“e-Government is a highway only accessible by few.”
The statement above by one of the participants in a research carried out by iHub last year holds true for most citizens in Kenya. When it comes to service provision by Government, many believe that there is a huge gap. This is compounded by a big digital divide, making accessibility to services, especially those that are through digital avenues, an option only for the few.
As part of the SIDA funded Governance Project, iHub conducted training in Nairobi for all the county and sub-county administrators. This was timely as it shed more light on inner workings of the County Government in the digital space. We used Nairobi as a case study as it serves as an ideal example of best practice around integrating information literacy into administration that other counties can emulate.
Lessons that can be borrowed from Nairobi and replicated in other Counties:
Nairobi County has a replicable model of information literacy. Information Literacy here is defined as "recognizing when information is needed and being able to efficiently locate, accurately evaluate, effectively use, and clearly communicate information in various formats." Nairobi County has excelled in this. Participants from Nairobi County repeatedly mentioned the importance of the digital space in their line of work.
“We value the digital space right now because as professionals, digital devices have made a lot of tasks easier to perform.” - Participant, Nairobi County
Below are a few lessons that we picked up from interacting with Nairobi County Administrators:
- Networking between different departments - The county has a solid networking platform set on WhatsApp, where different employees/county administrators can share notes and experiences, find solutions to pressing issues in a sort of peer assisted way.
- Bottom Up Approach - Creating an open platform to interact with citizens on the ground. Nairobi has about 30 groups on WhatsApp and Facebook for responding to citizen queries. These also form part of a system for reporting between the country administration and leaders on the ground.
- Online Barazas for public participation - The County utilizes online platforms to run barazas. These are informal meeting where all citizens are allowed to interact with county officials and share their grievances and experiences. On a normal day, it would quite difficult to mobilize citizens to attend such gatherings, and controlling crowds would also be a daunting task. Online platforms have ensured citizens of Nairobi participate in these forums from the comfort of wherever they have their mobile phones.
- Inter-ministerial coordination - Nairobi has created distinct teams online to deal with various issues as they arise. These are drawn from different ministries and government departments and they converge in the online space to discuss, agree on and coordinate various functions that cut across teams, without having to plan for tedious physical meetings. The participants report more than 80% attendance in the meetings held in the online platforms.
- Rapid Response - The participants reported that they have found the digital space very effective in responding to emergencies and security issues rapidly or in swiftly responding to repair and maintenance issues in the county. For example, a citizen can take a picture of a leaking sewage line and post it on a public platform and one of the county administrators in that platform would share the picture with the Nairobi Water and Ministries of Health and Environment teams in the inter-ministerial group, ensuring that the leaking sewage issue is attended to rapidly and prevent any health risks.
These are but a few of the lessons we documented during this process. It would be a great move for policy makers and implementing partners in the digital literacy and participation space to use these lessons and replicate them in other counties in Kenya. This way, the digital divide will keep shrinking and as more citizens will receive fast and efficient service from relevant government institutions.