Henry Ford once said: “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”
Devolution in Kenya seems to be headed in the wrong direction. But we should not accede to failure. This perhaps is the greatest opportunity to begin again.
If the Members of the County Assembly (MCAs) are the problem, then let us see the opportunity that is hidden in this problem and come up with an innovative solution.
Problems precipitate innovation and the more we understand the problem, the easier it becomes to provide a solution. Whilst in technology innovations are the norm, political innovations are rare but when they happen, and depending on who leads the process, it can be catastrophic.
Liberally defined, innovation can refer to many things including those that we see in politics. Synonyms for innovation include: change, alteration, revolution, upheaval, transformation, metamorphosis, breakthrough and more. Innovations, therefore, must be managed.
It is perhaps why the National Intelligence Service (NIS) warned that the problem of youth unemployment is a major security threat. To put NIS warning into perspective, one needs to read Acemoglu and Robinson’s book Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty. Their findings centre on how economic and political policies are applied and whether such policies are inclusive or extractive.
They argue that although policies around economic intuitions are important, political institutions play a key role in shaping them. In most instances, they found that success was dependent on how inclusive institutional policies are.
They further argue that an inclusive political system would certainly enable an inclusive economic system. Inclusive systems provide “incentives for people to acquire skills, work hard, save, invest, and, most importantly, innovate.”
When, for example, MCAs spend most of their time travelling and when they get back home, they decide to retreat to expensive resorts for budget meetings, it demonstrates lack of sensitivity to the citizens and creates a sense of exclusivity. Parliament, too, does things that demonstrate a sense of exclusivity.
Article 1 section 1 and 2 of the Constitution allows that, “All sovereign power belongs to the people of Kenya and are exercised only in accordance with this Constitution”, and that, “The people may exercise their sovereign power either directly or through their democratically elected representatives.”
We have the power to innovate new ways of lessening the perceptions of exclusivity and possibly make huge savings that can be ploughed into new productive sectors to create jobs.
It is possible to create virtual identity for every citizen to become a participant in all decisions made by MPs as well as the MCAs. The infrastructure is in place and when Parliament or the county assembly wants to increase their salaries, it doesn’t get implemented until citizens approve virtually through their mobile phones.
This is referred to as the public key infrastructure (PKI) which as defined by wikimedia is a set of hardware, software, people, policies, and procedures needed to create, manage, distribute, use, store, and revoke digital certificates.
In cryptography, a PKI is an arrangement that binds public keys with respective user identities by means of a certificate authority (CA). Each citizen will have a CA for regular public approval voting and even voting during the General Election.
This innovation will likely trigger widespread digitalisation of government registries leading to greater efficiency and reduction in corruption.
I recall the digitisation of the Lands banking hall that led to increase in revenue from Sh800 million to Sh9 billion within a year. If the back end of the Lands registry is digitised, revenue can shoot up by four to five times.
The digitisation process countrywide will require more than 30,000 youth in new employment and paid from the efficiencies created. The same can be done to other government registries, activating a formal process of dealing with corruption in Kenya but at the same time create jobs.
This will perhaps present the greatest opportunity to demonstrate inclusivity since corruption only benefits a few and creates great inequality in the society.
In a blog post, Tim Davis argues that ICT interventions are key to transactional and transparency reforms. Transactional reforms seek to reduce the space for corrupt activity by controlling and automating processes inside government, or seek to increase the detection of corruption by increasing the flow of information into existing government oversight and accountability mechanisms.
Transparency reforms, by contrast, focus on increasing external rather than internal control over government actors by making the actions of the state and its agents more visible to citizens, civil society and the private sector.
The writer is a senior lecturer, University of Nairobi and a former permanent secretary, Ministry of Information and Communication.