Public administration in Egypt is inefficient and characterised by poor service delivery. The public service sector currently employs around seven million Egyptians, but in many areas access to public services is very limited. Even basic services for citizens are frequently organised in a complex way and assigned to different administrative levels and authorities. For citizens, it is often unclear who is responsible for what, and what documents are required for which service, nor how long they will have to wait.
Egypt is currently stepping up the decentralisation and modernisation of its public administration. The first efforts in this direction were undertaken before the upheaval of the Arab Spring in 2011, and the consequent dissolution of several governments. Since then, the pressure to reform services has become even greater. Indeed, better public services were one of the key demands of the revolution. The Egyptian government is therefore keen to immediately make visible improvements in services for citizens. Overall, however, in both rural and urban areas, there is a lack of the appropriate structures and competent staff to achieve this goal.
The Head of the Improvement of Public Services Project (IPSP) at the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, Gabriele Becker, said that the GIZ implements the project, in close collaboration with government of Egypt, to support its ambitious programme to decentralise and modernise its public administration.
Daily News Egypt interviewed Becker in depth about the project and its services to increase the satisfaction of citizens with the government services they receive , the transcript for which is below, lightly edited for clarity:
What is the reason behind launching the IPSP?
The main idea behind launching the IPSP is to make it easier for Egyptian citizens to receive public services. The GIZ implements the project, in close collaboration with government of Egypt, to support its ambitious programme to decentralise and modernise its public administration. The goal is to increase the satisfaction of citizens with the government services they receive. To achieve this, we, in the IPSP, in close cooperation with the ministries of local development (MoLD) and planning, monitoring and administrative reform (MoPMAR), put ourselves in the shoes of the citizens. We try to understand their challenges in receiving public services and then tailor solutions accordingly.
What is the value of fund allocated by the GIZ for the IPSP?
The German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) allocated €9.5m to the project from 2015 to 2021. Our cooperation is based on a technical cooperation agreement between both governments.
How many beneficiaries does the project target?
The Public Service Map (PSM), which offers comprehensive information on most demanded public services, is accessible online on the governmental Bawaba to all citizens of Egypt. It will soon be available as a mobile app.
The IPSP also works in three governorates on the ground: Cairo, Menoufiya, and Beni Suef. Inhabitants in these governorates can now benefit from fully-equipped and functional citizen service centres, mobile access channels, enhanced and user-friendly services to persons with disability, and shortened processing time of municipal services, to mention a few.
What are the success indicators achieved so far?
The PSM is a product we are very proud of because it makes information about public services transparent to citizens. It took us more than two years to compile all the information about the 500 most demanded public services (such as social support, education, health, or family affairs services). Each governmental institution can access its own services on the PSM and constantly update the content or reflect any changes in procedures.
Further, the PSM collects feedback from citizens. It provides reports that allow decision-makers in the government to improve the services based on the needs of citizens. They can see, for example, which services are most demanded, which services have the longest processing time, or which service centres are the most crowded. Based on this information, they can prioritise services to be offered online, and speed up the time it takes for services by optimising procedures.
The IPSP also managed to improve and simplify the workflow of several municipal services in the Cairo governorate, such as shop licenses and street advertisements. These simplified processes have made it easier for citizens: it now takes less time, fewer visits, and is less complicated. The governor of Cairo endorsed the new workflow. We hope that they will be adopted in all districts of the governorate soon.
In addition, The IPSP has equipped all target districts (Shubra, Maadi, Cairo Diwan, West Shibin and Ashmoun in Menoufiya) with the needed IT devices and furniture. This includes new internal networks in the municipalities to ensure that all municipal units are fully automated and inter-connected and that the one-stop-shop concept that is propagated by the government of Egypt is attained.
When it comes to the employees, who play the most important role in a functioning service centre, the IPSP has trained over 300 municipal civil servants so far. This includes operational staff, managers, and district heads. We trained them to professionally handle citizens’ requests, better manage complaints, leadership skills, efficient problem solving, and change management. We ensured that they are able to manage innovative solutions, such as the various mobile access channels, so they can better reach out to people with disabilities or those living in remote areas.
Do you plan to expand funds for the project? If yes, what is the amount allocated?
This project was requested by the Egyptian government since the modernisation of public services is part of Egypt’s Vision 2030. The funding by the German government is secured until 2021. We will be discussing with our partners in the ministries of local development and planning, monitoring and administrative reform how to make project outcomes sustainable.
Is the GIZ the only project funder?
The funding of the IPSP comes from the BMZ. The GIZ is implementing the project together with the MoLD and the MoPMAR, which are both dedicating the time of their employees and their expertise to the success of the project.
How many citizens use the services provided by the PSM on the Bawaba?
Until now, only a few thousand people are aware of the PSM and use it. The feedback we have received so far is positive and encouraging. We are continuously updating the content with our partners and plan to launch the PSM officially soon. Through an awareness campaign, we will make sure that citizens learn about the PSM so they can benefit from it.
Do you implement similar projects in other countries or only in Egypt?
Of course. Issues related to the quality of public service delivery are not only relevant to Egypt. Also in Germany we are now reforming and digitalising public services. Similar programmes by the German Development Cooperation can be found all over the world and the Middle East, for example in Morocco or Tunisia.
What challenges is Egypt facing with regards to blockchain?
The IPSP is not working with blockchain technologies at the moment. Blockchain is the new technological revolution of our time, but the technology is still relatively new to Egypt. Its applications could open many new opportunities in literally all sectors ranging from finance, commerce, industries to healthcare, value chains, entertainment and, of course, also public service delivery.
What are opportunities and challenges facing Egypt’s digital transformation?
Egypt’s ICT 2030 strategy is a sign that there is a strong commitment toward digital transformation in Egypt. So far, Egypt’s public administration is still largely paper-based and it will require much effort to adapt to the changes that come with digital transformation. Illiteracy and unfamiliarity with digital tools, especially in rural areas, is another challenge. The transformation is worth it, however, since there is a lot of potential. The know-how exists and Egypt’s national ICT industry is developing at a very fast pace. Egypt has a very young population that is familiar with the digital world. Since most people use mobile phones, Egypt can afford to introduce digital solutions for mobile users, including solutions to apply for public services.