Freedom of Information and Records Management: Towards Effective e-Government Accountability Paradigm in Africa?

Freedom of Information and Records Management: Towards Effective e-Government Accountability Paradigm in Africa?

Peter Mazebe II Mothataesi Sebina (University of Botswana, Botswana) and Balulwami Grand (University of Botswana, Botswana)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5868-4.ch007
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Abstract

The adoption of e-Government programmes in Africa have been occasioned by the desire to improve public service delivery and to further enhance the government-citizen relationship through provision of access to information. Key to e-Government is information- its creation, management, and uploading onto a defined platform; its consistent updating and archiving; and its access by citizens irrespective of their level of education, social standing, or geographical location. The main outcome of e-Government is enhanced accountability of the governance process. Accountability in e-Government is a value-add to the government-citizen relationship in that citizens become assured that government will account to them as collaborators in the governance process. The reality in Africa is that the adoption of e-Government on its own is unlikely to yield the needed accountability mechanism. This chapter argues that an e-Government programme in Africa, supported by Freedom of Information and records management will result in governance which is both accountable and integral.
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Understanding Of E-Government And What It Means For Africa

E-government is primarily a platform for enabling government agencies to improve their service delivery and enhance their interaction with citizens through e-Services. The e-Services provided to citizens are meant to promote efficient and effective government whilst at the same time fostering participatory democracy. Thus, citizens engage in e-Government to receive information from the public sector and other information generating agencies. Accordingly, e-Government implementation should not only aim to improve operational efficiency but also to instil a sense of urgency with regard to productivity among government agency employees in particular (Rorissa & Demisse, 2010; Nkomo, 2012). However, e-Government as a strategy can only be effective to the degree to which it achieves its goals. If there are no specific statutory provisions with regard to its implementation it is more likely to fail. There are numerous facilitating conditions for successful e-Government implementation and these include, among others, a conducive political environment supported by robust legal frameworks premised on information access and sharing values; open leadership styles and existence of human capital (Bwalya, 2009; Batista & Cornock, 2009; Heeks & Bailur, 2007; Kumar et. al, 2007; West, 2004; Napoli, Ewing & Pitt, 2000).

There is little question that e-Government initiatives have brought about the desired social and political impacts. Indeed, online interaction with, and access to, information held by the government has bolstered citizens’ appetite for democratic participation. In the context of Africa however, a key question being debated is, what does e-Government mean for the continent? Finding answers to this question is a useful yardstick in gauging the extent to which this innovation has been accepted overall.

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