WoredaNet is a terrestrial and satellite-based communications network that provides Internet connectivity and allied services such as video conferencing and messaging to federal, regional, and woreda-level government entities in Ethiopia. A woreda is an administrative division in Ethiopia managed by a local government, equivalent to a district with an average population of 100,000. WoredaNet seeks to establish a multi-service Internet Protocol (IP)-based system using broadband and very-small-aperture terminal (VSAT) infrastructure for government communications and e-government service delivery to citizens. WoredaNet aspires to optimize federal and regional government administrative efficiency, effectiveness, and productivity, and provide information on e-government services to the public.
Keywords: e-government, satellite, VSAT, Ethiopia
Ethiopia’s e-government strategy was designed by the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology and approved in 2011. It envisions 219 e-services delivered to citizens, businesses, and visitors over a five-year period. Ethiopia established a justice information system, a driver and vehicle management information system, a trade registry system, and most significantly, a multilingual national portal ( www.ethiopia.gov.et) that links to most governmental ministries and agencies’ portals. This portal delivers information, provides transactional services to customers, and allows for online citizen participation.
WoredaNet is a government network that provides Internet connectivity and services such as video conferencing to federal, regional, and more than 611 woreda (a local government equivalent to a district) government offices across Ethiopia, with the goal of improving administrative efficiency and enhancing government services. The country has a sizable ethnically, geographically, and economically diverse population of 102.4 million people (2016) with more than 83 spoken languages. It contains nine autonomous, ethnically based entities, which are further divided into 700 woredas and six special woredas. WoredaNet seeks to provide services to meet great diversity and complexity that present an administrative challenge for Ethiopia.
|Population (UN, 2015)||98,942,102||Fixed broadband subscriptions (%) (ITU, 2016)||0.55|
|Population density (people per sq.km) (UN, 2015)||89.6||Mobile cellular subscriptions (%) (ITU, 2016)||50.51|
|Median household income (Gallup, 2006-2012)||N/A||Individuals using the Internet (%) (ITU, 2016)||15.40|
|Education (Mean years of schooling) (UNDP, 2013)||Male: 3.6 Female: 2.4||Individuals using the Internet by Gender (%) (ITU, 2016)||N/A|
WoredaNet is an e-government project funded by the Federal Government of Ethiopia and initiated and governed by the Ministry of Capacity Building. It is implemented by the Ethiopian ICT Development Agency that has now been consolidated into the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology. The project builds a terrestrial and satellite-based network to connect the lowest levels of government and is essentially an e-administration project that is working to improve work processes in the country’s public offices.
WoredaNet seeks to deliver IP-based services through the use of broadband terrestrial and VSAT satellite infrastructure. This forms a part of a broader ICT initiative to promote sustainable development and empower Ethiopians. The long-term objectives of the project include the provision of accurate and timely information to all levels of government, building organizational capacity at all levels of the government, providing knowledge and information to citizens, and bridging the digital divide between urban and rural communities. Video conferencing allows for virtual meetings and the broadcast of recorded sessions and programs to remote woredas, messaging services allow for the free flow of messages through a secure network, and IP telephony allows for voice over IP (VoIP) calls between federal, regional, and woreda sites. Web services provide civil servants access to restricted information, but also access to content available on the Internet on education, health, agriculture, and governance.
The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology manages WoredaNet through its national, regional, and woreda-level data centers. The National Data Center centrally manages the WoredaNet, monitors and supports the WoredaNet infrastructure, coordinates the activities of the regional and woreda data centers, and provides maintenance and training support. The WoredNet project installs diesel generators in non-electrified areas and provides mentorship and operational training for administrators in the woreda sites as well.
The VSAT central hub is at the Ethiopian Telecommunication Corporation (ETC) in Addis Ababa. The terrestrial link supports a 1 megabit per second (Mbps) upstream data rate, while the VSAT link supports 512 kilobits per second (Kbps) in order to carry outgoing video, voice, and application data simultaneously. The total downstream traffic capacity is 32 Mbps shared by all the VSATs connections.
|Technology||Satellite||Training||Some for technicians|
|Year program started||2016||Cost to users||Free|
|Geography||Urban and rural||Total cost of program||US$ 2 billion|
|User profile||Woredas Government ministries||Associated organizations||Ethiopian Telecom Corporation, Ministry of Communications and Information Technology|
Progress and Results
Video conferencing and messaging services are the most-used services offered by WoredaNet. WoredaNet’s video conferencing services for meetings, education, training, workshops, and seminars have reached 187,000 people. Videoconferencing is also used for court hearings held at the Federal Supreme Court, as well as regional and zone-level courts. More than 6,445 cases have been processed via WoredaNet videoconferenceing so far too.
WoredaNet is used to provide trainings for woreda administrators, public servants, judges, and prosecutors. Using the video conferencing service, the instructors at the center provide training for trainees in woreda centers spread across the country. This practice has significantly reduced transportation costs as a result.
The system is also used for distance education. The Ministry of Justice has used the video conferencing system to train more than 2,000 legal professionals in seven central woredas. Bahrdar University has used the system to support its undergraduate distance education program by providing tutorials to its students in seven central woredas.
The WoredaNet project has built a team of ICT experts at almost every woreda throughout the country. More than 2,000 people have been trained in advanced networking skills. These administrators manage the network and provide various maintenance services to government offices.
Lack of telecommunications infrastructure – Many areas do not have telecommunications service, electricity, or roads. The WoredaNet project required a means of sending and receiving large volumes of voice, video, and data traffic around the country, including in hyper-remote areas beyond the reach of the ETC network.
Challenging terrain – Deploying networking and video conferencing equipment at each woreda was a challenging task given the nature of Ethiopia’s terrain. A large percentage of the implementation is done in extremely remote towns.
Lack of skilled manpower – Limited knowledge, experience, and skills of ICT professionals at the woreda level posed a challenge to successful implementation. There are not adequate human resources to manage and operate the network in remote areas, and technical people qualified to train others and to use the system are in short supply. There is a lack of formal and organized digital literacy training as well.
Community resistance – The lack of awareness about ICTs among top political leaders is a key problem with knock-on effects. The leadership commitment at district level significantly affected the implementation and operation of WoredaNet services. In districts where WoredaNet is not yet functional, the management and civil servants have developed a sense of dissatisfaction that hampers future rollout and galvanization efforts.
WoredaNet’s Suggestions for Future Projects
Top-down approach has effects on take-up of e-government programs – The central government implemented WoredaNet without input from local level end users, which generated resistance among personnel and led to disregard of local applicability of the programs.
Training raises awareness – Access to technology influences the knowledge and attitude toward adoption and use of technology. Need-based and hands-on short-term trainings raised awareness among political leaders and civil servants, and stressed the importance of being competent vis-à-vis the use the technology.
Management culture affects take-up – A good management culture open to change makes a difference with regard to the adoption of technology. It helps overcome two major challenges by generating leadership commitment at the top and a sense of ownership over the system toward the bottom.
Monitoring and evaluation is useful to understand implementation impact – Mechanisms to standardize implementation across localities, regions, and offices and ongoing diagnostic metrics can maintain full functionality and troubleshoot the system when necessary.
Lessa, L. (2017, September 22) Personal Interview