Ministry cannot force State agencies to update websites

The Ministry of Communication Information and Technology (MCIT) does not have powers to force State agencies to update their websites or create one if they do not have a web presence.

That is the view of the Minister of Communication Information and Technology, Afamasaga Rico Tupai, in an interview with the Samoa Observer.

He said the Ministry can only monitor and provide advice through the Cabinet and give updates on the Government-owned website to Samoa's Digital Transformation Council.

Issues relating to non-updated websites or the absence of an online presence should be tackled by the IT officers of the respective Government ministries, he added.

Afamasaga said the lack of proactiveness by Government-recruited IT officer to ensure their websites are updated or brought back online is the reason behind the push to establish the Digital Transformation Authority.

“The bigger problem is Ministry of Communication Information and Technology cannot direct those ministries to fix their websites,” he said. 

 “That is why the Government is keen in the Digital Transformation Authority to set standards for Government in terms of website to ensure all government works are standardized," he said.

Currently, the Government is working on setting up Digital I.D. – the core of digital transformation services of Government – which the Minister said should be enabled in order to set the benchmarks. 

“Digital I.D. is the enabler of digital services of government and the intention is to set high standard for government work, save government budget and make life easier for our citizens.”

Asked to elaborate on the initiative, Afamasaga said if anyone needed information from a Government ministry, they can access that information at home through a computer instead of making their way to town. 

“An example is if someone wants to setup a business, they will not have to come to town to get forms from M.C.I.L. they can just go to the center out in the village, and access those information and access forms from there."

Currently the Ministry is working on setting the standards and securing Government information, which Afamasaga said will be pushed through and will ensure all State-owned websites are used. 

"So you can imagine a lot of unnecessary photocopying and our people coming from rural areas to uplift forms and information.”

A Cabinet Directive dated August 15, 2018 has stated that Cabinet has ordered Government ministries and corporations to create their own websites and update their current ones. It also instructed each government ministries to buy Secure Socket Layer (S.S.L.) 

S.S.L. is a universally accepted security protocol used by web browsers and servers to protect data passed back and forth on a website. 

Last October the Ministry of Prime Minister and Cabinet CEO, Agafili Shem Leo, also wrote to Government ministries to follow-up on their website update program. 

In a letter dated October 11, 2018 which was addressed to most Government corporations and copied to the Prime Minister, Agafili raised concerns that some websites were outdated. 

“You are reminded and encouraged to be proactive in keeping your website content current – use these information tools effectively and ensure they remain accessible to the world.

“Some websites are still not secured. By FK(18)27, you are mandated not only to have a website and to keep it updated but also to have a valid S.S.L. certificate applied. 

“Some websites are down or have been under maintenance in the four weeks your ministry/corporation was given to take relevant action. Please work to resolve this now," he said. 

 A monitoring matrix for all Government websites showed that about four Government entities did not have websites and about seven others were not regularly updated. 

Asked about the progress of updating and creating Government websites since the Cabinet directive, Afamsaga said there has been progress.

“There is a significant improvement from Government ministries on their websites.

“The problem is capacity within Government ministries and also its a bigger problem of enabling the digital service of government so we can actually fully utilise websites. 

“So far the websites can only be doing awareness and circulating information but to fully utilise it for services we have to activate the digital services for government and we have to support our partners to do that," he added.

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