Government Responsiveness in the Age of ICTs
Kenya has made tremendous strides in moving towards digital transformation1. Kenya’s 2013 government set its sights on easing service delivery and creating an efficient e-government using ICTs to “provide government e-services that are simple to use and convenient for citizens and businesses”. A digital strategy2 was mapped up to actualise this.
In this light iHub is studying the dynamics of government communication with its citizens on the ICT tools launched, more specifically the response mechanisms by exploring the use of iTax, eCitizen, MyGov, Huduma and Delivery.
With the launch of all these ICT tools there still seems to be a gap between implementation by government and use by citizens. A memorable quote from one of the participants in the Focus Group Discussions in Nakuru, “e-government is a highway only accessible by few.”
Statistics on the platforms
One stop shop that allows citizens to access all government public services, at the convenience of the citizens. Huduma was launched in November 2013 to enhance service delivery of government services. It is coordinated by the Ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs3.
eCitizen is a cross-agency platform that provide a digital payments platform, information and eServices offered by the government. eCitizen was launched in 2014, by the Ministry of Finance, but managed by the ICT Authority of Kenya(IDA).
iTax is a web-based system developed to simplify revenue collection in Kenya by allowing taxpayers to simply update their tax registration details, file tax returns online or using Microsoft Excel or Openoffice, register all tax payments and make status enquiries with real-time monitoring of their ledger/account.
MyGov is an online portal to inform citizens on Government services, initiatives, programmes and policies, the site was launched in a bid to cut government spending on advertisements. However, a weekly copy is printed by leading newspapers every Tuesday. MyGov was launched in March 2015.
Delivery is a platform launched in April 2017 to showcase the government’s achievements since 2013 and to monitor and evaluate government’s flagship projects as a fulfilment of President Uhuru’s development priority. Both Delivery and MyGov are run by the presidential delivery unit4.
- Citizens will uptake ICTs because of convenience, but the tools must meet a certain threshold
- Take citizen requests and meet their needs
- Give a listening ear and heed citizens concerns
- Have excellent customer service, that is professional, timely and consistent
- Be easy to use and access
- The ICTs should be regularly updated and have sufficient information about the tools (some websites have scanty information on the about page)
- Government lacks the technical manpower necessary to develop as well as assist citizens uptake these ICT tools
- There is a disconnect between citizens and the ICT tools because
- Systems are forced on citizens, if you don’t uptake, face the consequences!
- No educational programs available to bring people online and to understand use of these ICT tools
- Data privacy is compromised because citizens seek services from internet/cyber cafes and in the end disclose confidential information
- Government needs to take advantage of existing local technology skills to launch customized ICT tools for the Kenyan populace and to meet internal hiring needs.
- Cost of accessing these tools is high
- Data is expensive
- Acquiring devices for access e.g. smartphones and computers are high, therefore lock out a large number of citizens especially in less urbanised areas.
- Citizens are afraid to try what they are knowledgeable on
Finding specific on tools
There is great enthusiasm and uptake of e-Citizen and Huduma Centres by citizens especially due to the fact that they enhance convenience and represent a one stop shop for various government services. However, these facilities need to increase to reach those who are in rural areas who have to travel far distances to access Huduma Centres and internet cafes in the case of e-Citizen.
e-Citizen, iTax often face downtime due to crashing especially during periods when there seems to be an influx of users
- Hire staff with the right technical expertise to develop and maintain the ICTs launched
- Regular training for staff managing ICT tools, to ensure they can provide support to citizens accessing the digital services
- Effective 24/7 customer support should be available on all the digital platforms
- The ICT platforms should be scalable to handle large numbers of users at any given time without system downtime
- Subsidization of the cost to access data and devices that connect to the internet should be the Government’s mandate in this digital age
- Nationwide campaigns and education drives should be conducted to train citizens on how to use these ICT Platforms
- Platforms should take into consideration all citizens including persons living with disabilities
- Have sufficient information about these tools on the websites
1Changes organisations undergo as they apply digital technology in a strategic way to fully utilise technology tools in their work
2National ICT Master Plan 2013/14 – 2017/18 https://www.kenet.or.ke/sites/default/files/Final%20ICT%20Masterplan%20Apr%202014.pdf
3Was previously under the Ministry of Devolution and Planning
4Established in 2015, The President’s Delivery Unit is a centre of government function based in the Office The President