“GWAN will never work!” – Chaponda

During a hearing at the Parliamentary Joint Committee hearing last Wednesday, minister of Agriculture George Chaponda made an interesting point on the Government Wide Area Network (GWAN).

It had transpired earlier in the hearing that Mr Chaponda had used his private email address to transact government business. When pressed as to why he had done so, Mr Chaponda said that when he assumed his position early last year he found an office without a computer. Apparently the office had been broken into, a computer had been stolen and it took ‘a few weeks, maybe months to replace’ according to him. Mr Chaponda then went on take issue with the GWAN, a computer network that covers government offices on Capital Hill. “GWAN is so slow!” he said. “That government computer system will never work!” was his damning assessment.

The installation of GWAN was completed in December 2001 and then linked 13 government ministries including the ministry of agriculture. I started hearing about the network being slow as far back as 2006 and over the years it has been a known issue. The large number of civil servants who transact government business using private email addresses is testimony that the GWAN is practically useless, for lack of a better word.

Now, if over the years we have failed to get the main network at the seat of government to operate effectively, how do we expect our government (and the government IT department) to drive new innovations that improve service delivery? And when the top most cabinet minister makes such an assessment that the network will never work, is there any hope?