George Weah during the presidential inauguration ceremony
(Originally published in the Columbia/SIPA Journal of International Affairs)
A coastal, West African country, Liberia was once infamous for civil war, so-called “blood diamonds,” and public health crises like the recent Ebola humanitarian crisis. But, soon, Liberia will be known more for its data transparency, management, and sharing than any of its past ills.
Since 2006, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first elected female head of state in Africa and a Nobel laureate, has presided over the restoration of constitutional government and the consolidation of a lasting peace. Soon after her election, she started in on her promise of transforming the country into a more open nation, accountable to its people. To this end, the Liberian Anti-Corruption Act and the Freedom of Information Act were introduced. New public institutions were established, such as the General Auditing Commission (GAC), to ensure that Government accounts for public resources, and the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC), to prevent corruption and promote good governance. In 2008, the Government of Liberia joined the Extractive Industries and Transparency Initiative (EITI), bringing transparency over payments and revenues procedures to the mining, timber, agriculture, and nascent oil and gas sectors.
Beautiful Morning in Paris
France is an old nation, which has been well known for luxury goods, French Riviera and its high standards education system provided in “Grandes écoles”. For a long time, these drive for excellence had an unexpected consequence because students learned there is no place for failure and want a secure job. This mindset is slowly changing because a job with a big company is not a guarantee of stability anymore and students have been encouraged to learn from mistakes. According to KPMG, a third of French students now say that they want to create or join a startup.
Focus group in Mae Sot
(Originally published in the Georgetown Journal of International Affairs)
The first refugee camp along the Thai-Myanmar border was established in 1984 in Mae La to welcome refugees from worn-torn Myanmar. Since 1984, a total of 9 camps have been created along the Thai-Myanmar border, hosting approximately 120,000 people in close quarters. These camps provide refugees with basic amenities and access to healthcare by international organizations.
I have been designing ICT policies, strategies and initiatives for several governments such as Liberia, Comoros, Burkina Faso, Mauritius, Mali and Thailand under funding from the World Bank, the European Commission, the Global Fund, the African Development Bank and USAID. Those strategic documents delineate models that allow organizing national digital economies by improving digital universal access, data governance, broadband connection, innovation, human capital, digital inclusion and cyber security among others. At the same time, they promote openness, transparency and accountability through open source software use, public data releasing, open data and open standards advocating.
Most of these ICT policies set up good basis to support innovations, create more efficient nations, empower citizens and boost economies but few of them take into consideration the raise of Big Data and Artificial Intelligence, and how it could transform the way governments design and deliver public services.
Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro
(Originally published in the Columbia/SIPA Journal of International Affairs)
Today Brazil is the ninth largest economy in the world and the largest in Latin America. With an Internet penetration rate of almost 60%, including 42 million inhabitants with 4G connections. Brazil is definitely a digital leader in the region.
Despite good urban Internet access, Brazil faces challenges such as connectivity in remote areas, provision of universal eServices and accessible education to all of its citizens.
In this past decade the Brazilian government launched numerous digital initiatives, based on open source software, but few of them have been successful. Indeed, no national strategies or action plans have been deployed to outline the role of each stakeholder. Defining a clear strategy, based on open source software, could be the foundation of an open knowledge society. The strategy should support innovations, create a more efficient nation, empower citizens and boost the economy.
Government as a Platform
Building a Centralized Web Platform
Today, most of governmental bodies are online to provide information and services for their citizens. In most countries, citizens can pay taxes, request passports, birth certificates and ID cards using dedicated eServices. They can also access laws, legal notices or public datasets online.
Usually, public bodies, such as Ministries, Agencies and Commissions, have their own websites and eServices driven and maintain by their own IT or Information Department. Sometimes, they don’t have enough ressources to acquire skilled talents and buy proper infrastructures to work on their digitalization. Thus, how public bodies can handle websites and eServices development without in-house technical competencies?
A Centralized Web Platform will be an option for public institutions, which have a little web presence, to offer a common framework and hosting solution to these underprivileged institutions. This solution should help to increase security, visibility, accessibility and data processing in Governments while providing visitors with an improved online experience.
The e-Liberia office at the Ministry of Post and Telecommunication (MoPT)
I spent 6 weeks in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, in November and December 2015 to design the eGovernment Web Development Strategy for the Ministry of Post and Telecommunication (MoPT). Liberia Faced 14 years of civil war until 2003 then they faced an Ebola epidemic in 2014 and 2015. Peace Nobel Prize President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf worked hard to put Liberia on the good tracks with the support of the international community and she is still in the office until 2017. There is not metropolitan fiber yet in Liberia or national fiber connecting key cities, but the ACE submarine cable is reaching Monrovia and should help to bridge the digital divide in this country.
The UN University – Computing & Society in Macao
I spent a couple of weeks in Macao after a kind invitation from the United Nations University – Computing & Society (UNU-CS) and I arrived during the Chinese new year. It was nice to see the city enlighten by three festive days!
UNU-CS opened last year under the direction of Mike Best who was the former director of Media Lab Asia in India and the former head of the eDevelopment group at the MIT Media Lab. UNU-CS defines itself as a new research institute at the intersections of information and communication technologies and international development (ICTD) focusing on the key challenges faced by developing societies through high-impact innovations in computing and communication technologies.
Infrastructure as a basis of the Internet
(Orginally posted in the Georgetown Journal of International Affairs)
The Georgetown Journal of International Affairs contacted me last october to write an article about open data especially in the international development context. We agreed on an article about the Impact of a Move Towards Open Data in West Africa and I spent a couple of days at the Berkman Center working on this interesting problematic. the whole article is bellow and on the Georgetown website.
Inside the Berkman center
Last summer, I have been interviewed by Loren Newman from the Harvard Kennedy School on the impact of ICT policies on governments and societies. the original interview is here: https://cyber.law.harvard.edu/node/99150