System outage locks users out of eCitizen

Kenya’s online portal eCitizen has gone offline, denying millions of users access to crucial public services.

As at the time of going to press yesterday, the platform that allows Kenyans access to crucial services such as business registration, driving license renewal and land rate payments, was still unavailable.

The Transport Information Management System (TIMS) run by the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) has also been down since Friday last week, making it impossible for users to obtain or renew their drivers’ license or register their vehicles. 

Users received blank pages or error messages on attempts to access both platforms. “Unfortunately, eCitizen is down for unscheduled maintenance right now,” read an error message from the website last evening.

"We expect to be up soon, we apologise for any inconvenience caused.” The NTSA social media pages were yesterday inundated by complaints from the public who could not access the service or experienced a malfunction in the system.

"I applied for my driving licence from my TIMS account for Class B after paying my permanent driving licence came out with wrong information, instead of class B, I got A1 moped,” one of the users identified as Anita said.

Some of the complaints arising from lack of access and connectivity challenges at both TIMS and eCitizen date back more than two weeks ago. ICT Authority Chief Executive Katherine Getao in a statement said e-citizen is not hosted by the agency.

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“The e-citizen has not hosted the authority. We have and continue to experience e-mail outages caused by our hosting facility. The provider is addressing the issue," she said.

However, calls and text messages to NTSA went unanswered. NTSA yesterday acknowledged a hitch in the payment system but failed to respond to queries about the lack of access and technical hitches users raised.

"Our M-Pesa payment system is undergoing maintenance and is affecting our services,” said the authority in a tweet. “Apologies for the inconvenience caused. We are working to restore the services.”

eCitizen is Kenya’s flagship project to digitise government payments. It was hailed as a success in minimising the long queues experienced by users in the past in their attempts to access these services.

A report by consultancy McKinsey global institute estimated that the government had made compliance cost savings of approximately $290 million (Sh30 billion) through digitisation of services over a period of four years.

“Following the migration of their services to Kenya’s e-Government platform, eCitizen, NTSA doubled its revenue collection between July 2015 and October 2016 - from an average of Sh110 million to Sh200 million per month,” said McKinsey.

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eCitizenNTSANational Transport and Safety Authority