South-South and Triangular Cooperation in scaling up innovation in Public Service Delivery
His Excellency Dr. Mohamed Asim, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Maldives
20 September 2016
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to begin by thanking Her Excellency Prime Minister Sheik Hasina for organizing this timely event on cooperation for innovations in service delivery, which is a most pertinent discussion with regards to both our own efforts in the Maldives and for the world at large.
Public service delivery is an essential component in the realisation of the 2030 Agenda. Efficient and effective institutions are essential to the delivery of effective and efficient sustainable development programs and policies that would enable us to achieve the transformational agenda, we, the international community signed up for.
We in the Maldives have taken significant steps towards modernizing service delivery through the implementation of digitization and computerization programmes.
The modernization of service delivery through digitization began in earnest in 2003, with the inauguration of the National Centre for Information Technology, NCIT, with a mission to develop and promote information technology throughout the Maldives, especially for the purposes of increasing the efficiency of the work of the government.
For instance, all national government agencies, and most local government agencies, are now utilizing the Government e-Letter Management System (GEMS), which has eliminated the need for most paper-based documents and the use of interdepartmental couriers, and now saves over 40 million Maldivian rufiyaa in administrative expenses. GEMS is now being extended for use outside of government departments, and for the purposes of communications between state-owned enterprises and the Maldivian Government.
Furthermore, the Maldives has already introduced the e-government system, under which, for example, people are now able to register for driving exams online. Under the Expatriate Online Services, Xpat, work permit-related transactions have been digitized for expatriates resident in the Maldives, who can now make applications, track application status, and make payments online.
NCIT is continuing its work with a view towards extending its innovations for use outside the public sector, to further enhance the effectiveness of government services.
In January, the Maldives introduced electronic gate passport service at its international airports, which will allow Maldivian citizens to enter and exit the country without needing to be stamped by an immigration officer.
As a small island country, the Maldives has a unique potential to facilitate the rapid adoption and dissemination of cutting-edge innovations in IT-related fields. There are many benefits to be derived from ICT in the field of health, and education service delivery, as well as basic services to the public. Due to high dispersion of the population among a vast area, the Government is stretched in providing services while maintaining high efficiency. Small size often gives the added advantage of being used as a "test-case" for pilot programmes as well. And this has been the case in the past.
However, our small size places an inherent limit on the extent to which such innovations may be conceived indigenously. It is in this regard that international cooperation, knowledge-sharing, and technology transfer can have a critical role, especially within the global South. Lack of human capacity is an ongoing challenge that can and should be countered: and we see a huge potential for South-South cooperation in this regard.
The South Asian region is already in many regards a global leader in the field of information technology. The potential for sharing and adapting best practices is thus strong; countries like the Maldives can serve as the laboratory for innovations information technology firms from the region and elsewhere in the global South, offering a nation-wide reach without the constraints of scale usual to such projects in other countries, thus providing valuable insights and know-how for implementation globally. Mutually beneficial cases such as these are the heart of meaningful South-South cooperation.
We, in the diversity of our experiences, have much valuable information to exchange amongst our respective states and governments. The Maldives is therefore a strong supporter of cooperation and frameworks for the sharing of best practices, both bilaterally—especially with Bangladesh—and at both the regional and global levels.
I have witnessed personally the digitisation program launched by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, during my short tenure in Bangladesh. The A2I (access to info) program lies at the heart of reaching out to the citizens which has been made possible by this program
There is much to learn, and much to share. For this reason we are eager to see the creation of a permanent framework for South-South cooperation for innovations in service delivery, and shall be a willing partner in efforts to this end.
I thank you.