“E-government is a super highway only accessed by a few”
~ Focus Group Discussion participant from Nakuru
Having completed a successful round of focus group discussions in Nairobi, Nakuru, Kisumu and Mombasa we were honoured to host Chiefs from Nairobi and neighbouring counties on 29th August for a training on how to effectively use ICT tools to enhance citizen engagement, right here at the iHub.This was an opportunity to co-create with a subset of government officials on ways in which they can use existing technology to bridge the gap between government and citizens.
In attendance was Chief Kariuki well known around the country as the ‘Tweeting Chief’ who was instrumental in illustrating how he uses social media (especially Twitter) to enhance community policing, neighbourhood watch and crime reporting. Previously, Chief Kariuki would use text messaging but his desire to reach a wider target and foster consistent communication with the people in his location propelled him to discover Twitter.
It was evident as we progressed with the training that there exists severe superstitions towards ‘the Internet’ that severely hinder the effective adoption of ICTs in Kenya even amongst government officials. How then will government officials be the champions of a ‘digital government’ if even they cannot appreciate and understand the navigation of ICTs?
The challenges of getting online are the same for citizens as they are for government officials: cost of data and devices, technology know how, lack of awareness of some of these government ICT portals and a general fear of the idea that the Internet is an invincible behemoth. The biggest opportunity I see here is periodic educational programs spanning the entire country - including often ignored remote locations - which can focus on equipping citizens as well as government officials with the know how and tools to access government services online.
Several Chiefs in the room revealed that they visited cyber cafes to access sites such as e-Citizen and iTax. When I asked them if they had privacy concerns because of the confidential data they revealed to the cyber cafe attendants, who help them navigate these platforms, I was surprised by their response. The Chiefs felt that they had no choice but to trade their personal data to access services like iTax, especially because it’s a requirement by law.
They felt that their hands were tied and prioritising privacy was a luxury they couldn’t afford.
We have an important responsibility as a country to provide our citizenry the dignity, safety and education necessary to fully adopt the concept of a digital government. This is not something that the Government of Kenya can selectively implement if it is to successfully spearhead a new era of much needed democracy in the country through ICTs. It's paramount that government officials be tasked with the responsibility of being ambassadors of this ‘digital government’ if we are to convince our citizenry to adopt ICTs.
As we prepare to wrap up the 2nd phase of our project dubbed, ‘Government Responsiveness in the Age of ICTs’ we have learned some crucial lessons that we welcome you to hear and contribute to the discussion.
We invite you to our monthly NRBuzz discussion where in this edition you can learn the findings from our research, recommendations and contribute to the discussion on adoption of ICTs to enhance citizen engagement!
Event: NRBuzz - Government Responsiveness in the Age of ICTs
Date: Thursday 7th September
Venue: iHub 6th Floor Senteu Plaza
Time: 6pm - 8pm