Ms. Maria Francesca Spatolisano Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs

Opening Remarks
Capacity Development Webinar Series
“Leveraging ICTs and Digital Government for Innovative Solutions
to address the COVID-19 Pandemic – Responses in Africa”

Mr. Andson Nsune of Programme Evaluation, African Union Development Agency,
Mr. Joseph Olugbenga Dada, Vice President, African Association for Public Administration and Management (AAPAM) West Africa,
Ms. Cristine Sund, Senior Advisor for Africa, International Telecommunication Union (ITU)
Excellencies,
Dear Colleagues,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I wish to welcome you to the Capacity Development Webinar on “Leveraging ICTs and Digital Government for Innovative Solutions to Address the COVID-19 Pandemic – Responses in Africa”. This webinar will focus on digital government and innovative solutions to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

As you know, many countries have effectively deployed ICTs and digital government tools to provide services, particularly in the health and education sectors. ICTs are also used to ensure business continuity, and to deliver basic services.

African governments are exploring every means to leverage ICTs and digital government for innovative solutions to address COVID-19, ranging from sharing information, engaging people, and establishing effective multi-stakeholder partnerships, to increase the resilience of their healthcare systems. As in other regions, innovation plays a key role in Africa in responding to the COVID-19 crisis.

Yet, despite the significant progress in internet connectivity and especially the mobile broadband penetration in many Africa countries, there still exist many challenges in digital government transformation. These challenges include digital divides between the rich and poor, and in particular between the urban and rural regions, low affordability of internet services for low income groups in society, lack of digital literacy and skills of citizens, especially vulnerable groups, and lack of digital capacity in government institutions.

Other significant challenges include how to effectively safeguard cybersecurity and build e-resilience, to ensure business continuity for digital services, due to the massive surge in online traffic and the possible crashes and slowdowns.

Another important policy challenge is that of privacy and personal data protection. People are increasingly worried about data breaches and misuses of personal data for unjustified purposes.

While the challenges are many, so are the opportunities.

African countries can take advantage of the pressure this crisis puts on all of us to review existing laws and regulations to foster ICTs and to promote a digital government-based innovation ecosystem.

It is also an incentive to further promote digital inclusion, by bridging the digital divides and by improving internet accessibility and affordability.

And we can look into how best to protect privacy and personal data, by instituting data governance mechanisms, and develop digital economy strategies, which in turn can facilitate innovations foster social inclusion and accelerate the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the African Union’s Agenda 2063.

Sharing of good practices, strategies and lessons learned are essential in bolstering government capacities for digital government transformation.

Through this webinar, I hope that you will gain new insights on how national governments are leveraging ICTs and digital government to address COVID-19.

We, at UN DESA, are closely monitoring the economic and social impacts of the crisis and we stand ready to support Member States in pursuing sustainable and resilient recovery from the pandemic.

I wish you a fruitful discussion and a successful webinar.

I thank you for your attention.

*****
Follow Us