HSE Center for African Studies and Innopraktika presented the E-Governance Knowledge Sharing Program at the Russia–Africa Summit
On 28 July, at the Second Russia–Africa Economic and Humanitarian Forum, a round table "Knowledge Sharing: Exchange of Experience in the Field of Digitalization of Public Administration" was held. The discussion was moderated by Anastasia Pavlenko, Deputy Executive Director and Director for Strategic Partnerships of the non-state development institute Innopraktika. The event was attended by Andrey Maslov, Director of the HSE University Center for African Studies and Coordinator of the Knowledge Sharing Program; Igor Lyapunov, Senior Vice President for Information Security at Rostelecom and General Director of Rostelecom-Solar; Souef Kamalidini, Minister of Post, Telecommunications and Digital Economy of the Comoros; Peya Mushelenga, Minister of Information and Communication Technology of Namibia; Orlando Mazuze, General Manager of MaCh Digital (Mozambique); and Adamu Garba, President of IPI (Nigeria).
The speakers discussed the dynamics of the digitalization of public administration in African countries, the prospects for cooperation between Russia and Africa in this field, as well as the mechanisms for its intensification. The HSE Center for African Studies presented the E-Governance Knowledge Sharing Program implemented jointly with Innopraktika.
In her opening speech, Anastasia Pavlenko highlighted Russia's leading positions in international rankings assessing the e-Government development, which was achieved thanks to the advanced state of Russian digital public services. Pavlenko emphasized the importance of building independent digital government systems in African countries in order to enhance sovereignty and the significant potential for sharing experience and knowledge between Russia and Africa in this area.
Anastasia Pavlenko, Deputy Executive Director - Director for Strategic Partnerships at Innopraktika, and Peya Mushelenga, Minister of Information and Communication Technology of Namibia.
During his presentation Andrey Maslov presented the E-Governance Knowledge Sharing Program for African countries. Andrey Maslov stressed that the main event of the educational program will be the E-Governance Knowledge Sharing Week, which will be held in Autumn 2023 in St. Petersburg and will be a continuation of the dialogue and cooperation built as a result of the Russia–Africa Forum. It is planned that the Program will be attended by about 40 civil servants, management representatives of public authorities overseeing the development of e-Government in African countries. The training will include lectures, seminars, workshops, and other educational activities organized by Russian and African experts, covering e-Governance theoretical aspects, regulatory basis, technological solutions, with a focus on challenge-oriented case studies. Excursions and visits to partner companies’ offices will be organized within the Program as well.
Training will be carried out on topics that are in high demand from African countries, such as legal regulation, infrastructure and security, e-services for citizens, and digital urban environment.
Among the main reasons for launching the Program, Andrey Maslov noted a significant demand for digitalization of public services, high growth rates of this market in African countries and a growing interest of African countries in successful Russian experience. He also said that analytical materials on digitalization of public administration in African countries have been posted on the E-Governance Knowledge Hub.
Andrey Maslov, Director of the HSE Center for African Studies, Coordinator of the Knowledge Sharing Program
Andrey Maslov also stated that the program's organizers are ready to come to any African country and organize events on the topics of the educational program for audiences assembled upon the recommendation of the relevant ministry or embassy.
Souef Kamalidini, Minister of Post, Telecommunications and Digital Economy of the Comoros, is convinced that digitalization for the Union of the Comoros is an opportunity to obtain resources for development and to strengthen ties with other countries. He highlighted the challenges his country faces on the way to digitalization, including legislative, regulatory and infrastructural issues. Mr. Kamalidini pointed out the significant benefits of digitalization of public administration for the state, citizens and foreign counterparties. For example, according to the Minister, the Comoros Customs Service has reduced processing duration by three times over the last two years through introducing digital solutions.
Souef Kamalidini, Minister of Post, Telecommunications and Digital Economy of the Comoros
The Minister expressed high interest in sharing experience in the field of digitalization with Russia:
The experience of the Russian Federation in the field of ICT and e-Governance will be a model and a good reference for the Comoros. The program presented by Andrey Maslov is very interesting for us. And, like many other African countries, we think that the Russian model (of digitalization of public administration) can be really suitable for us.
Mr. Kamalidini stressed:
I think it will be good for all African countries because even though African countries are at different levels of development, the reality for all is the same: we need investment, we need knowledge.
Peya Mushelenga, Minister of Information and Communication Technology of Namibia spoke about the development of e-Government services in Namibia and priorities in this area which include introduction of online services in the fields of taxation, customs, healthcare, justice, and civil registration. The speaker also noted the prospects for the development of e-education.
These are the aspects on which, I believe, we can cooperate with Russia. We have learnt the examples of those countries that have achieved a good level of development of digital public services. I believe that your Center will be able to work with our institutions to develop better systems and applications, the Minister emphasized.
In his response, Andrey Maslov noted that the advanced development of digital public services in Namibia could allow the country to become a donor of knowledge and solutions in this area, and the Knowledge Sharing Program could serve as a tool for sharing Namibia's experience with other countries.
Igor Lyapunov, Senior Vice President for Information Security at Rostelecom and General Director of Rostelecom-Solar, summarized the key areas of Rostelecom's activities and achievements.
According to the speaker, the task the company has been solving for many years is changing the approach to the interaction between the state and the citizens, introducing citizen-oriented systems. Among the accomplishments of the company are the development of a "single window" Public Services Portal, through which citizens get access to hundreds of public e-services; introduction of a unified identification system for citizens; implementation of a program focused on introducing biometric technologies and building a unified biometric system; introduction of electronic voting systems. Currently, within the framework of the contract with the Ministry of Finance, Rostelecom is carrying out the development of the infrastructure of the Public Services Portal and the Unified System of Identification and Authentication, as well as ensuring their information security. The company also conducts large-scale educational programs for the public on digital literacy and cyber hygiene in cooperation with the Russian Ministry of Digital Development and the Saint-Petersburg State University of Telecommunications (SUT). Ongoing activities are underway to overcome technological challenges related to the country's large area and remote sparsely populated territories.
Igor Lyapunov separately emphasized that Rostelecom-Solar provides daily information protection for more than 850 private and public organizations, electronic services and has extensive experience in repelling the most massive and well-prepared cyberattacks.
In these challenging times, Russia is showing a good pace of integrating digital services into public administration and successfully ensures their secure use. Over the year and a half since the start of the Special Military Operation, we have managed to replace almost 90% of the Western technologies, which backed our digital public services 10 years ago, with Russian databases, virtualisation platforms, and cyber defense solutions. This is a unique experience that has become the foundation of digital sovereignty, said Igor Lyapunov.
Igor Lyapunov, Senior Vice President for Information Security at Rostelecom and General Director of Rostelecom-Solar
Orlando Mazuze, General Manager of the Mozambican company MaCh Digital confirmed that digitalization is a priority for Mozambique and stressed the need to introduce programs at the state level to increase digital literacy of the population. Mr. Mazuze drew attention to the potential for developing cooperation between Russia and African countries in this area:
"The Summit is an important opportunity for African countries to see how international digital systems are applied. And Africa has a voice now and has something to say to the world. This opportunity can be used to cooperate with Russia and other African countries and exchange knowledge in the field of ITC".
Orlando Mazuze, General Manager of MaCh Digital
In his turn, Adamu Garba, President of the Nigerian company IPI, noted the importance of data protection and building a sovereign digital system of public administration taking into account the peculiarities of culture and values of a particular country, and also stated Nigeria's interest in the experience of other countries:
I think the digitalization of public administration is one of the areas where Africa partnership with Russia can play a key role. Right now we can say that, perhaps, only Russia, Iran and China have digital sovereignty.
During the discussion, the participants shared their experience of digitalization of public administration in Russia and African countries, and discussed the challenges encountered during the introduction of digital public services. At the end of the roundtable, the participants outlined the vectors for cooperation and a plan for further implementation of the Knowledge Sharing Program.