Exploiting information and communications technologies to improve the management of international development projects in sub-sahara Africa, with specific reference to general elections in Nigeria
The emergence of Internet-based and related information systems, widely known as Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) systems, has revolutionized the ways that institutions manage their operations worldwide. This is more so in the developed countries where the use of ICT has become mainstream and most organizations conduct their operations over the Internet. These advances in information and communication systems are yet to manifest themselves in sub-Sahara Africa.
An organization’s ICTs system is defined as a formal and purposeful arrangement of people, computer systems, computer networks, communication media, and data management resources that enable organizations to capture and transform data, and communicate the information output to planned end users, for efficient operations management, and effective decision making. (O’Brien, 2003, p7)
In the advanced countries, these systems have become invaluable tools for achieving strategic advantage in a highly competitive world economy. In particular, they are:
- fast evolving devices for, among other things, restructuring organizations to increase communication and collaboration among organizational teams and across enterprises;
- reengineering traditional project management practices and processes to become more efficient and cost-effective;
- enhancing value creating activities to increasing customer value;
- transforming the organization to become more client-focused;
- improving knowledge management for increased organization learning and performance.
Space and time have become of limited impact in structuring organizations and their operations to better serve customers. (O’Brien, 2003, p, 280)
These advances offer sub-Sahara Africa opportunities to modernize their organizational and project management practices to improve the effectiveness of projects and programs. In particular, ICTs offer international development projects (IDPs) the means to achieve successful implementation and improve aid effectiveness.
International Development Projects
IDPs suffer from implementation difficulties that can be successfully tackled with systematic project management approaches (Youker, 1999, p 6) that respond well to ICTs applications. However, IDPs, especially democratic elections may be most amenable to the introduction of ICTs for development in sub-Sahara Africa; for the successful use of ICT systems to elect credible leaders could motivate emerging governments to engage the technologies in mainstream development.
In view of the foregoing, the rest of the paper describes essential steps in appraising projects, with particular reference to an ICT project to improve future Nigerian general elections, in view of the failure of the April 2007 elections, and against a backdrop of challenges to technological innovations in sub-Sahara Africa
Managing Effective Elections in Sub-Sahara Africa: Nigeria’s General Elections
Nigeria’s April 2007 General Elections
In April 2007, Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) organized general elections that Nigerians and observers adjudged not free and fair. INEC failed to deliver the elections in spite of having all the resources, donor technical assistance, and time required to stage a valid election. (Van Dusen, 2007)
A well-planned donor assisted project designed to improve INEC’s capacity to integrate ICTs into its operations, may offer the best hope for successful future elections in Nigeria.
Planning and implementation of ICT projects
Goal of ICT project
The overall goal of the ICT project is to promote free and fair elections in Nigeria, by re-engineering INEC to become an agile, client-focused, value-driven, and project management oriented, yet transparent and credible organization.
In order to achieve these objectives, the rest of the paper presents, the steps in planning an effective ICT project \ and a methodology for managing successful implementation \):
Planning INEC Nigeria’s ICT Project
Planning INEC Nigeria ICT project
This is a time-tested systematic project appraisal process and technique:
- Demand analysis
- Technical study
- Institutional study
- Organization and management study
- Risk and sensitivity analysis
- Financial and economic analysis
A proper appraisal must consider the following environmental challenges to development in Nigeria:
- Poor Internet connectivity: The choice is between physical transmission lines and wireless technologies.
- Poor power supply Poor to non-existent public power supply in most of sub-Sahara Africa (Thiome, 2003), demands consideration of alternatives like solar power, commonly used in remote places. (Solar-Powered WiFi)
- Costly infrastructure: ICT infrastructure capital and maintenance costs are high and need to be properly planned for. (Laanela, 2002) Significant amounts of money can be saved from low-energy consuming devices in powering off-grid systems (dot-org, 2006)
- Poorly trained and motivated project staff
- Technologically inept client base
- An underdeveloped private sector
The following is an outline appraisal of INEC Nigeria’s ICT Project. Appendix 3 presents a Logical Framework summary of the project design.
The April 2007 election environment
The Nigerian election was expected to enroll 60 million voters, who were expected to vote simultaneously, in 120,000 polling centers, involving 37 political parties (INEC, 2007) constituted by a population of over 250 ethnic groups, and about an equal number of Moslems and Christians, all jostling for power at the center, in a country where government is the principal economic player and means of employment and contracts.
General ICT systems demand
The complexity of the elections requires a gradual transformation of INEC through work automation, information management and organizational restructuring ICTs, for the organization to realize its effectiveness potentials. (Thorp, 1991, p 14) However, the failure of the 2007 election demands attention to specific strategies to improve the performance of future elections.
Specific ICT systems demand
The problems that marred the INEC April 2007 elections may have been transferred from the 2003 elections. (Palmer, 2003) and are summarized under five headings:
- Late openings and closing of elections
- Shortage of election materials at polling stations
- Many disenfranchised voters
- Corrupt practices among ad hoc election staff
- General resistance by politicians and media to the use of an Electronic Voting System (EVS).
A detailed analysis of these problems reveals that they were symptomatic of failures in procurement management, logistic management, quality control, and time planning and scheduling. Others were cost estimating and budgeting, risk management, stakeholder management especially media management, training of operations and security staff, voters’ education, and remuneration of ad hoc election staff.
Appendix 1 outlines the recommended INEC ICT improvement strategies required to improve the above-listed management problems within the backdrop of the environmental challenges in Nigeria.
Appendix 2 outlines the choice of ICT systems and strategies, description of the major components, namely, the Internet-based backbone, other Internet-based resources, and non-Internet based devices – and how they would be applied to transform INEC to become a high performing and credible organization.
This study identifies aspects of the Electoral Act and government policies and objectives, which can shape the project design to become an implementable, sustainable and effective innovation. (Palmer, 2003)
Organization and Management study
Program Management Office Structure for installing the ICT systems
INEC finds it difficult to direct and coordinate its operations within and across departments, and a formal “election management group” of department heads was required to improve these functions. (Palmer, 2003) Alternatively a Program Management Office (PMO), headed by a Program Manager, who reports to the INEC Chairman, may be charged to coordinate and integrate the planning and controlling functions of INEC, cross its departments, and serve as a point from which ICTs radiate to the departments and across to stakeholder organizations.
Outsourcing Operations Management
Three possible structural options (A, B, and C) are identified for the ICT systems operations management, and Option B is recommended:
- Option A: - ICT systems maintained by INEC department
- Option B: - Responsibility for maintenance of systems hardware outsourced to local contractors
- Option C: - INEC uses Application Service Providers (ASP), and no major hardware maintenance needed.
Risk and Sensitivity Analysis
This study identifies the threats and opportunities that could impact the project. It analyzes them for degree of impact, the probability of occurrence, solvability, and prepares an early warning and response plan to address them whenever they arise.
The ubiquity of risk elements and the complexity of the elections demand rigorous risk management and preferably the assignment of a full time risk manager as a one of the project management specialist to staff the PMO.
Economic and Financial Analysis
- Computes and compares incremental capital costs (hardware, software, licenses, legal documentation, PMO, etc) and operations and maintenance cost, and projected incremental benefits over the life of the project.
- Displays detail estimates of incremental benefits to individual entities, especially INEC and its key stakeholders to help to secure their support.
- Displays funds ( real cash) flows to facilitate communications with sponsors.
ICT Project Design Summary:
The Logical Framework Analysis
Appendix 3 presents a snapshot of the project design, showing the logical hierarchy of objectives, specific targets, sources of data on progress, and key assumptions for project success at each objective level. The logframe is a handy tool for project design, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation
Section Two: Managing Project Implementation
Project Management System
A project management system (PMS) is required to effectively manage the election process. The multiplicity of election processes, across a wide area, and frequently remote locations, with zero tolerance for failure calls for a systematic process that can be aided by ICTs (Laanela, 2001)
A PMS is a set of established procedures for systematic planning and control of implementation. The broad elements of a PMS are planning and scheduling; executing the plan; monitoring and reporting against a baseline plan, and identifying, analyzing, and solving problems to correct deviations from the plan. Properly used, a PMS will encourage INEC Commissioners and other key decision makers to properly employ ICT strategies to election management processes.
Appendix 4 presents more detailed elements of a PMS.
Special Implementation Management Challenges: Recommendations
These issues deserve specific consideration in designing the project:
- Build on existing developments and proceeding in small strides to learn from INEC’s experiences
- Pilot project- Use pilot projects to evaluate systems models and collect data for better planning.
- Parallel conversion – Deploy modern and traditional systems in tandem to demonstrate the benefits of innovative systems and gain user appreciation and confidence before advancing to wider-scale use.
- Project Phasing- Progressively adoption ICT strategies to promote learning and minimize resistance to the technologies.
- Exploiting positive policy- INEC may explore Government policy, such as, the objective of increasing private sector involvement in the economy, to use ICTs to distribute election responsibilities across the general population.
- Training for end-users - ICTs embrace everything that organizations do; and institutions need to train all their employees to properly use ICT systems, (O’Brien, 2003, p 6) and encourage stakeholders to train their users.
- Communication – This is key to effectiveness of INEC and successful elections depends on:
- Using the Internet networks and other ICT systems to improve planning and control within INEC.
- Enhanced Stakeholder conferences, held at local, state, and national government level, using varieties of ICT systems and substantial media coverage.
- Increasing stakeholder responsibility for voters’ education and attitudinal changes, using Voter Contact and Response Centers (VCRC).
- Leadership skills: - INEC leaders could use ICT strategies to enhance their skills; and the key is to embrace the technologies, as well as the media.
- The Role of Government: - Involving government in planning, implementation and progress monitoring and evaluation, to ensure regular funding, and influencing favorable policies (Thiome, 2003), through stakeholder conferences and regular updates through appropriate communication media.
- The Role of Donors: - Encouraging donor agencies’ reinforcements in the form of ancillary support programs and influencing of government support for improvements to general ICT infrastructure.
Summary and Conclusion
The study highlights the benefits of ICT systems applications in the developed world and reveals their potential gains to the management of international development projects in sub-Sahara Africa, with reference to Nigeria’ general elections. The paper advocates proper planning and implementation methods to enjoy the benefits of ICTs and outlines the steps in the appraisal of an ICT project proposed to address the problems of the Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) experienced in its conduct of the April 2007 elections. The goal of the project is to promote free and fair elections in Nigeria, by re-engineering INEC to become an agile, client-focused, value-driven, and project management oriented, yet transparent and credible organization.
The project comprises three major components, namely, Internet-based systems backbone, other Internet-based resources, and non-Internet based devices. Among other things the study also recommends an ICT oriented Program Management Office to coordinate and integrate planning and control within INEC and across stakeholder organizations; outsourcing of the maintenance function of the ICT systems to local contractors; and highlights a methodology and systems tools for effective implementation of the ICT project.
In conclusion, we wish to underscore the existence of a genuine need for ICT systems for development in the sub-Sahara Africa. In particular, we wish to distinguish elections as the best opportunity to encourage political leaders to promote the innovation. For, using ICTs to elect credible leaders could motivate successful and satisfied politicians to encourage emerging governments to adopt the innovations to mainstream development.
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Appendix 3: INDEPENDENT ELECTORAL COMMISSION (INEC), NIGERIA, ICT PROJECT LOGICAL FRAMEWORK PROJECT DESIGN SUMMARY
Apendix 4: A PMS For International Development Projects
Source: World Bank/Africa Development Bank, IFAD/OAU STRC, 1985) General Project Management, AMTA Course Series, Vol. 1
|Specific Objectives||Recommended ICT Improvement Strategies and systems||Complexity1 |
Low (1)-High (5)
|1||Improved procurement management||Accurate specifications and estimation and timely procurement of equipment, materials and services,and procurement according to specifications||Automated Procurement Management Systems |
Methods that ensure speed, transparency, fairness, and commitment to due process:
1. Internet-based automated standardized formats for registration, screening, and short listing of suppliers
|2. Internet based advertising, procurement solicitation, and bid submission.||1|
|3. Internet access by suppliers to INEC and international agency procurement guidelines.||1|
|4. Project Management (Procurement planning, scheduling, & control) software1||5|
5. Internet based procurement through “reverse auctions” and “spend management systems.” Many advantages, sophisticated, not immediately recommended
|2||Improved logistics management||Accurate estimation, timely, secured, and convenient vehicular movement of staff and materials to and from polling stations.||Automated Logistics management systems |
1. Internet-based automated standardized logistics formats for accurate and complete estimates of transportation needs by states and regions.
3. GPS and wireless communication devices enabling remote monitoring and oversight of vehicular deployments and information transmission for decision-making.
|5. Project Management (Logistic planning, scheduling and control) software 1||5|
|2||Improved quality planning and control||Precise functional quality standards and price specifications for equipment and materials and ensuring strict compliance with standards.||Quality planning and control systems |
Internet-based automated standardized quality specification formats for equipment and materials procurement
|4||Accurate time management||Detailed operations plans showing activity listing, schedules, sequences, deadlines, dependences, milestones, critical path, and critical activities.||Time scheduling and control software |
Project management (Time scheduling and control) software including but not limited to Microsoft Project and Primavera may be used to speed up activity planning and scheduling and determining the critical paths in various operational areas.
|5||Proper risk planning and management.||Detailed and continuous risk planning and response to threats and opportunities to successful implement the elections||Risk planning and management software |
Project Management (Risk Management) software for risk identification, risk analysis and quantification of the potential impact of risk on the elections. It also offers the ability to develop procedures and techniques to respond appropriately to risk events and monitoring and actual response to threats and opportunities.
|6||Adequate staff training||Effective INEC staff training in critical operational areas, including voters’ registration and authentication, results collation, and effective communication and customer relations.||Operations staff training media |
_Multimedia devices such as videos, CD, DVD to improve training of operations staff, directly by INEC training department or outsourced to certified trainers. Training can also be stored in databases on INEC intranet and accessed by authorized parties.
|7||Adequate security training and provisions||Effective security staff training in critical operational areas including crowd management, effective communication and customer relations.||Security operatives training media |
Multimedia devices such as videos, CD, DVD, and radio to improve training of security operatives, directly by INEC training department or outsourced to certified trainers. Training can also be stored in databases on INEC intranet and accessed by authorized parties.
|8||Adequate mass education||Complete voters’ education in elections and specifically voting procedure, and what to do in case the system fails.||Mass Education media |
Multimedia devices such as videos, CD, DVD, radio, and TV to train voters organized by INEC training department or outsourced civic societies and community Information Access Points (IAPS)
Appendix 1: ICT SYSTEMS AND STRATEGIES FOR IMPROVED ELECTIONS IN NIGERIA
Aspects of Demand and Technical Feasibility Studies
Low (1) – High (5): Complexity is defined by the level of intricacy of the technology infrastructure and level of personnel skills required to effectively operate a system, thus, designing, publishing and operating an automated screening format is ranked low (1) while using a project management software is ranked High (5) because of the skill required to use it. Also using a GPS system is ranked 5 because of the infrastructure for operating an GPS system.
|SYSTEM COMPONENTS||DESCRIPTION||APLICATIONS||ORGANZATION AND MANAGEMENT BENEFITS|
1.0 ICT PROJECT BACKBONE
1.1 THE INTERNET, INTRANET, EXTRANET, PORTALS, FIREWALLS, UTILITY SOFTWARE
|Networked computers, with controlled access windows (Portals) to INEC’s databases and external database-accessible only to authorized users by means of encryptions and passwords.||1. Provide basis for display of simple standardized and automated formats for improved procurement and staff recruitment |
2. Provide structure for integrating the elements of a PMS
|Improved delegation, communication flow and activity coordination within INEC and with stakeholders|
|1.2 COMMUNICATION MEDIA||Physical and wireless systems that enable information flow through the organizations, across organizations and with stakeholders. Including terrestrial microwaves, radio waves, satellite systems, cellular phone and pager systems, and infrared, and visible light pulses.||1. Provide Internet and non-Internet-based person to person communications for meetings, training; etc |
2. Sharing information through emails, e-bulletin boards, and Shared calendars,
3. Providing means to communicate with voters (e.g. Telephone hotlines, Voter Contact and Response Centers (VCRC).
|1. Increase communication, coordination and control within INEC and with stakeholders |
2. Enhanced mass voters education and changes in attitudes and election behaviors by encouraging civil societies to establish and use VCRCs to educate voters
3. Increased value creating activities such as stakeholder conferences, training of voters, and cultivating media support.
|1.3 DATABASES, DATABASE MANAGEMENT SYSTEM (DBMS)||Repositories of organizational data on project inputs, outputs, client base and stakeholders||Provide current data and information on voters, political parties, election laws and regulations; election materials and equipment specifications; training instructions and procedures||Keeping current data on the internal organizational and the environment will enable INEC to quickly capture changes and respond timely to issues.|
2.0 OTHER INTERNET RESOURCES
2.1 SHARED PROJECT MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE
|Internet based software for planning and control of election activities, and sharing plans, schedules, deadlines, successes, problems, and prospects within INEC and between INEC and essential stakeholders||Automated project management processes: activity time and resource planning and scheduling, and control; cost estimating and budgeting and control; procurement planning and management; logistic planning and control; etc||1. Building high powered management team s through increased communication, shared calendars, emails, and telephones |
2. Enabling coordinated and integrated activity planning, implementation, and simultaneous sharing of information on plans progress, and facilitating joint problems solving.
3.0 NON-INTERNET RESOURCES
3.1 ELECTRONIC VOTING SYSTEM (EVS)
|A composite system for electronic registration, authentication of voters; voting at the polling station and transmitting of voting results directly to INEC officers||Electronic voters registration, & authentication, voting, and results transmission systems||Speedy, transparent and effective election processes and increasing confidence in the election results.|
|3.2 GLOBAL POSITIONING SYSTEM (GPS)||A satellite based and wireless communication system for tracking transportation of major elections materials||1. Tracking movement of ballot papers and voting results and other materials to and from polling stations 2. Enabling quick deployment of rapid response teams stationed at Local Governments headquarters.||Redressing delayed supplies of voting materials and staff to or away from polling station due to breakdowns, violent disruptions, or inadequate time consciousness.|
3.3 ELECTRONIC TRAINING DEVICES
|Standardized and digitized training manuals such as Videos, CD, and DVD and TV channel for use through Internet or non-Internet channels||Training of INEC employees, field and security operatives and ad hoc election staff; Voters education||Improving voters attitudes and behaviors and knowledge of voting requirements|
Appendix 2: INEC’s ICT PROJECT SYSTEMS AND STRATEGIES
© Robinson Akiri & Eddie Williams
Originally published as a part of 2007 PMI Global Congress Proceedings – Atlanta, GA USA