Data Hub

City Hall bets on GIS maps for revenues, service turnaround


An aerial view of Nairobi City Hall. FILE PHOTO | NMG

With falling revenue performance and poor service delivery, Nairobi County plans to use more advanced technology to turn around the two areas.

The county government has failed to meet its revenue targets since the advent of devolution in 2013 with a paltry Sh8.5 billion collected in the financial year ended June 30, 2020 against a target of Sh17.3 billion.

Revenue collection has been getting worse in Nairobi over the years with City Hall posting Sh11.8 billion in the 2015/16 financial year before falling to Sh10.9 billion a year later.

This further dropped to Sh10.1 billion in 2017/18 before increasing by a paltry Sh121 million to Sh10.2 billion in 2018/19.

On the other hand, City Hall has been on the receiving end for, among other ills, garbage collection woes, dry taps, wobbly health sector, and education unit that is in tatters.

To reverse all these, however, the county government has turned to Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping to enhance its own-source revenue collection as well as improve services.

Lands and Urban Planning Executive Charles Kerich says the GIS system has been set up and will be integrated with revenue system and key sectors before it goes live.

Mr Kerich explained the system has been developed but the county ran out of budget before its integration.

At present, he said, the system is still computer-based and it needs linking with data from various sectors to become more useful.

Once the system goes live, revenue streams will take precedence with the county government set to map trade licences, business permits, parking, rates and outdoor advertising, among others.

“Since the system is a tool for use for planning, you will find there are areas of county government service delivery that are considered priorities. Revenue collection is one of them. When the satellite GIS mapping is active, we will most likely begin by integrating services that are most crucial, for example revenue collection,” said Mr Kerich.

The CEC explained that once the system is linked to the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA), the county will easily be able to identify and trace defaulters.

On integration, apart from reading the entire Nairobi, the maps will be able to tell City Hall where single business permits are located.

“If you click on International Life House for example, it should tell you how many businesses are in that place, how many have paid and how many have not. There are a lot of defaulters of rates but with the system, when you click on a piece of property you are able to know whether one has paid or not,” he said.

He explained the system will identifying physical location, whether that person has paid or not and that will make enforcement or follow up easier.

“Many people in Nairobi will not pay their rates until you hold a rungu to their head. If they can avoid paying, they usually don’t pay and that is why every year we keep running rates waiver on interest and penalties campaign. But with this system, we will come to your doorstep and tell you: you have not paid your rates,” he said.

The system can be used in enhancing revenue from outdoor advertising by mapping each and every billboard in the county and know where they are situated to allow for smart billing.

“Once the integration is done, you will be able to feed anything you want into it. Even the number of parking lots,” he explained.

Apart from revenues, there are also service delivery challenges that are not revenue-generating but are critical to the county government.

Mr Kerich pointed that education, for example, will not generate revenue but is a very important service and with the system, the county government will easily identify which primary schools do not have an Early Childhood Development Education (ECDE) centres.

“So, if you find that 20 percent do not have ECDE centres then you can make a plan, saying that in the next financial year we will do the centres in the schools.”

It can also be applied in the health sector to help in decongesting hospitals by identifying where new facilities need to be put up to ease pressure on some facilities.

GIS mapping will, for example, show how many people are visiting Pumwani Maternity Hospital and where they are coming from. This data can be used to build a health facility at a place that requires urgent attention, helping to decongest a hospital and improve service delivery.

“This then helps you make a decision where to situate new facilities as it will tell you where demand exists. Somebody from Mukuru, therefore, does not need to go to Pumwani if they can get the service from within. This will help to decongest big hospitals such as Mama Lucy, Mutuini and Mbagathi,” he said.

Nairobi’s population is estimated at 4.39 million, according to the 2019 figures.

The official said Mombasa and Vihiga counties have the system but it is in the latter where the system has been used effectively to drive up service delivery.

“For Vihiga, when you click on the map, you will see where all schools are and that children are travelling too far to school, therefore more are needed.”

He explained that Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) has mapped streetlights and roads in Nairobi, however, every data needs to be integrated in one place for easy access.

Currently, the data exists on physical paper maps but that is not a good decision-making tool since you have to go through all the files.

“Decisions are better made when such technologies are available to you. For example, I can decide that on my screen where I have the map of Nairobi, I just want to see ECDE centres only,” he said.

“Everything is then relegated to the background and you see the centres only or I only want to see where piping has been done by the Athi Water so that you know which estates are served by piped water and which are not.”

Mr Kerich said the county government will set aside funds from either supplementary budget or next year’s financial budget to cater for the integration.

“Our aim is to have the system go live this year so that it can be accessed from anywhere instead of going to the GIS office to tell them to open it.”