Digital mandate

Egypt’s Ministry of Communications & Information Technology (MCIT) has a mandate to empower the country’s IT industry while automating government processes and accelerating data flow among the various ministries.

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By  Matthew Southwell Published  September 5, 2002

|~||~||~|Egypt’s Ministry of Communications & Information Technology (MCIT) has a mandate to empower the country’s IT industry while automating government processes and accelerating data flow among the various ministries.

As such, MCIT is poised to begin three months of operational testing on its enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution. The ministry’s ERP deployment is the initial stage of a broader initiative to automate back end systems, standardise certain operational procedures and improve data visibility across Egypt’s governmental organisations.

The MCIT project will be “quickly followed by [projects] to automate five other ministries,” says Ashraf Abd El Wahab, project manager, the ministry’s automation and internetworking projects, MCIT, the state of Egypt.

“By the end of [August], the first version [of the ERP] will be ready for testing within MCIT. Then we will have three months of operational testing before we deploy it to the other ministries,” he adds.

Unusually, the Egyptian government has shunned the typical enterprise application vendors and opted instead to go with a combined solution from three local software houses. As reported in ACN/17/08, Egypt’s e-government initiative is a component of a broader economic strategy, which is designed to boost the country’s IT sector. “One of the objectives of the [e-government] project is to enhance the local IT market,” says El Wahab. “We are trying to provide opportunities for IT companies in Egypt to deliver a product or service that can be used in government,” he adds.

Dr. Ahmed Darwish, e-government program director, MCIT, Egypt, adds, “we are spreading the outsourcing culture and getting people to source services and software development. We’re leaving IT to those that know IT.”

“E-government is part of an MCIT policy, we have a mandate to empower and enhance the Egyptian industry. These projects are all going to help the economic cycle move forward,” he adds.

Consequently, MCIT has appointed three development companies — AMAC, Quality Standards and Automation Consultants — to develop the components of a six module solution. The different elements of the solution include finance, administration, HR, payroll, procurement and inventory. They are based on Oracle’s 9i database, which will create a standard set of government procedures and provide an unprecedented level of data visibility across the different ministries.

“We have a standard for doing our financial work in the government, but these procedures are interpreted differently from one government entity to the next. If there is one computerised way, it ensures there is one system and one way of doing [business],” comments El Wahab.

“Also, we can collect this data very quickly and independently of what the ministries are doing. The cabinet can look at every ministry online, so they don’t need to send letters and wait for months for the information to be compiled,” he adds.

Each of the local development houses has signed on for the initial six implementations. The agreements include the development work, implementation and post-project support. The project team within the MCIT has already conducted site surveys of the other ministries and drawn up deployment blueprints. In most cases, each ministerial deployment will include the rollout of local area networks (LANs) and server hardware.

“We have visited each of the ministries and looked at what is required for their IT infrastructure,” says El Wahab.

“In MCIT there is already a high level of PC penetration. However, this isn’t the case with other ministries… Some of them haven’t even used computers before,” he adds.
Faced with varying degrees of computer literacy across the six ministries, MCIT has drawn up a comprehensive training programme.

MCIT’s own in-house training scheme, which is due to commence shortly, has been broken down into two areas to increase general computer skills and provide specific experience in the new applications. MCIT’s training module will be copied as it attempts to manage the change in working procedures across the different departments.

“In MCIT the infrastructure is already here and people are using computers. They have a good knowledge of computers and they are not against using such systems,” says El Wahab.

“In other ministries most of them haven’t had computers and many people there are reluctant to use them. In the last couple of months we have been trying to build groups to talk to them about [the project]. We are planning to hold training sessions [in the other ministries] about how to use computers and how to work with the integrated system,” he adds.

The six initial projects form the start of a five-year initiative to automate the machinery of Egypt’s government. Although no firm timetable for the other project deployments has been agreed on, MCIT is ‘offering a hand’ to those ministries that want to deploy IT. “I think that the hard part will start when we begin targeting places that are more reluctant to change, but for the time being we are starting to do pilots in places where the [site] looks suitable,” says Dr. Darwish.

The ERP rollout is going hand-in-hand with a networking project that will eventually connect all the ministries together. Although the project has yet to begin in earnest, over the next five years it will build a connected government and facilitate the electronic exchange of documents. “We are in the process of launching this RFP. In the next couple of months we should have a partner on broad to help us roll this project out,” comments Dr. Darwish.||**||

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