Government offices in Morocco catch the technology bug


Morocco's public sector is increasingly wired with information and communications technology (ICT) but faces challenges in equipping and supporting employees, a recent survey showed.

The comprehensive survey, the first of its type ever carried out on ICT in the public sector, was conducted by the Ministry for Public Sector Modernisation by mailing questionnaires to 256 bodies, including ministries, high commissions and public agencies.

Although the survey showed a strong presence of ICT in 86% of the government bodies that responded, it also revealed that a relatively small number of ministerial departments have high-quality infrastructure, and few have significant levels of IT support staff.

"While the Moroccan government has an annual budget of 600 million dirhams for operations and investment, this survey nonetheless shows that there is a small number of IT staff," said Karim Jazouan, a manager at the internet, mobile and content service provider Casanet. "IT specialists make up just 1% of the staff of the various government authorities."

Support issues aside, several positive trends appeared in the survey, which was conducted between October 2008 and June 2009.

First, the ministry found that local area networks are becoming more common within government agencies. The survey report, released in July, showed that more than 90% of the respondents, including those within ministerial departments, have these networks.

A second positive sign of IT integration is the percentage of government bodies possessing domain names. More than 79% of the respondents reported having this crucial intellectual property. Yet only 287 of the public-sector agencies surveyed actually used their domain name to put up a website.

"Besides the limited number of government websites, even those that are online do not provide up-to-date or locally relevant information," said the director of the development company ADK Media, Driss Lebbat, underlining another deficiency in the government use of ICT.

Bolstering IT security is another priority of the Moroccan government, according to the survey. Of the government bodies surveyed, 47% reported having an integrated IT framework or IT plan, and an equal percentage said they have an IT security plan. Nearly 70% of the public-sector bodies surveyed reported having an IT system security officer.

Despite these technological advances, challenges face Morocco's ICT efforts. The survey showed that on average, just one workstation (desktop computer or laptop) is available for every four public-sector employees. Just half of all computers are connected to the internet, the clunky 256kbps being the most common access speed. Perhaps as a consequence of this low connectivity, only 12% of public-sector employees have a work email address.

Morocco is also working to get the bugs out of its e-governance, the survey revealed. The kingdom has 286 remote services that operate via various distribution channels such as the internet, call centres and interactive terminals, the survey found, all of which must be protected from computer and network glitches.

"The challenge currently facing authorities is to successfully adopt a form of governance for its e-gov strategy and also to encourage resource-sharing and subcontracting to make successes of the projects under way," said the general secretary of the Department of Postal Services, Telecommunications and Information Technology Tayeb Debbagh.

In the face of all these challenges, Moroccan public-sector employees are showing resourcefulness. The survey showed that more than one in three agencies uses free software, and the use of freeware jumped to 39.25% among those with a database management system (DBMS).