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EVALUATION ON THE IMPACT OF DIGITALIZATION INITIATIVES ON PUBLIC SERVICE DELIVERY IN CAMEROON

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EVALUATION ON THE IMPACT OF DIGITALIZATION INITIATIVES ON PUBLIC SERVICE DELIVERY IN CAMEROON

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

Background of the Study

The adoption of digital technology for service delivery has been widely embraced by governmental institutions, with ICT now recognized as a strategic tool to effectively support the implementation of government service delivery and economic policies, both at national and local government levels. This trend has triggered a surge in ICT policymaking across Africa and other developing regions. According to Kuhlmann & Heuberger (2023), digitalization has emerged as a crucial driver of local government performance and service delivery. The transition towards digital transformation in public administration is expected to significantly reshape the institutional landscape of local services. Jimoh (2019) defines Information and Communication Technology (ICT) as the manipulation and processing of information (such as texts, images, and graphs) using electronic and communication devices like computers, cameras, and telephones. Offodu (2021) also characterizes ICT as electronic or computerized tools, supplemented by human interaction, utilized for a wide range of educational, personal, and interactive purposes. Additionally, Olorunsola and Ekong (2021) highlight the significance of computers in facilitating electronic mail exchange, transferring public domain software, and conducting conferences with multiple users. Similarly, Bhuiyan (2011) notes that the computerization of infrastructure within civil service organizations in Bangladesh has been progressing to replace manual work processes with ICT-based automation.

In the context of Cameroon, there is a discernible shift towards electronic (e)-processes in public administration and local governance (Sindeu, 2013, pp. 1-24). Aligned with the strategic plan for a digital Cameroon by 2020, the National Development Strategy (NDS30) was adopted in 2020 as a guiding framework for public action, emphasizing the digitalization of administrations at both national and local levels to achieve development goals and position Cameroon as an emerging economy by 2035. The strategic plan for digitalizing Cameroon by 2020 underscores the integration of e-governance with service delivery, particularly emphasizing government-to-citizen (G2C) strategies aimed at promoting a digital culture through widespread ICT usage in society. The underlying idea is that the digital revolution will only yield significant benefits if ICT becomes ingrained in the fabric of society. Therefore, the emergence of the digital economy in Cameroon necessitates the widespread adoption of ICTs by individuals, government entities, and businesses, with the objective of enhancing citizens' quality of life through improved utilization of digital technology. This underscores the importance of leveraging information and communication technology at both national and local government levels to address service delivery challenges and enhance the performance of local councils, as outlined in the Cameroon Strategic Plan for Digitalization by 2020. 

.Apparently, many scholars have discussed the contribution of Information Technology (IT) in increasing the efficiency of organizations in collecting, classifying, documenting, storing and disseminating information in making managerial decisions, in speeding communication and in improving capacities of organizational memory and knowledge (Pickering & King, 2018; Argyres, 2020; Henderson & Venkatraman  2021). Office automation and computerization of the public sector have been on the increase over the years, therefore the introduction of computer in all the civil service offices is a must since the whole world has become a village due to introduction of ICT. This assertion was supported by Zambrano (2018) that besides gaining efficiency in public service delivery through ICT, there is also evidence that demonstrates the potential of ICTs in empowering the poor. More so, Fountain (2021) opined that better public service requires first a thorough rethinking and reexamination of the structure of public services and then to exploit possibilities of creating value by working across boundaries and jurisdiction to foster potential gains of redesigned services in terms of speed and cost. Kalsi et al. (2019) suggest that digitalization initiatives directly benefit citizens by enabling direct transactions with governmental services, thereby contributing to higher efficiency in public service delivery through the empowerment of civil servants with ICT tools.

1.2 Statement of Problem

The integration of digital technologies into public service delivery processes holds the promise of enhancing efficiency, transparency, and accessibility of government services (UNDP, 2019). In Cameroon, like many other developing countries, there has been a concerted effort to embrace digitalization such as the National ICT Strategic Plan (2018-2022) underscore the government's commitment to leveraging digital technologies to enhance public service delivery, promote e-governance, and foster innovation (Government of Cameroon, 2018). The first tool, known as ANTILOPE¸ was developed for the management of the payroll. This system was launched in 1986. The second tool, known as SIGIPES, was developed for the management of civil servant careers. This second ICT project was launched in the year 2000. The third attempt, aiming to solve these problems, consisted in the implementation of an integrated human resource information system based on the ERP SAP for greater efficiency and effectiveness. The attempt was launched in the year 2012.as a means to improve governance and meet the evolving needs of citizens (World Bank, 2020). Regardless of the use of these two ICT tools, the government of Cameroon did not succeed in meeting its objectives related to the mastering of civil servants in terms of quantity, quality, organization and wage bill.  Thus, the extent to which digitalization has positively influenced public service delivery in Cameroon remains unclear, necessitating a comprehensive evaluation to assess its impact.

Bizarrely, in spite of  government initiatives to promote digitalization and modernize public service delivery channels, significant challenges persist in translating these efforts into tangible improvements in service quality and accessibility (ITU, 2021). Issues such as limited ICT infrastructure, inadequate digital literacy among civil servants and citizens, bureaucratic inefficiencies, and regulatory barriers pose obstacles to the effective utilization of digital tools in public administration (Ovum, 2020). Furthermore, there is a lack of empirical evidence and systematic assessment frameworks to evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of digitalization initiatives in enhancing service delivery outcomes within the Cameroonian context. This gap in understanding hinders informed decision-making processes and resource allocation strategies aimed at optimizing the benefits of digitalization in public service delivery (African Development Bank, 2019). 

Without a comprehensive evaluation of the impact of digitalization, it is challenging to identify areas for improvement, address implementation bottlenecks, and leverage best practices to enhance the overall effectiveness of government services. Therefore, there is an urgent need for a systematic assessment to examine the extent to which digitalization has transformed public service delivery in Cameroon and to identify strategies for maximizing its positive impact on governance and citizen welfare. Against this backdrop the study is focused on an evaluation on the impact of digitalization on public service delivery in Cameroon.

1.3 Objectives of the Study

The objectives of the study is focused on an evaluation on the impact of digitalization on public service delivery in Cameroon. Specifially, the study seeks to

Examine the extent to which digitalization has transformed public service delivery in Cameroon

Investigate the effectiveness and efficiency of digitalization initiatives in enhancing administrative processes in Cameroon

Identify strategies for maximizing digitalization initiatives in governance and citizen welfare in in Cameroon

1.4 Research Question

What is the extent to which digitalization has transformed public service delivery in Cameroon?

What is the effectiveness and efficiency of digitalization initiatives in enhancing administrative processes in Cameroon?

What are the strategies for maximizing digitalization initiatives in governance and citizen welfare in in Cameroon?

1.5 Research Hypotheses

Ho: There is no significant impact of digitalization initiatives on public service delivery in Cameroon

Ha: There is a significant impact of digitalization initiatives on public service delivery in Cameroon.

Significance of the Study

From a practical standpoint, this study holds significant implications for policymakers, practitioners, and stakeholders involved in public sector reform and digital transformation efforts in Cameroon. By offering empirical evidence and actionable recommendations, the study equips decision-makers with valuable insights to inform policy formulation, strategic planning, and resource allocation related to Digitalization initiatives. Moreover, by identifying key challenges and opportunities, the study provides practical guidance for maximizing the benefits of digitalization within the civil service. Ultimately, the findings of this study have the potential to catalyze tangible improvements in service delivery, transparency, and accountability, thereby contributing to the overarching goal of enhancing governance effectiveness and fostering sustainable development in Cameroon.

Theoretically, the study contributes to understanding of ICT integration within the civil service context, particularly in the context of developing countries like Cameroon. By drawing on theoretical frameworks from fields such as public administration, information systems, and development studies, the study aims to elucidate the dynamics and determinants of ICT adoption and utilization within bureaucratic structures. Furthermore, by exploring concepts such as digital governance, e-government maturity models, and technological determinism, the study seeks to provide theoretical insights into the factors shaping the trajectory of ICT integration and its implications for governance effectiveness and public service delivery. Through its theoretical contributions, the study enriches academic discourse on ICT-enabled governance reforms and provides a conceptual foundation for future research endeavors in this area.

Scope of the Study

The scope of the study borders on an evaluation on the impact of digitalization on public service delivery in Cameroon. In content, the study will  examine the extent to which digitalization has transformed public service delivery in Cameroon, investigate the effectiveness and efficiency of digitalization initiatives in enhancing administrative processes in Cameroon, identify strategies for maximizing digitalization initiatives in governance and citizen welfare in in Cameroon. Geographically, the study will draw its respondent from National Electricity Company (SONEL) in Bafoussam Municipal, Cameroon.

Limitations of the Study

While the study aims to provide a comprehensive analysis, certain limitations may arise, such as constraints related to data availability, access to certain regions or institutions, and the inherent challenges of measuring and assessing corruption. Firstly, limited availability of data or access to official government records may constrain the depth and breadth of the analysis. Due to the case study approach focusing on specific National Electricity Company (SONEL) in Bafoussam Municipal, the findings may lack generalizability to other regions or countries. Therefore, caution will be exercised in extrapolating the results beyond the study context. More so, the study's sample selection process may introduce bias, as certain communities or demographic groups may be overrepresented or underrepresented. This could affect the validity and representativeness of the findings. Limited time and resources may restrict the scope of the study, impacting the depth of data collected and the comprehensiveness of the analysis. This could result in overlooking certain aspects or dynamics relevant to the research questions. Despite these limitations, the researcher will acknowledge and address these challenges transparently to enhance the credibility and rigor of the study.

1.9 Definition of terms

Digitalization: Digitalization refers to the process of integrating digital technologies into various aspects of organizational operations, processes, and services. It involves the transformation of analog or manual processes into digital formats, enabling the use of digital tools and platforms to streamline operations, improve efficiency, and enhance service delivery.

Public Service Delivery: Public service delivery refers to the provision of essential services, such as healthcare, education, infrastructure, and social welfare, by government agencies and institutions to citizens and communities. It encompasses the planning, implementation, and monitoring of programs and initiatives aimed at meeting the needs and demands of the public in an efficient, effective, and equitable manner.


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