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ASSESSMENT ON THE IMPACT OF DIGITIZATION ON ACCOUNTABILITY MECHANISMS IN THE PUBLIC SECTOR OF CAMEROON

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ASSESSMENT ON THE IMPACT OF DIGITIZATION ON ACCOUNTABILITY MECHANISMS IN THE PUBLIC SECTOR OF CAMEROON

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

Background of the Study

The spread of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in recent years has raised new questions about how to better organize government and engage more deeply with citizens. ICTs offer new opportunities to strengthen transparency by facilitating sharing and access to information (Bertot et al., 2020). Many governments around the world therefore regard digitization processes as a priority. Unfortunately, public authorities in most developing countries are often hampered by limited resources that restrict their capacity to conduct successful digitization projects (Amagoh, 2015). Recent discussions on government efficacy and public service delivery acknowledge the advantages of using ICTs in public entities (Kayisire and Wei, 2016).. Digitizing public services goes beyond technology development and has potential effects on the transparency, accountability, and efficiency of public sector organizations. Is is the  transition towards digital transformation in public administration  which is expected to significantly reshape the institutional landscape of local services. 

Literarily, Jimoh (2019) defines Information and Communication Technology (ICT) as the manipulation and processing of information (such as texts, images, and graphs) using electronic and communication devices like computers, cameras, and telephones. Offodu (2021) also characterizes ICT as electronic or computerized tools, supplemented by human interaction, utilized for a wide range of educational, personal, and interactive purposes. Additionally, Olorunsola and Ekong (2021) highlight the significance of computers in facilitating electronic mail exchange, transferring public domain software, and conducting conferences with multiple users. Similarly, Bhuiyan (2011) notes that the computerization of infrastructure within public organizations in developing countries has been progressing to replace manual work processes with ICT-based automation.

In Cameroon, public institutions are either adapting to or are affected by this wind of digitalisation in terms of communication. These upheavals result in a deployment of new methods, an alignment of the desired goals and the digital tools used by public sector to strengthen accountability, create new service frameworks and new rational forms, while putting transparency requirements on the agenda. According to Franche(2021) One significant aspect of accountability mechanisms in Cameroon is the legal framework. The country has laws and regulations in place that define the roles, responsibilities, and standards expected of public officials. For instance, the Constitution of Cameroon outlines the principles of public administration, including accountability to citizens. Additionally, laws such as the Public Procurement Code and the Anti-Corruption Law provide specific guidelines for public sector activities and measures to combat corruption. Utamee (2020) maintained that Cameroon has institutions responsible for overseeing different aspects of public administration, such as the National Anti-Corruption Commission (CONAC) and the Supreme State Audit Office (Cour des Comptes). These institutions are tasked with monitoring public expenditure, investigating allegations of corruption, and promoting transparency in government operations. 

Sindeu, (2013). averred with the strategic plan for a digital Cameroon by 2020, the National Development Strategy (NDS30) was adopted in 2020 as a guiding framework for public action, emphasizing the digitalization of administrations at both national and local levels to achieve development goals and position Cameroon as an emerging economy by 2035. The strategic plan for digitalizing Cameroon by 2020 underscores the integration of e-governance with service delivery, particularly emphasizing government-to-citizen (G2C) strategies aimed at promoting a digital culture through widespread ICT usage in society. The underlying idea is that the digital revolution will only yield significant benefits if ICT becomes ingrained in the fabric of society. Therefore, the emergence of the digital economy in Cameroon necessitates the widespread adoption of ICTs by i government entities with the objective of enhancing citizens' quality of life through improved utilization of digital technology in accountability mechanism.

 Umodani (2023) in their study maintained that Digitization has the potential to revolutionize accountability mechanisms in the public sector of Cameroon, providing avenues for increased transparency, efficiency, and citizen participation (World Bank, 2020). Through the adoption of digital tools such as electronic financial management systems, open data platforms, and citizen engagement portals, the Cameroonian government can enhance accountability by facilitating real-time access to information and fostering direct interaction between citizens and government entities (OECD, 2019). For example, digitizing financial management processes enables the transparent tracking of public expenditures, reducing opportunities for corruption and financial mismanagement (African Development Bank, 2017). Similarly, open data platforms allow for the publication of government data in accessible formats, empowering citizens to monitor government activities, hold officials accountable, and contribute to decision-making processes (UNDP, 2019).

Statement of Problem

In recent years, digitization has emerged as a transformative force in bolstering accountability mechanisms within the public sector globally, offering unprecedented opportunities for transparency, efficiency, and citizen engagement (Janssen & Estevez, 2013). Through the adoption of digital technologies such as electronic financial management systems, open data platforms, and citizen engagement portals, governments can significantly enhance accountability by providing real-time access to information and enabling direct interaction between citizens and government entities (OECD, 2019). Moreover, Gigler et al. (2014) have observed that ICT tools have been used to shift the ways in which accountability and transparency are incorporated into public service delivery. It is widely believed that access to and appropriate usage of ICTs can transform the lives of people and communities. 

However, Unwin and Unwin (2009) have commented that those implementing technical solutions in public instituions  need to ensure that they are context-specific and adapted to the needs expressed by local communities. In a study by Durusem (2021) , several challenges hinder the effective implementation and impact of digitization initiatives. One primary concern is the lack of adequate infrastructure and technological readiness in Cameroon, couple with limited access to reliable internet connectivity and technological tools in rural areas, this can impede the widespread adoption of digital platforms for public accountability purposes. Foudenyen (2023) maintained that without sufficient infrastructure, citizens may struggle to access digital information and participate in online engagement processes, thereby limiting the effectiveness of digitization efforts in promoting accountability and public sector transparency.  Similalrly, Chen & Su, (2020) argued that as government agencies and citizens increasingly rely on digital platforms to exchange sensitive information and engage in online transactions, they become vulnerable to cyberattacks, data breaches, and identity theft. Weak cybersecurity measures and inadequate data protection regulations may undermine trust in digital systems and deter citizens from using them to hold government officials accountable.

While some studies have examined digitization efforts in developing countries and at the national or macro level, there is limited research focusing on the impact of digitization on accountability mechanisms in the public sector of Cameroon. Against this backdrop, the study is onducted.

Objectives of the Study

The objectives of the study is focused on the impact of digitization on accountability mechanisms in the public sector of Cameroon. Specifically, the seeks to:

Assess the level of  adoption and utilization of digital tools for accountability purposes in Ministry of Civil Service and Administrative Reform

Examine the impact digital tools on governance structures and practice  in Ministry of Civil Service and Administrative Reform

Investigate factors influencing the effectiveness and accessibility of digital accountability mechanisms in Cameroon.

Research Questions

What is the level of adoption and utilization of digital tools for accountability purposes in Ministry of Civil Service and Administrative Reform?

What is the impact digital tools on governance structures and practices in Ministry of Civil Service and Administrative Reform?

What are the factors influencing the effectiveness and accessibility of digital accountability mechanisms in Cameroon?

Research Hypotheses 

Ho: There is no significant impact of digitization on accountability mechanisms in the public sector of Cameroon.

Ha: There is a significant impact of digitization on accountability mechanisms in the public sector of Cameroon.

Significance of the Study

The practical significance of this study lies in its potential to inform the design and implementation of more effective digitization strategies for enhancing accountability mechanisms within the public sector of Cameroon. By assessing the current state of digitization initiatives and identifying key barriers and facilitators, this research can provide actionable insights for policymakers, government officials, and development practitioners seeking to leverage digital tools to improve governance and transparency.

Theoretically, the study will contribute to the body of knowledge advancing our understanding of the complex dynamics shaping accountability relationships in the context of digitization and governance. By examining the synergies and tensions between digitization and traditional accountability mechanisms, this research can contribute to theoretical debates on the implications of technological change for governance structures and practices. The study will also serve as a reference material for scholars and student who wishes to conduct further studies in related field

Scope of the Study

The scope of the study borders on the impact of digitization on accountability mechanisms in the public sector of Cameroon. In content, the study will assess the level of adoption and utilization of digital tools for accountability purposes in Ministry of Civil Service and Administrative Reform, examine the impact digital tools on governance structures and practice  in Ministry of Civil Service and Administrative Reform and investigate factors influencing the effectiveness and accessibility of digital accountability mechanisms in Cameroon. The geographical scope of the study borders on public institution in Cameroon with reference to in Ministry of Civil Service and Administrative Reform. 

Limitations of the Study

Like every academic endeavor is encumbered by weakness, the study’s limitations is centered around the scope, sample data collection and reliance on survey design.  The potential for sample bias due to the focus on a public institution in Cameroon with reference to in Ministry of Civil Service and Administrative Reform. . While this localized approach allows for in-depth exploration within a particular context, it will limit the generalizability of the findings to broader populations. Additionally, the reliance on self-reported data could introduce response biases or measurement errors, affecting the validity and reliability of the study's results. Furthermore, given the dynamic nature of technology and governance, there is a risk that the findings of this study will become outdated relatively quickly. Lastly, logistical constraints such as access to resources, time limitations, and administrative barriers of primary schools may pose challenges to data collection and analysis, potentially impacting the comprehensiveness and depth of the study's findings.

Definitions of Key terms

Digitization: Digitization refers to the process of converting analog records, documents, or processes within the public sector of Cameroon into digital format, such as electronic databases, online platforms, or digital archives, facilitating the storage, processing, and dissemination of information electronically.

Accountability Mechanisms: Accountability mechanisms are operationalized as the formal or informal systems, procedures, or practices established within the public sector of Cameroon to ensure transparency, oversight, and responsibility in decision-making processes, resource allocation, and service delivery. This includes mechanisms such as audits, reporting requirements, oversight bodies, and public participation channels.

Public Sector: The public sector  is defined operationally as government agencies, ministries, local government authorities, and public institutions responsible for delivering public services, implementing government policies, and managing public resources, funded through government revenues or taxes.

Transparency: Transparency is defined as the degree to which information related to government activities, decisions, and expenditures is easily accessible, understandable, and openly available to citizens and stakeholders in Cameroon, facilitating public scrutiny and accountability.

Efficiency: Efficiency refers to the operational effectiveness and productivity of public sector activities and processes in Cameroon, measured in terms of the optimal use of resources, timeliness of service delivery, and achievement of desired outcomes or objectives.


This material content is developed to serve as a GUIDE for students to conduct academic research



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