Tanzania Parliament debates e-government Bill

Ms Angellah Kairuki speaks in Parliament yesterday. PHOTO |File

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It started with the Parliament’s Administration and Local Governments Affairs Committee which tabled its report advising the government to prioritise security in the electronic government.

Dodoma. The Tanzania Parliament yesterday evening passed the E-government Bill after a debate that punched potential holes into the document.

Several issues were brought to the attention of the government as Members of Parliament debated the e-Government Bill, 2019 which will put legal environment for electronic operations.

The Bill seeks to establish the e-Government Authority which will coordinate, oversee and promote electronic government initiatives and enforce policies, regulations, laws, standards and guidelines related to public institutions.

The MPs who deliberated the motion tabled by the Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office (Investment), Ms Angellah Kairuki, on behalf of the Minister of State in the President’s Office (Public Service Management), Mr George Mkuchika, said it was intentionally good but pointed out potential holes during implementation.

It started with the Parliament’s Administration and Local Governments Affairs Committee which tabled its report advising the government to prioritise security in the electronic government.

“Security is an important aspect because if the system is attacked, government’s electronic services will be compromised,” said committee chairman Jasson Rweikiza.

The team also advised the government to ensure top officials of the authority are people with clean records of working with the government departments and agencies and are patriotic to the national interest.

“Considering the fast pace of development in the information and communication technology, the e-Government Authority should be financially empowered to invest and keep up with the changes,” he added.

The opposition also sounded some cautions as it presented its comments on the Bill. Ms Catherine Ruge who presented the opposition said the e-government should be reliable and citizen centric in its operations.

“Reports indicate that Tanzania has low uptake of ICT usage due to the fact that most residents live in rural areas where internet infrastructure is not reliable. The government must consider re-introducing community centres with computer labs where these people can access internet,” said Ms Ruge.

“We also have some laws that restrict access to information and challenge internet usage. The government must bring those laws for amendment to enable smooth operation of the e-government in Tanzania,” she said.

According to her, the laws include Cyber Crimes Act 2015; Statistics Act, Media Service Act 2016 and the Access to Information Act 2016. The Bill gives the e-Government Agency power to authorise software and hardware that will be used in the government institutions.

However, the opposition said that can be a room for corruption in selecting companies that will supply the software and hardware.

“We suggest the authority to be providing specifications only and selection be done by the ICT sections of each institution through a transparent tendering system,” she said. Other MPs also had similar concerns on the Bill.

“This Bill is good but its implementation may be difficult due to the fact that very few Tanzanians have access to reliable internet,” said Rev Peter Msigwa (Iringa Urban-Chadema).

“Tanzania withdrew from the Open Government Partnership (OGP) but this Bill does not state if we will rejoin. The Bill is pre-mature. We were supposed to make more preparations,” he added.

Ms Saada Mkuya (Welezo-CCM) said the e-government will push up revenue collection but asked the government to ensure security. “Recent experience of electronic revenue collection has shown huge improvement and it’s my hope that this will also accelerate the move. However, reliability of services, credibility, trust and data protection are very key. The government should also explain how it will converge this system with Zanzibar’s e-government services,” she said.

According to Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA), 23.1 million Tanzanians were using internet by December 2018.