Tanzania 2014 | TELECOMS & IT | B2B: WORLD BANK

TBY talks to Chris Vein, Chief Innovation Officer for Global ICT Development at the World Bank, and Samia Melhem, Lead ICT Policy Specialist, Transformation Chair, eDevelopment Thematic Group, at the World Bank on the improved integration of ICT technology to encourage development.

Chris Vein
Chief Innovation Officer for Global ICT Development
World Bank
Samia Melhem
Lead ICT Policy Specialist, Transformation Chair, eDevelopment Thematic Group
World Bank

How do you overcome that segmentation?

SAMIA MELHEM The best way to overcome segmentation is through leadership. For example, the permanent secretaries and ministers need to discuss these issues, consult the public, and establish how many people are working on the improvement of education, health, and water resources across the agencies. In order to harmonize data sets, all of the programmers and policymakers need to gather together and work diligently. There are 10 databases of schools produced by the government and 15 assembled by NGOs—these databases need to be combined and harmonized. The government should start with the technical foundation, but also at the same time consider policies, which should not be a problem. Solving segmentation is more about getting involved and working hard in each sector. In terms of policy, there have been major US programs implemented over the past three years related to digital signatures, cyber security, and authentication. The US has worked with Burundi, Rwanda, Kenya, and Tanzania to craft common legislation and that has worked very well.

What have been the World Bank's biggest contributions to Tanzania's open data ambitions?

CHRIS VEIN The particular unit within the World Bank that we represent is a very traditional ICT Unit. Yet, I believe we are unique even within the World Bank, because the organizations can be separated into two halves. One is related to knowledge and experts without any particular bias. We exist to produce results, and report statistics that accurately capture the situation of a particular country across a range of issues. This has long been the bread and butter of the World Bank. But, we are also an operational unit in that much of the development work of the bank happens in countries like Tanzania. Samia Melhem is the Regional Coordinator for most of Africa. Her job is to evaluate the lay of the land, identify the needs of African countries, and decide how ICT can be used to enable better, cheaper, and faster solutions to those problems. We are both knowledge and operational based; the World Bank is uniquely positioned to come into an organization or a country like Tanzania and help it understand both the potential advantages of open government, and specifically open data, and how to overcome the challenges. This is all part of changing the concept of government from a top-down system to a bottom-up or a side-in approach. Open data is one of the easier ways to guide governments into making a philosophical shift. Especially when it comes to post-socialist countries like Tanzania, there is still a command and control mindset. What we are trying to do firmly, but gently, is convince people in this country, and in others, that open government is happening in 100 plus cities, countries, and states—no one has lost their job and no one has experienced a catastrophe that has brought down a government. Instead, citizens are seeing a different approach. They are little cautious and distrustful initially, but once they see open data starting to work, it creates a whole new dynamic.