Innovating for Kenya

By Nekesa Were
iHub
  Published 30 Aug 2017
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On the 8th of August Kenyans across the country and across the world exercised their democratic right and responsibility to elect their political leaders. At the iHub we believe that innovation has a role to play in mitigating all the challenges we face as country and community, including delivering free, fair and credible elections. Together with our partners Ushahidi, Constitution & Reform Education Consortium (CRECO) and InfoNet, we hosted the election situation room for Uchaguzi, a citizen centred election deployment. This is the third time the iHub has hosted the Uchaguzi situation room following our engagement during the 2010 Kenya referendum and the 2013 Kenya General Election.

Now that the elections are mostly complete, aside from court petitions, our focus as country shifts to ensure that all public officers act with prudence, respect systems in place and make good use of public resources with the highest standards of transparency and accountability. The Kenyan Constitution and the institutions it enshrines recognise that sovereignty belongs to the people and that elected leaders are acting on behalf of citizens when they exercise their authority. This social contract represents and generates shared values and corresponding responsibilities that cannot be ignored.

On this Kenya’s innovation community has a crucial role to play. Recent initiatives have shown how technology can bring government services closer to the people for example the e-citizen platform and the Huduma Centers. The iHub has been involved in this drive towards innovation in government from 2012 when our members helped develop the Kenya Open Data Portal, which has over 600 government datasets published in open formats, leading to the development of numerous applications by Kenyan developers. The iHub is also conducting some studies on government responsiveness in the age of ICTs.

The iHub and several other hubs across the country like our friends at Swahili Box (Mombasa), Lake Hub (Kisumu) as well as other communities of innovators in Kenya recognise that there are many ways Kenya’s innovation community can add value. One example is using innovation to increase citizen participation in determining development priorities under the Public Finance Management Act and the County Government Act. The national government’s Intergovernmental Budget and Economic Council and its county equivalent, County Budget and Economic Forum (CBEF), are meant to be open spaces for public participation where National and County Governments ensure inclusivity in development planning, including spaces for participation of interest groups such as women and persons with disabilities. This is an area in which the deployment of appropriate technology can greatly increase the level of participation.

We invite all public officers at national and county levels to leverage on the globally recognised expertise of Kenya’s innovation community and we encourage the innovation community to reach out as well. We must all take seriously our responsibility to constructively and proactively engage in open spaces to ensure that Kenya works for all citizens at national and county levels.

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