State looks up to technology for efficient service delivery and fight against corruption

A teleconference in session. To ease access to justice and reduce corruption at the Judiciary, the government is piloting a telepresence project that will link Nairobi Court of Appeal and Mombasa High Court. Photo/ANTHONY KAMAU

James Wekesa, an IT consultant, carries a bulging wallet that often makes acquaintances mistake him for a loaded executive.

However, he says the wallet is not home to wads of notes — it houses five important documents that he carries along routinely.

They include his national identity card, a medical card, the National Social Service Fund (NSSF) card, a driving licence, and at times a passport.

Apart from fear of being mugged by thugs mistaking his bulging wallet for a mobile mini-bank, his other worry is the number of offices he would be forced to visit in the event the documents got lost.

But Mr Wekesa need not worry any more.

The present tedious personal document procurement process, that is prone to abuse by bribe-seeking officials, is bound to change with the new information communication technology (ICT) projects the government has embarked on.

The projects are meant to streamline the issuance of such documents, leading to a one-stop shop.

The idea is to come up with one document that contains both personal and public information of an individual.

The initiative is currently being implemented by individual ministries through the e-government department and coordinate by the Kenya ICT Board.

It includes the Ministry of Immigration and Registration of Persons setting up a single point of reference for acquisition and storage of all personal information.

To this end, the ministry is rolling out an Integrated Population Registration System (IPRS).

The one-stop National Population Register will contain personal details of all Kenyans and registered foreigners.

Additionally, it will link all primary registration agencies such as the Kenya Police, Kenya Revenue Authority, the Teachers Service Commission, the Judiciary and the Interim Independent Electoral Commission.

Through the system, the government plans to cut the cost of exercises such as the national census and registration of persons.

For instance, the government spent Sh8.4 billion on last year’s census, hiring 130,000 clerks among other personnel.

By automating the registration of births and deaths, determining the country’s population will not have to take 10 years and the number of enumeration officials would be a lot smaller saving the exchequer much needed revenue.

Automation will also make it possible for citizens to carry one document that has all their information as opposed to the situation today where one has to carry a number of documents, ranging from the national identification card, to the passport, driving license, and certificate of good conduct among others.

Citizens will also deal with only one agency to process all the documents they need, saving money and time.

During a meeting held in Mombasa earlier in the year and which brought together government officials and private sector players — dubbed Connected Government — Integrated Population Registration System acting director George Anyango explained the progress of the project and its impact both on the government and citizens, as well as the opportunities it provides to the public and private sectors.

“Currently, registration agencies deal with the same data sets in delivering services to the public. However, they are not linked leading to unnecessary duplication of efforts in registration and storage of information,” said Mr Anyango.

“As a result, there are delays in verification and authenticating information leading to poor delivery of services. This undermines the security of the country and impacts negatively on social-economic development.”

Personal information

The proposed one point reference will capture citizens’ personal information right from the registration of births and deaths to the issuance of national identification cards, travel documents, and NSSF data.

It will also capture information in regard to refugees and registration of other aliens.

To achieve this, the IPRS department is in the process of procuring a civil registration system.

The department is also in the process of setting up a refugee process identification system that will be used in the registration of the aliens.

In the pipeline also is rolling out of third generation ID cards.

To address the issue of illegal immigrants, an electronic visa issuance system will also be put in place.

Through the system, the government anticipates to widen the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) tax collection net and spread tax brackets as well, linking the data up with various institutions charged with business registration and regulation such as county councils and company registration bureaus.

Another key government department that will benefit from the system is the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS).

Through linkages with other data storage facilities, the system will be able to automatically erase the dead from voter’s register.

To address the issue of theft of drugs from the Kenya Medical Supplies Association (Kemsa), chief executive officer John Munyu said the organisation was working on an electronic system designed to manage 15 billion supply chains servicing about 500 public health facilities countrywide.

The system, he said, aims at providing seamless integration of all processes throughout Kemsa supported by robust business intelligence.

IPRS will also allow both manual and real time interactions and interfacing with customers, suppliers, partners and other stakeholders.

Benefits will include, “timely delivery of drugs as a result of faster and accurate processing of orders from hospitals, faster and accurate stocks in health facilities hence proactive and timely planning of orders, and delivery of commodities,” said Dr Munyu.

Kemsa is also working on a warehouse management and tracking system to curtail theft of medical stocks and equipment in the supply chain.

John Sergon of e-government said the initiative would enable the country to work in tandem with the global technological changes that are not only forcing the private sector to adopt the use of technology, but also roping in the government.

“Government has no option but to change from the paper and queuing system to paperless and online transactions by adopting technology tools such as mobile phones and computers among other,” said Dr Sergon.

In order to achieve this, the government has connected six provinces (42 districts) on the Local Area Network infrastructure.

This infrastructure interlinks district offices and eventually connects them to the Government Core Communication Network (GCCN) which provides a wider area linkage commonly known as Wide Area Network infrastructure.

The data centre has the capacity of 22 terabytes, which is connected to GCCN via fibre cables.

Global trends show that governments can reduce their expenses on hardware and software immensely by putting up electronic storage facilities that can enable them to utilise some of the latest technologies such as cloud computing.

The cloud computing concept is relatively new and catching on like wild fire. The “cloud” represents the Internet.

Instead of using software installed on one’s computer or saving data on one’s hard drive, one works and stores work on the Web — in cyberspace.

Data is kept on servers and tasks are performed using an interface provided by the service.

This eliminates the need for each government department to invest in individual servers and also scales down the amount of money paid annually as software licensing fees.

Countries such as the UK have adopted the new technology and are reaping dividend.

The UK government predicts that cloud computing will cut Euros 3.2 billion from its annual IT budget, a 20 per cent savings.

To ease access to justice and reduce corruption at the Judiciary, other than digitising court documents, the Kenyan government is piloting a telepresence project that will link Nairobi Court of Appeal and Mombasa court in weeks.

The project aims at reducing the backlog of cases in courts, with judges conducting cases remotely and consequently eliminating the cost and time of travelling between the two towns.

Currently, the country has only 11 Court of Appeal judges based in Nairobi.

They conduct trials in circuits in Eldoret, Kisumu, Mombasa and Nyeri.

Enhance efficiency

By last July, the number of cases pending before them was 800,000 mainly attributed to the shortage of magistrates and judges.

The judicial system is in need of 275 magistrates and 29 judges.

Other than employing more magistrates and judges, the government intends to use technology to reverse this situation.

This is part of a wider government plan to use technology to offer services to citizens and enhance efficiency.

By using the telepresence facility, other than attaining the anticipated speedy delivery of justice, the government says it will cut down the cost of travel, boarding and security expenses on its personnel as is the case in the current situation.

The government intends to replicate the teleconferencing experience in lower courts and prisons as it puts into use telecommunication infrastructure that it is laying out in most parts of the country.

It has rolled out terrestrial fibre optic networks in most parts of the country and is now working on how to link prisons with law courts, as well as learning and health institutions across the country.

Information Permanent secretary Bitange Ndemo said the government could be spending over Sh1 million on the cost of travelling, boarding and security for judges per each seating.

He said the cost would be reduced considerably once the teleconferencing project is completed.

“We are using the Courts of Appeal as a pilot scheme but intend to scale this to include lower courts and even the prisons,” said Dr Ndemo.

“This should result in faster determination of cases.”

In prisons the technology will be used during mentioning and trial of cases to help reduce incidents of prisoners not appearing before courts because of logistical issues, or cases of the prisoners escaping while on transit to and from courts.

These developments come in the wake of a presidential directive to the effect that Judiciary and lands documents be converted from their current hard copy status to a digital format to make them easily accessible.

However, Dr Ndemo said, to increase efficiency at Judiciary there is need for transcribing of all court proceedings.

Experts said the move would speed up the hearing and ruling of cases.

The telepresence system has been deployed by Cisco in conjunction with Safaricom and Jamii Telecommunication Ltd.

Cisco provided high definition videos on both ends while Safaricom is providing a high speed broadband link between Mombasa and Nairobi.

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