To help the country’s public administration adapt to an increasingly globalised economy, Djibouti is embarking on a programme to digitalise its government services. The scheme, known as the Public Administration Modernisation Project, was launched in April 2018, with a four-year implementation period, and will be supported through a $15m loan from the World Bank. The project aims to establish the necessary digital infrastructure to create a more efficient and transparent public administration, as well foster greater connectivity between the population and public services. In addition, it also seeks to boost government revenue by streamlining tax and Customs processes. One of the programme’s prerequisites is to consolidate existing citizen identification registries into a unified digital format, with the World Bank and the Djiboutian government aiming to have half of the country’s 900,000-person population registered in the digital ID system by the time the programme concludes in 2022. As outlined in the government’s Djibouti Vision 2035 strategy, new digitalisation initiatives aim to reach every sector. Integrating more IT into public administration beforehand will therefore be essential. According to African Development Bank figures, Djibouti’s public administration, along with defence and compulsory social security, spending were equivalent to 17.3% of GDP in 2016. Policymakers hope to use this reform to boost efficiency in the public sector, and freed up spending to other priority areas.
KEY FOCUS AREAS: The support programme has several key target areas. According to the World Bank, the large majority of the programme’s budget, as much as $9.5m, will be allocated to the reinforcement of Djibouti’s existing e-government infrastructure. A further $4.5m will be allocated to enhancing current tax and Customs infrastructure. Achieving better integration of different government offices and institutions through an enhanced digital network will require a complete overhaul of how public officials interact with IT networks. Djibouti was ranked 179th out of 193 countries for its e-government and e-participation, according to the 2018 UN “E-Government Survey”, which analysed advances in state e-government activities on a global scale. The authorities have made fast progress in integrating government entities. In 2015 the government established the National Agency for State Information Systems, tasked with modernising the country’s public administration. As of mid-2018 the agency had already established fibre-optic links between 15 government ministries and agencies, and opened a data centre.
ASSESSING THE IMPACT: Ongoing digitalisation efforts could have far-reaching positive consequences. As the country attempts to diversify its economy, a focus on ICT is one of the key areas in which the government wants to create new employment opportunities. “Telecommunications has the potential to become a leading sector,” Mamadou Ndione, senior economist at the World Bank, told OBG. “With better internet and telecoms services, there is more opportunity to support bottom-up growth and entrepreneurship.”
Beyond the emergence of this burgeoning sector, planners have targeted average Djiboutians, notably through the structuring of a centralised national ID system. As the country currently does not have one, access to public services differs greatly between women and men. This includes access to employment and the use of financial services.
Just 44% of Djiboutian women have a national ID, compared to 56% for men, according to World Bank Figures. Modern e-government practices should also help mobilise tax collection. According to the World Bank, digitalisation of the activities of the General Directorate of Tax will promote fairness within the system, reduce distortions arising from different tax regimes and prevent cases of fraud. This, combined with the introduction of online Customs and tax payments, will allow tax authorities to cross-check information, leading to an improved government budget and a reduction in red tape for local businesspeople.
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