Nizar Ben Neji, Communications Technology Minister: Accelerating Digital Progress

At 40, Nizar Ben Neji is the youngest government minister. Until now, a lecturer-researcher and an international expert consultant who is fond of reading and research in the field of information and communication technologies (ICT), here he is at the helm. Everything turned around quickly. While enjoying his university summer vacation, his career was about to change that evening when he received a phone call from the Carthaginian Palace. The president’s services wanted to verify information about him without giving him more details.

Radio silence followed, until he was invited to the presidency: he was appointed Minister of Communications Technology, replacing Fadhel Krayem in a short time.

Today is August 2, 2021, one week after July 25, 2021…

By accepting it, President Qais Said will clearly state his mission: to take over and accelerate everything. Free of charge in his journey, he will assure him of his full confidence and all his support. Then he has to prove himself. His confirmation will not be long in coming: in just two months, Nizar Ben Neji will remain in the new government that Najla Buden will form on October 11, 2021. He is the youngest minister.

Its first big test will be the development of a digital platform for electronic national consultations, which were decided by the President of the Republic ahead of the 25 July referendum. The entire technological dimension will fall on his shoulders.

Rare plants…

The first gesture that the new minister will make will be decorating the office with flowers and landscaping. On the top floor of this modern building near Place Pasteur, the minister’s office has large corner bay windows set on a slight rise in plinths. A great lover of rare plants, of which there are more than 1000 species in his precious collection, he will bring magnificent specimens. A jack-of-all-trades, who loves to make furniture and showcases from reclaimed pieces of wood, he will install a showcase in a sunny corner, which he will decorate with plants, thus creating his own healing garden. It is also a message to his team and visitors.

Immersed in the heat, Tunisia was almost empty in early August. The holidays were in full swing. Still, Nizar Ben Neji had to get to work immediately. If he knows the ICT sector well, he should quickly take control of the ministry, which until then he had practiced only from outside and through organizations under his control. Getting started will be easy. Nizar Ben Neji will carry out the necessary diagnostics to identify the problems the sector is facing: very old legal texts, lack of core components (ElectronicID, MobileID, MPayment, etc.), technology gap, IT skill drain, resistance to change, etc. d.

The severity of the situation and the specific context in the country increase responsibility. The mission was all the more difficult to complete when it came to selecting new managers (team members) or prioritizing the actions to be taken to quickly gain the trust of the ecosystem, as well as reaffirm the trust placed in it by the hierarchy. .

Inject new blood

The first focus of Minister Ben Neji was the creation of a young, competent, dynamic and dedicated team to be appointed to the cabinet and especially to the level of companies under surveillance. Thus, for the first time in Tunisia, a public call for proposals was launched to select the CEO of Tunisie Telecom. A successful first, despite controversy and guaranteed lobbying to cancel the initiative.

He also elevated talented, experienced, and dedicated young officials to heads of important structures such as the ANF, ANSI, ATT, and key departments of the ministry, such as the headquarters of communications and information technology. These appointments have resulted in high-ranking and well-established individuals in the industry becoming heads of the CNI and INT, as well as the ministerial cabinet.

overtake

With well-formed teams, it was necessary to take on large projects.

The President of the Republic and the Head of Government are betting on the digital transformation of the services offered by and for the Tunisian administration in order to provide a quality service to citizens. The message is received. The first fruits were not long in coming.

Soon, a national e-consultation organized by the head of state to gather Tunisians’ views on upcoming major reforms, their assessments of public services and their expectations, monopolizes great efforts. The entire technological part was actually entrusted to the ministry. Then the time trial started and so many obstacles had to be overcome.

E-Istihara’s Big Technological Challenge

Success was the only option. The objective was to create an online platform for public opinion polls in various fields (politics, economics, social issues, quality of life, sustainable development, education and culture) in record time, in less than three months, and without additional budget .

At the technological level, the task was to provide the following aspects:

Participation anonymity

Protection of personal information

Uniqueness of participation with the ability to update the answer

Transparency at different stages of the project

Simplicity and accessibility

The security and stability of the platform in the face of increasing load and in the face of attack attempts by young amateurs faced by an architect and a specialist in this field.

It is difficult to take responsibility in an environment marked by numerous political, economic, social and human obstacles. Nizar Ben Neji had to walk with confident steps along a thorny path. He soon surrounded himself with a good team, competent in communication, to accompany him in this delicate and completely unprecedented project in Tunisia and the region. The performance metrics to be achieved are numerous: it was necessary to successfully complete the platform, provide good response speed, process the data and create relevant reports, as well as an overall summary, and meet the deadline.

Nizar Ben Neji, exhausted, like his associates, by a series of sleepless nights and weeks without rest, but encouraged by the results obtained, was pleased to present on the appointed day (March 20, 2022) the Republic of the minutes of the consultation. The Tunisian technical genius did a good job.

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