to know and access the information without barrier. Bareedo Platform also calls for other states and the federal parliament in Somalia to follow suit.

Electronic Governance or E-Governance is the application of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for providing government services, interchange of statics, communication proceedings, integration of various independent systems and services. Through the means of e-governance, government services are made available to citizens in a suitable, systematic and transparent mode. The three main selected groups that can be discriminated in governance concepts are government, common people and business groups.

E-governance is the best utilization of information and communication technologies to mutate and upgrade the coherence, productivity, efficacy, transparency and liability of informational and transnational interchanges within government, between government agencies at different levels, citizen & businesses. It also gives authorization to citizens through access and use of information. Generally, E-governance uses information and communication technologies at various levels of the government and the public sector to enhance governance. Theoretical studies
state that E-Governance is the procedure of change of the correlation of government with its ingredients, the citizens, the businesses and between its own organs, through the use of tools of information and communication technology.

The UNESCO states, E-governance is the public sector’s use of information and communication automation in order to upgrade information and service delivery, stimulating resident involvement in the decision-making process and making government more liable, unambiguous and productive.

Elements of E-Governance:
Basic elements of e-governance are:

  1. Government
  2. Citizens
  3. Investors/Businesses

Types of E-Governance:
E-governance is of 4 types:

  1. Government-to-Citizen (G2C):
    The Government-to-citizen mentions the government services that are acquired by the familiar people. Most of the government services come under G2C. Similarly, the primary aim of Government-to-citizen is to supply facilities to the citizens. It also helps the ordinary people to minimize the time and cost to carry out a transaction. A citizen can retrieve the facilities anytime from anywhere.

Similarly, spending the administrative fee online is also possible due to G2C. The facility of Government-to-Citizen allows the ordinary citizen to outclass time limitation. It also focuses on geographic land barriers.

  1. Government-to-business (G2B):
    The Government-to-business is the interchange of services between Government and Business firms. It is productive for both government and business firms. G2B provides access to pertinent forms needed to observe. It also contains many services interchanged between business sectors and government.

Similarly, the Government-to-business provides timely business information. A business organization can have easy and easy online access to government agencies. G2B plays a important role in business development. It upgrades the efficiency and quality of communication and transparency of government projects.

  1. Government-to-Government (G2G):
    The Government-to-Government mentions the interaction between different government departments, firms and agencies. This increases the efficiency of government processes. In G2G, government agencies can share the same database using online communication. The government departments can work together. This service can increase international discretion and relations.

G2G services can be at the local level or at the international level. It can convey with both global government and local government. It also provides safe and secure inter-relationship between domestic or foreign government. G2G builds a universal database for all members to upgrade service.

  1. Government-to-Employee (G2E):
    The Government-to-Employee is the internal part of G2G section. It aims to bring employees together and improvise knowledge sharing. It provides online facilities to the employees. Similarly, applying for leave, reviewing salary payment record and checking the balance of holiday. The G2E sector yields human resource training and development. So, G2E is also the correlation between employees and government institutions.

Advantages of E-Governance:
The supreme goal of the e-governance is to be able to provide an increased portfolio of public services to citizens in a systematic and cost effective way. It allows for government transparency because it allows the public to be informed about what the government is working on as well as the policies they are trying to implement.

The main advantage while executing electronic government will be to enhance the efficiency of the current system.

Disadvantages of E-Governance:
The main disadvantage regarding e-governance is the absence of fairness in public access to the internet, of trustworthy information on the web and disguised agendas of government groups that could have impact and could bias public opinions.

The Ministry of Education and Higher Education of Federal Government of Somalia concluded the national secondary exams for the school year of 2020-2021 without shutting down social media platforms to prevent exam cheating.

This is a remarkable change after in response of exam papers leaked on social media platforms in 2019, ministry ordered shut down of social media for five days as a measure to curb the incidence from recurring. This move greatly affected the flow of information as social media is a key source for latest news and information and also journalists depend on it for research, interaction and news distribution.

This was not the first time in Somalia but similar measures were put in a place in Somaliland, a self-declared independent region in Somalia.

As result of the efforts and campaigns made by Bareedo Platform to end the practice, the country’s national secondary exams were concluded in June 2, 2021 without disruption of social media communications to discourage cheating any more.

This is a remarkable progress and perseverance of flow of information and hoping that the practice remain sustained over the coming years as promised by the ministry.

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It is unfortunate the use of excessive force and forcefully dispersing peaceful gathering organized by distressed parents on May 16, 2021 at Daljir Dahsoon in Mogadishu Somalia, demanding the government on whereabouts of their young men who were sent to Eritrea for military training. Parents and relatives have been continuously addressing their complaints through the local media and social media networks, demanding that the government give an explanation on their whereabouts, but government turns a deaf ear to their pleas and remained silent about the matter.

It is also unfortunate that journalists covering protests were also attacked by the security forces, beating a female radio journalist and confiscated her equipment, according to a statement released by the Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS).

Under the constitution of Federal Government of Somalia, people have a right to organize and participate in meetings, and to demonstrate and protest peacefully, without requiring prior authorization. These freedoms are suppressed; journalists are threatened, harassed, beaten, subjected to arbitrary arrests continuously.

We call on the Federal Government of Somalia to respect, protect and fulfill the right of demonstrators to peacefully protest, in line with the country’s constitution and International laws. We also call on the government to answer and convince the parents, relatives and friends whose loved ones are missing for years and have not heard of them since they were taken to Eritrea.

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