While emails might have fallen out of favor as the primary tool for everyday social interaction, it remains the most popular platform by far for formal communication.
Yesterday, Permanent Secretaries took time to advise government officials not to use email services like Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail etc. for official work. Usually, when this topic is raised all over the world, security and transparency are the usual factors raised for the government to use private email addresses. In this case, it seems attention is given to “brand image” more than it is given to security and transparency. Brand image in the sense that, the Zimbabwean government should follow suit to the best practice of using private government email servers. Ministry of Information, Publicity & Broadcasting said;
Heads of Ministries & other senior govt officials had an induction seminar. There was a clear message from Perm Secs that it was not ideal for govt to use Gmail, Yahoo or Hotmail & their cousins for official email communication. There was a consensus that its brand-damaging
Apparently, the government has its own private email system but it says that it’s unreliable. With this in mind, it pretty obvious that the unreliability of its private email system is pushing officials to use popular public alternatives.
Generally, in some cases, government officials may rely on such alternatives in an attempt to evade scrutiny. Government officials who choose to send emails on private accounts sometimes prevent having the records automatically stored on a government server, which can make it harder for accountability. So the use of official government email would also make it easier to achieve greater transparency and anti-corruption initiatives.
But if you look at Zimbabwe, the government hardly make ministerial audits so at the end of the day, accountability and transparency might not be a priority.
What governments fear most from email services like Gmail is that servers of these email service providers are located outside hence they can’t control who and how can access their data. With no control over the content being stored or transmitted, there are some serious risks for the government to use public email addresses for official business.
Use of personal emails once put Hillary Clinton, the former US Secretary of State, in the spotlight – and not in a good way. Clinton said she used a private email address instead of government email address during her time as the Secretary of State. The issue grew to be a scandal when it was discovered that she had deleted 30,000 emails sent from that account during her four years in the office.