Taking full advantage of ICT potential will put us on road to greatness

The other day I went to collect a Visa card from my bank in downtown Nairobi. What I thought would take less than five minutes took more than an hour; never mind the lender is one of the leading banks in the region.

Yet, ironically, it is widely acknowledged that the big progress in science and technology has brought prosperity and enriched the quality of life for mankind.

In government, the Ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs’ mission is to be a “centre of excellence in public service transformation, youth and women empowerment, and gender equity and equality for a high quality of life for all Kenyans.”

Perhaps, it is because of such realisation that the Government established Huduma Kenya in 2013. Through Huduma, Kenyans access a range of self-service counters linked to government databases. With a total of 52 centres countrywide and inbuilt cyber cafés to aid in individual information processing, this concept has improved service delivery.

Importantly, it provides 68 crucial services including business registration, processing of national identity cards, driving licences and also handles issues to do with Higher Education Loans Board, Kenya Revenue Authority, National Hospital Insurance Fund, Kenyan Police, among others.

Without doubt, Huduma centres will help propel Vision 2030’s goal of achieving a people-centered, transparent and accountable public service that responds to public needs and provides public services that meet global standards and best practices. This is because centres use the operating model of Integrated Service Delivery, operating a “one-stop-shop” for government services.

Without doubt, more Huduma centres ought to be opened across the country.

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Huduma Centre greatly helped marginalised groups, especially women. This is through registration of self-help groups and CBOs, registration of companies, credit services to women entrepreneurs from Affirmative Action Funds, Women Enterprise Fund, Youth Enterprise Development Fund, Uwezo Fund, all which greatly boost empowerment.

The Ajira Digital programme, which targets young people, is yet another brilliant innovation. Since its was started a year ago, it has been trying to introduce young people to online work and provide them with the tools, training and the mentorship needed for them to work anywhere and at any time provided they have a smartphone or other digital devices and an internet connection. They are able to earn an income and improve livelihoods.

With sufficient evidence that well-designed e-governance projects with process reforms that target enhanced effectiveness, reduce the discretion of civil servants, and lower corruption, we can still do more.

We all know that ICT can be used in diverse applications to accelerate information dissemination, improve efficiency of public services, help increase the transparency and accountability of government, reduce corruption and facilitate citizen participation in local governance. Personal mobile phones are an important source of information for citizens and can help them ensure they are getting the services they deserve. Residents can even submit proposals via mobiles, web and face-to-face exchanges to policy makers.

With the information which government already has, smart cards that hold individual data, for example, will enable government officers to know immediately a service is delivered or required by an individual. This will make it possible, for example, for a local public health official to monitor service delivery, evaluate beneficiary experience, identify service delivery gaps and respond promptly to concerns such as supply shortages, lack of community involvement and needs for further training.

Since Kenyans have a constitutional right to information, ICT platforms can share information on development expenditures so that communities can demand allocation for projects they most want. Similarly, information on performance of government agencies shared with citizens can promote community audit of projects.

The Ministry Public Service in conjunction with other agencies, could use ICT platforms to enhance rural incomes by providing information on economic opportunities, knowledge of best practices, current prices of agriculture commodities through websites, call centres, and mobile phones. A multilingual government call centre situated strategically can provide citizens with fast and easy access to government services thereby improving livelihoods. In short, use of ICTs in the management of delivery of public services in health, education, and all others can be strategic.

Still, many more innovative ways are required to improve public service delivery in Kenya by reducing inefficiencies and corruption, among others.

Prof Mogambi, a communication and social change expert, teaches at University of Nairobi: [email protected]

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