Digital Transformation to Improve Governance and Services in Pemba, Zambia
Jenifer Bukokhe Wakhungu
Deputy Director, Local Transformative Finance
Communication & RBM Lead
Pemba Town Council in Zambia’s Southern Province has embarked on an ambitious project to digitize its information management systems to improve governance and service delivery.
Established in 2013, the council has hitherto relied on paper-based records and manual processes for its operations. This has made access to information cumbersome for citizens, who have to physically visit council offices even for basic inquiries. It has also hampered the council’s ability to deliver efficient services.
To address these challenges, the council has now initiated a digitization drive with support from the International Centre for Local Democracy (ICLD) and UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF).
The overarching goal is to provide citizens access to council information and services through digital platforms. Specific objectives include improving internal efficiency of operations, promoting transparency and accountability, enhancing citizen participation and improving service delivery.
The target groups are council employees, local residents, marginalized communities, schools, cooperatives and community organizations. The core values highlighted are participation and transparency.
Council authorities say digitization will be a game-changer, allowing citizens to access details on budgets, projects, tender information, payments, application status and more – all remotely from their phones or computers. This is expected to significantly improve convenience, inclusion and satisfaction.
The council has already developed a web-based portal to manage information and applications for the Constituency Development Fund (CDF). This will allow real-time access to CDF details for citizens as well as oversight bodies. Similar online portals and databases are being developed for other council services.
Key hardware including computers, servers and internet connectivity has been put in place. Council staff are being trained on using technology to improve their productivity and customer service. Digitization of existing paper records is underway.
Pemba Town Council sees this as part of their modernization agenda and wants to be a model for leveraging technology to improve governance. They have engaged stakeholders including council leaders, the CDF committee and marginalized groups to get buy-in.
The project is poised to have far-reaching impact on improving transparency, accountability, participation and trust between the council and citizens. It will also make Pemba an attractive investment destination by providing efficient services. The success here is expected to spur similar initiatives in other Zambian districts.