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IREX Moves Iraq’s E-governance Agenda Forward

In Iraq’s transitioning landscape, developing a solid foundation for governance is vital to the stability and success of Iraqi society. Government representatives now have the opportunity to build productive relationships with all members of society, to ensure that the emerging government can respond to the needs of its citizens. IREX is bringing together government and civil society stakeholders to provide a unique opportunity to take advantage of this prospect for fostering good governance, through its Building Bridges through Technology program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.

On March 31, IREX hosted Iraqi government, NGO, and private-sector representatives in Erbil, Baghdad, and Basra for an event focused on integrating information and communication technology (ICT) into governance. Through presentations and strategy and learning sessions, the diverse group of participants discussed current and future ICT initiatives in Iraq and how they can and are being applied to strengthen governance. This e-governance conference not only served as a forum to discuss the role of ICT in Iraq’s continuing development, but also provided an opportunity for key actors in Iraqi society to strengthen their bonds for cooperation and promotion of mutual goals.

Participants delivered presentations on their respective ICT-focused governance projects. The Kurdish Regional Government Department for Information Technology in Erbil presented on their work incorporating ICT into government activities and enhancing the role of ICT in their future vision of the Northern Region. In Basra a representative from the Public Health Directorate presented on their new electronic health card initiative, which will improve the efficiency of Basra’s health data collection and operations. These activities demonstrate not only the positive effect of ICT on healthcare and government operations and the corresponding benefit to citizens, but also the potential for such initiatives to be implemented through all sectors of Iraqi government and society.

The conference in all three locations also featured roundtable discussions to promote information-sharing as well as to encourage deeper dialogue about e-governance, collaborative governance, and the cultural barriers to implementing e-governance initiatives. Furthermore, participants developed recommendations for enhancing the use of ICT among institutions across sectors while engaging the public. Participants emphasized the need for media outlets to play a major role in increasing public awareness on technology programs and e-governance initiatives, the need to review the current regulations that limit the use of ICT skills in the education system, and the need for greater cooperation among government, public, and private-sector institutions to exchange training methods in the usage of modern technologies.

IREX’s Building Bridges through Technology (BBTT) Program has begun to follow up on the above and other recommendations from the conferences. The BBTT program has operated in Bagdad, Basra, and Erbil since 2008 and focuses on strengthening the technical computer skills of government and civil-society actors for improved internal organizational systems, as well as implementing technology-based strategies for outreach and communication. BBTT also blends these skills with consensus-oriented approaches to planning, problem solving, and policymaking and provides opportunities for select groups of participants to implement projects that strengthen government-community linkages and improve provision of social services in communities.