Humphrey Fellow from Afghanistan Explores Government Digital Services Delivery at Mason

Written by Christina Batcheler on May 30, 2018

Humphrey Fellow, Ibrahim Shahristani, is visiting George Mason University for six weeks and working with Professor J.P. Auffret in researching the application of best practices of digital service delivery for Afghanistan. Shahirstani’s visit follows his two semesters at Syracuse University as part of the Humphrey Fellowship Program, which is affiliated with the Fulbright Program through the U.S. State Department.

In Afghanistan, Shahristani was most recently the chief of information officer at the Ministry of Commerce and Industries. His responsibilities entailed aligning policy to support legal structure, implementing IT resources effectively, and introducing innovation in public services. In addition, he has worked as project manager with USAID facilitating competency-based, short-term modular training in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector for mid-career/semi-professional employees of private sector entities, and also mid-career/semi-professional job seekers.

“One of the big problems in my country is the lack of good leadership in area of collaborative governance. When I return to my country, I plan to use my leadership, technical and policy skills to facilitate collaborative governance in order to provide citizen centric services to close the gap between government and citizens,” said Shahristani. “The multidisciplinary approach of the CARE research center in the Volgenau School of Engineering and the School of Business at George Mason University will help me to combine technology, policy, and leadership in the future ICT projects in my country,” he added.

During his time at Mason, Shahristani’s focus is on working on a research paper with Auffret regarding delivery of digital services for the Afghanistan government. Shahristani will work on developing recommendations for addressing some of the challenges of providing digital services in Afghanistan including the potential and risks of public private partnerships. The project will also consider the governance, institutional, and policy considerations for the development of an Afghanistan digital identity system.

The Humphrey Fellowship provides 10 months of study and professional affiliations for mid-career scholars and professionals from developing countries. Fellows are selected based on potential for leadership and dedication to public service, and alumni have made contributions in their home countries ranging from serving as government ministers to starting schools and leading trans-formative policy initiatives. The 2017-2018 Humphrey Fellowship Program consists of 150 Fellows from 97 countries.

“The Humphrey Fellows are very accomplished and have great impact in their countries before and after their Fellowship year. We host Humphrey Scholars with an interest in the furthering the application of ICT to national development. During their stay, we arrange visits and calls with U.S. and international government, private sector, and academic experts on leadership and governance of ICT providing multiple perspectives across a range of contexts.” said Auffret, director, Research Partnerships, School of Business and associate director, Center for Assurance Research and Engineering (CARE), Volgenau School of Engineering.

“During my stay as a Humphrey fellow in the U.S., I have experienced friendship and professional networking with U.S. scholars and faculty and this experience helped me to use the Hubert H. Humphrey quote, the greatest gift of life is friendship, and I have received it,” said Shahristani.

Shahristani is the sixth Humphrey Scholar Fellow to visit Auffret. Previous Humphrey Scholars that Auffret has hosted were from PakistanLebanonNigeria, Russia, and Namibia.