previous post on this blog focused on how entrepreneurs in developing countries are able to use their mobile device to register their new business using eRegistrations. A document prepared by the UN Conference on Trade Development (UNCTAD) explains that "eRegistrations is an eGovernment system, designed to computerize simple or complex administrative procedures. It can be easily adapted and configured to any administrative process and may apply to procedures such as company registration, construction permits, foreign trade procedures or the transfer of a property title."
Developed by UNCTAD's Division on Investment and Enterprise in Geneva, Switzerland, the document notes that "eRegistrations is suited both to operations involving only one administration (such as registering at the business registry) and to simultaneous operations at multiple administrations (such as registering a company at the tax office, with the municipal council, with social security, at the labor department and at the business registry). It acts as a single electronic window." Importantly, the system "can be installed at the municipal, national or supra-national levels."
For government agencies utilizing eRegistrations, minimum technical infrastructure is required: "Administrations willing to offer their services through the system are not required to have computerized processes. The only requirement is to have computers and an internet connection."
Moreover, "A law on electronic signatures is not mandatory either. eRegistrations was conceived to make use of electronic signatures in countries where it is regulated. In others, the system proposes a secured technique to certify digital documents issued by the administrations."
With respect to database and application hosting, the document says that the "local counterpart has a choice between hosting the database and the application on a local server or on a distant cloud server. Cloud servers are latest generation and high-speed, with expandable storage space, automatic back-up, secured (https), large band-width internet connection and 24 hour service. Similar specifications are recommended for local servers."
And regarding maintenance of the platform, "eRegistrations comes with a 'bug-free' warranty, any bug in the original version is repaired within 48 working hours."
The document points out that "Source codes, in java script language, as well as the MongoDB database are made freely available to the municipal, national or supra-national entity that administers the project. A complete technical documentation is also provided, so that local computer experts can easily make changes to the system, e.g. modify the forms or the list of requirements, or incorporate new administrative procedures."
A separate publication entitled "How UNCTAD's e-government platform helps countries stay open for business during COVID-19," points out how "global pandemic countries are using UNCTAD's e-government platform to continue providing essential services and new COVID-19 fiscal rescue measures to businesses though online single windows while offices are closed."
Lastly, an article published on Dec. 7th, 2020 explains how "Over 25,000 small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Cameroon have joined the formal sector by registering their operations through UNCTAD's eRegistrations online platform launched in the country in 2016.
"The platform has allowed residents of Douala, Yaoundé, Garoua and surrounding regions to conveniently register businesses and create jobs even amid the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Funded by the European Union, the platform is marketed by the national SME promotion agency (APME) as mybusiness.cm, via its network of business creation centers (CFCEs)."
The article further says "Cameroonian SMEs mostly operate in the informal sector, limiting interactions with public authorities. By formalizing their operations, the SMEs and their employees may have access to loans, insurance and legal protection, and contribute taxes and social security."
Importantly, "The use of the platform has also led to the standardization of operations in the CFCEs. The automation of business registration online means the process can be finalized within 72 hours."
As I wrote in my post, "Role of the Private Sector in Stabilization: Providing Sustainable Employment in Afghanistan", a thriving private sector is crucial in nation stabilization and sustainable development. In my private sector development work in countries like Afghanistan, Peru or Uganda, I have witnessed the challenges local citizens encounter when registering a new business. Access to capital is often a barrier for citizens to launch their own business, but it is not the only one. Cumbersome processes to registering a new business such obtaining the necessary documents from the government office, which may be located a long distance away, prevent would-be entrepreneurs from starting the process to increase the standard of living for themselves, better provide for their family, and potentially create jobs those living in the surrounding community. Online platforms like UNCTAD's eRegistrations will play a crucial role for a country to build a thriving formal private sector.
What do you see are the benefits and challenges of a country deploying the eRegistrations platform? What other services should a country utilize to build its formal private sector?