Lebanon harnesses IT to streamline government and spur development
Lebanon is creating an environment for government institutions to use information and communications technology (ICT) to improve efficiency, offering ICT as a catalyst for economic and human development.
Taking the lead, the Ministry of Finance is using ICT to modernize and automate. The Ministry has automated the General Directorate of Customs and the Land Registry, and has also streamlined the public sector payments and tax systems to reform fiscal administration and improve public services. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) is among several partners providing technical support.
Other government offices are also automating. More than 7,500 PCs are now in use by government institutions, representing nearly one in four offices, and most ministries and agencies can be accessed online through their own web pages.
"As we move forward, we see increasingly that the technology alone doesn't really bring socio-economic development, but ICT does unleash a great potential for change.'' noted UNDP Resident Representative Yves de San.
UNDP is assisting the Office of the Minister of State for Administrative Reform (OMSAR) to prepare the national e-strategy. "The main objective of the e-strategy is to provide policy advice towards building Lebanon as a knowledge-based society and developing the country's capacity to provide e-services," said UNDP Governance Program Manager Randa Aboul-Hosn.
The assessment concluded that basic ICT infrastructure is adequate, but infrastructure for broadband communication is lacking. Also curbing ICT growth is a lack of regulations on e-commerce, privacy and security. The Ministry of Economy and Trade is developing a legal framework for e-commerce, including provisions for electronic contracts and e-signatures.
Moving the public sector onto the information superhighway and encouraging e-commerce will have a limited impact, however, unless the rest of society also gets wired. OMSAR has therefore launched wide-scale ICT training programs, catering to both the public sector and citizens at large.
A public-private partnership has established 25 fully equipped information technology centers for poor communities in south Lebanon. Partners include the Council for Development and Reconstruction, the Ministry of Social Affairs, UNDP and Cisco Systems. The centers teach ICT skills and give communities access to the global resources of the Internet. — (menareport.com)
© 2003 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)
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