Kicking off transformation in Madagascar


Screenshot of the first post on the new blog for public service transformation in Madagascar 
Screenshot of the first post on the new blog for public service transformation in Madagascar

(Read this post in French / Lire cet article en francais.)

This week, the Government of Madagascar outlined a bold mission: to use digital to make public services faster, more efficient, and more accessible [link in French]. To help accelerate that mission, they are hiring the country’s first Director of Public Service Transformation – the  equivalent of a Chief Digital Officer (applications due 18 September!).

Even better, this was announced on a new blog dedicated to public service transformation and digital government – signalling a commitment to working in the open.

Over the last few months we’ve been working with Malagasy government – in partnership with Caribou Digital – and with the support of the World Bank. We’ve been privileged to work with visionary leaders and dedicated civil servants. Over the course of many workshops, and dozens of meetings and interviews inside and outside the public sector, we’ve helped craft an approach, a mission, and a roadmap that makes the most of Madagascar’s strengths while addressing its priorities.

A workshop with civil servants across government
A workshop with civil servants across government, with Kishor from Caribou Digital (far left) with Emily and Ben from Public Digital (centre)
Group photo with Kishor from Caribou Digital, Valery Ramonjavelo (Secretary-General of the Presidency), Emily and Ben (Public Digital), Balsama Andriantseheno (Coordinator-General)
From L-R: Kishor (Caribou Digital), Valery Ramonjavelo (Secretary-General of the Presidency), Emily and Ben (Public Digital), Balsama Andriantseheno (Coordinator-General)

Stark challenges – but growing opportunities

The first post on the new blog opens with:

“We believe that digital transformation will help us meet the huge challenges that the country faces.”

Indeed, the challenges Madagascar faces are stark: in a country of 25.5 million people, around 19 million live on less than $1.90 a day. Around one third of adults are illiterate, and educational outcomes are low. Infrastructure is an enormous challenge: only 13% have access to electricity, for example.

Visiting a commune just outside the capital city
Visiting a commune just outside the capital city

Yet Madagascar also has enormous potential. There is a large pool of software developer talent, evidenced by a burgeoning tech industry of more than 230 firms employing around 15,000 people. Broadband speeds in Madagascar are the fastest in Africa, and ahead of many other countries – including the UK and France. There are 9.7 million mobile subscriptions, and the number of internet users grew by 37% between 2018 and 2019. Madagascar’s youthful population – more than 40% are aged 14 or under – also leads many to speculate that these trends are likely to continue.

Improving public services through better service design, not just technology

As outlined in the President’s programme, transformation of public services is a major priority for the government.

Digital technology will not address Madagascar’s challenges alone. But we think there’s an opportunity to use agile, user-centred approaches to improve the way existing public services are delivered – even where those services are mostly or wholly offline for the moment. Simplifying processes and improving design brings its own benefits, as well as preparing for future digitisation.

This is PD’s first international development project

Our work in Madagascar (which so far has meant two trips to the capital, Antananarivo) is an important step for Public Digital. It’s our first formal international development project, and a valuable opportunity for us to learn from affiliates, partners at Caribou Digital, and colleagues working for the Malagasy government. On every trip, they have been welcoming and gracious hosts.

We’re very excited to see our friends there take these first bold steps.

We shall be travelling to Antananarivo again in the next few weeks, hoping to spend some time with the new CDO. Look out for some more posts and announcements from the team on their new blog.

This is our first official international development project, but we’ve spent a lot of time over the last 6 months having conversations with contacts in the sector, and with other governments. If you’re interested in talking to us about partnerships, work opportunities, or if you’d just like to know more, please get in touch.

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