Tuesday, February 10, 2009

How Can We Bridge The Digital Divide In Kenya?

To bridge this divide we have to make the government agencies and their customers-other government agencies, businesses, and individuals-get IT comfortable
E-governance is the latest buzz word. There is a lot of excitement about it in the industry because of the Ksh. billions that is planned to be spent in this area. And with a mention in the latest finance budget, no one is left in any doubt of its importance to the country.
There are many ways to define e-Governance. All of them go beyond 'computerizing the government'-a term that is used often, but means little. A more general definition is-it is a way of empowering citizens by bringing in transparency in the system and reducing corruption. To me it means using information technology to provide better services to customers by the government sector organizations. I like this description because it puts the focus right where it should be-customers and services.

There is a lot of talk about the urban and rural digital divide. There is also another divide that is constantly widening. The corporate vs. non corporate one. In many areas such as private banks and telecom, we are seeing increased levels of customer service courtesy use of information technology. In many others such as property, judiciary, and other aspects of governance we see very little use of technology to make the citizen's life better. And this is the Digital Divide.
G2C or citizen-centric e-Governance projects will be successful only when the masses start using them. This needs first the applications-with in built process changes to make things more efficient-and then they need access points for citizens. Bring down the cost of a computer to less than Ksh 10,000 and see its numbers rise as quickly as those of mobile subscribers. The Internet came to Kenya before the mobile phones. Then what has made mobile services beat Internet services in subscription numbers hands down? In January 2008, the subscriber base touched approximately 20 mn connections. It became a mass phenomenon in 3-4 years when the handsets became cheap and readily available, call rates crashed and because mobile phones were easy to use and had a high utility. Nobody had to push mobiles. They just happened because the conditions fell in place. Can these conditions be duplicated for computers?
Computerizing the government departments and making the incumbents use even e-mail is no mean task.
The G2B story is not a happy one either. By and large government processes with respect to industry are not computerized. Information about laws, rules and regulations, clearances are available on websites, which are often dated. Online applications and clearances are a rarity. And of course the processes are from the previous century. It is appreciated that making these things happen in the government sector is a complex job. But there is little evidence of a strong move towards making these applications happen.
Ultimately if the governance has to become better the government has to become more efficient. G2G makes its own contribution to the great Kenyan digital divide. Computerizing the government departments and making the incumbents use even e-mail is no mean task. But even basic steps like these can improve decision making and therefore the quality of service to the citizens.
E-Governance will happen when we get the above examples and much more going. That needs a massive overhaul of much of the government working. This can happen if there is a push from the top and a pull generated from the bottom. Ministers and secretaries have to insist on using computes themselves. And then they have to provide the computes, the communication infrastructure and the training to their departments.
We have come a long way from the time that the need for such initiatives was questioned. But we have also taken a long time over it. It would be a tragedy if the act-time is as long as the talk- time.


1 comment:

  1. Вот тебе очень даже крутой сайт с гемблингом по типу красное-черное или орел-решка . Сам там периодически играю, плюс что круто можно играть на криптовалюты что тоже круто очень.