By Byron Mutingwende
Information is a fundamental asset and managing it is critical for ensuring evidence and accountability, Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, Dr Sekai Nzenza has said.
She made the remarks at a meeting organised by the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) held under the theme “Evidence-based governance: Powering Vision 2030” at the Cresta Jameson Hotel in Harare on 31 May 2019.
“It is in line with Vision 2030 that the government of Zimbabwe should embrace information management in fighting corruption in both public and private institutions. The government has shown commitment to curb corruption through the Zimbabwe Anti Corruption commission. It is a must that accountability, transparent and good governance be achieved through proper information management,” Dr. Nzenza said.
She said information management should be guided by professional practice, standards as well as clearly defined set of legislative frameworks. The minister said the government should compel both public and private sector institutions to embrace professional information governance in their business procedures.
Professor Mqhele Dlodlo, the Vice Chancellor of the National University of Science and Technology said the public sector has challenges in providing this information storage.
“Government should create distributed cloud services. If there is destruction on one side side the other servers will be saved. Trusting Harare as repository for national records, for example, is not good. Some servers should be kept even outside the country. All servers should be networked and updated on a regular basis in case of a cyber attacks. Telecommunication engineers use this strategy against cyber attacks.
“There is need to provide adequate information storage facilities. We should not sorely rely on imported technology because it is very unsustainable. In the spirit of Education 5.0 NUST has crated an entire division of innovation and business development under Pro Vice Chancellor Dr Mazithulela. His job is to spot innovation in our labs and bring it to innovation hubs. This creates a spin-off or start-up companies at the innovation hub. We count on both private and public sector by providing capital backup. IP is a commodity and tradable so we are not customers but partners when we create these companies and spinoffs,” Professor Dlodlo said.
He said coordinated efforts are very imperative in both the public and private sector since we can’t operate in isolation hence the need for networking by government with universities and private sector on policy matters.
Universities enable both the private and public sectors to arrive at innovative heritage-based problem solutions such as the issue of energy.
“Where do we get our energy from? Some institutions like ZESA are beyond their capacities since they rely on dwindling hydro and thermal sources. In our lifetime, we are assured of solar energy resources and endless supplies of bio-fuels. NUST can assist in developing local manufacturing of those resources. Import substitution should be part of the solution to our economic challenges.”
Dr. Obert Wutete, the Chairperson of the Department of Records and Archives Management at NUST said in line with the theme, “Evidence-based Governance,” his department trains professionals in the management of information, which is a source of evidence in the day-to-day administration of organisations, both the public and private sector.
“Evidence helps in decision-making processes because facts can be provided tangibly to assist with accountability, good governance and transparency. Those 3 aspects will help Zimbabwe as a country to attain its set blueprint Vision 2030,” Dr. Wutete said
NUST under the Faculty of Communication and Information Science has a department of Records and Archives Management, which offers insightful modules like Archives and Manuscripts Management, Info-economics, Management of Electronic Records, Management of virtual Archives, Info-preneurship and legal records, among others.
Recently, the institution introduced a new degree programme, which should cater for the ever-changing trends in the global village (BSC Hon Information Management and Technology) to commence in August 2019.
Samuel Chabikwa, the Dean in the Faculty of Communication and Information Science at NUST said evidence based governance is fundamental to good governance.
It entails the management of public sector records as evidence for accountability in governance.
“The basic premise of this meeting is to stimulate dialogue, debate and engagement on evidence based governance. Managing records of government activity as evidence for accountability is a key factor that needs to be addressed in order to achieve effective public administration and the rule of law. Records management is essential and foundational as an enabling tool, which provides the basis for public sector integrity.
“The lack of attention to records as authoritative sources of evidence of policies, transactions, activities and entitlements has an impact on wider development objectives (including anti-corruption; administrative and civil service reform; decentralisation; e-government; legal and judicial reform; public expenditure management; tax policy and administration; access to information; and electronic government). This means that vision 2030 cannot be achieved without trustworthy evidence,” Mr Chabikwa said.
In many developing countries, paper-based records systems have decayed into informality, and as yet there is little capacity or infrastructure for managing fragile digital records as authentic evidence and protecting data integrity over time. Information technologies are being introduced worldwide to enhance government accountability and efficiency, but there has been little attention to the quality and care of the electronic records they create.
The present situation creates new opportunities for manipulating government information. It leaves governments vulnerable, without access to the evidence needed to support accountable and transparent democracies. It impedes information and communication technology initiatives and adds unnecessary risks to the significant investments that lenders and donors make in the development of the nation.
There is a need to ensure that fragile electronic records are maintained and managed where specialist training is lacking. The link between evidence based governance, good governance and record keeping cannot be over-emphasised.
Information is a key public resource; there cannot be accountability, responsiveness and active citizenship without information to understand problems and issues, as well as to make decisions and take actions. It is also vital for preserving and using important information about the past. The formation of any government policy, one of the cornerstones of governance takes varied forms and stages based on available and retrievable records.
“Policy analysis, for example, requires well-organised and managed factual and numerical information and data for managers to know the state of affairs before making changes. Documentary evidence has shown that where information is properly recorded, policy decisions have been made in time to meet the changing social environment and global challenges. Thus, records, which the government and its functionaries create and maintain are a vital resource that should be properly managed to attain good governance.
“Improper record keeping can be a barrier to institutional and legal reforms and disguises corruption, delays justice, prolongs poverty and retards socio-economic growth. Good governance is determined by effective record keeping.
Evidence based governance promotes transparency. Transparency means that decisions taken and their enforcement are done in a manner that follows rules and regulations. It also means that information is freely available and directly accessible to those who will be affected by such decisions and their enforcement. Also enough information is provided and that it is provided in easily understandable form and media. In terms of effectiveness and efficiency, good governance means that processes and institutions produce results that meet the needs of society while making the best use of resources at their disposal. The concept of efficiency in the context of good governance also covers the sustainable use of natural resources and the protection of the environment,” Mr Chabikwa added.