Learner’s Submission: Suggestions for Online Services in Zimbabwe

“On this submission I will be focusing on my native country Zimbabwe, where virtually there are no online public services offered by the government.

Following the setting up of the Government of National Unity (GNU) in 2009 as a positive outcome of good Crisis Diplomacy by the parties involved, the people of Zimbabwe had so much hope in the new political dispensation. But sadly the GNU in Zimbabwe still lags behind in terms of offering its citizens services online.

In my opinion, I would like to see the following service being offered online in Zimbabwe:

  1. Tax e-filing system to be administered by the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRE) to specifically deal with online tax administration services such as online tax filing and registration, e-VAT administration, e-tax submissions, and e-customs duty management. Individuals and companies would be allowed to log into the ZIMRE website and create accounts with log in details and passwords and get unique reference details once their online registrations have been approved. Then they will have to confirm and activate their online accounts of which they would also get a website link to use in the future. This would effectively eliminate delays associated with tax collections and submissions and improve Zimbabwe’s tax revenue collection capacity.
  2. An Electronic Trade and Industry Marketing Agency must be introduced to, amongst other things, provide online trade information services such as import and export opportunities, business registration requirements, official business policy documents, contact details of various Trade and Industry Agencies and contact persons and tax incentives for starting businesses in that country to potential foreign investors. Interested parties with web access can access the website and subscribe the to Agency’s monthly Trade newsletters which would be distributed through an e-mailing system.
  3. Through the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP), an Electronic National Crime Command Centre must be established tasked with providing online crime reports and statistics as well as online detailed information on the most wanted criminals, as and when that information is recorded, approved and/or declassified for public access purposes. Anyone with web access must be able to subscribe to e-mail newsletters and have the information sent conveniently. This would help foster regional and international collaboration with other Law Enforcement Agencies on crime fighting and terrorism.
  4. An Online National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) should be established and managed by the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare to ensure that all the citizens get access to medical and surgical treatment whenever required. This Fund ought to make use of medical cards with magnetic stripes, which can be swiped on an electronic device and enable medical staff to get instant online medical information of the patients on a computer screen. As such, a proper electronic patients information database should be put in place and properly managed first before the full implementation of the Fund.
  5. Through the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), an electronic voting system must be put in place, to widely cater for the millions of displaced Zimbabwean citizens living in the diasporas, who are often unable to go back to their home country and cast their votes due to political violence that is always encountered in that country.  E-voting stations and electoral centers should be set up in the major cities of foreign countries where there are large concentrations of the Diasporas. These should be equipped with computers and voting assistants to help its citizens electronically register to vote, inspect the voters’ roll, cast their electronic votes and the centers would publish the electronic results. An Electronic Electoral Monitoring Unit which must comprise of election observers from the SADC region and other International Interested Parties such as the UN, EU and donor countries should be established, to an play advisory role and ensure transparency of the whole exercise.
  6. The Zimbabwean parliament should go online to increase online civic participation in bills under debate in paliarment, make available online newly passed bills, treaties, amendments to the constitution and the whole constitution in PDF. This would make it possible for its citizens make print outs for educational and analytical purposes. A knowledgeable citizenry can properly exercise their rights and overall become law-abiding citizens and take part in law-formulation processes. Sharing knowledge is power.
  7. In conclusion, a National Cyber Monitoring and Regulatory Board (NCMRB) has got to be established, comprised of patriotic IT experts and parliamentarians tasked with the mandate of analyzing global trends of e-governments, identify new opportunities for further e-government development and align them to local needs and aspirations and further formulate strategies for dealing with challenges brought about by changing trends. These strategies should be incorporated into the government’s decision-making systems which form part of its knowledge management programs.

This board should report directly to parliament and further play a major role in advising and assisting parliament with the procurement of proper ICT equipment and the formulation of laws that regulate electronic commerce. Special attention should be given to authenticity, privacy and security laws as these do have a direct effect on the e-government hemisphere. The Computer Society of Zimbabwe should be involved in each and every initiative of the board to make sure that International technical and security quality standards are ever maintained.

Finally, total political commitment from the top strata of the GNU is vitally needed if such an e-government programme is to bear meaningful fruits.” – Butholezwe Bhebhe – Johannesburg, South Africa

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