Interview: Bruno Nabagné Koné
How can digitalisation be developed and expanded throughout Côte d’Ivoire?
BRUNO NABAGANE KONE: The first step is to ensure reliable high throughput connectivity throughout the country. This is being achieved through extending the national fibre-optic backbone, coupled with boosting the bandwidth of the “last-mile” segment by the use of technology, such as high capacity radio-relay links, 3G, CDMA, 4G and the recently announced deployment of fibre to the home.
As access to ICT tools remains a challenge for people in rural areas, we are building community cybercentres equipped with the necessary systems, network access and services. Furthermore, as the needs of rural and urban users differ, we are focusing on creating content suitable for rural needs, such as agriculture, education, health and commerce, and improving its delivery.
What are the most significant elements of the country’s e-government initiative?
KONE: The core concept of this initiative is to transform the functioning of the government through the use of ICT with the aim of streamlining processes, increasing efficiency, reducing costs and enhancing service delivery to the various stakeholders.
Through these efforts we will provide reliable and efficient means of interaction between people and the state. These efforts are even more critical because we realise that achieving the government’s goal of significantly increasing the digital maturity of the country requires it to act as a role model.
We are already in the process of linking all the public administrations together. This is already the case for nearly all of the ministries in Abidjan, and we are now moving towards the complete digitisation of documents, letters and related workflows.
Moreover, we are gradually deploying a number of government e-services divided into two categories. The first set are information services, of which 300 have already been identified, intended to help inform communities of the activities undertaken by the authorities. The second are transactional services, of which 100 have been identified. These allow individuals to interact with government bodies by, for example, requesting a driver’s licence or passport, bidding on open government tenders, filing taxes, and so forth.
I believe that by digitising government content and services, we will gradually be able to make changes in other important areas such as digital infrastructure, training and other relevant subjects. We have no doubt that by focusing on creating content and e-services, we will automatically address other challenges.
What role can the private sector in Côte d’Ivoire play in furthering digitisation?
KONE: Our aim is to see most of the implementation work performed by the private sector. We realise that we can only achieve our strategic objectives with the participation of the private sector. To this end, the public and private sectors are collaborating through government contract specifications and regular meetings.
While the government has its own network in place, we rely heavily on the Group of ICT Sector Operators, an association that represents IT operators. In the case of the national fibre-optic backbone, we gathered input from operators so as to have complementary networks. We also discuss matters regarding national ICT policy, national telecommunication service coverage, quality of service and new licences, which culminated in the move from technology-centric licences to global licences, which are technologically agnostic. The latter allowed us to put in place regulations focused more on the quality of service provided than the technology used.
Furthermore, we manage the Universal Service Fund, through which operators contribute 2% of their gross income for reinvestment by the state. State investment seeks to complement the private sector and not compete with it – we are striving to create a secure environment in which the private sector can flourish.
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