Kisumu turns to WhatsApp for better services

Smartphone penetration in Kenya is over 80 per cent with majority of users having subscribed to WhatsApp. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

How long does it take you to get information about your county? The Kisumu County Government thinks the business community, residents and visitors should have vital information almost instantly.

This week, the county has been testing an interactive WhatsApp platform that allows residents to get information promptly.

All that one needs to do is to send the word “hello” from a WhatsApp account to +254 756 742 421.

That message prompts the county digital assistant to release a drop-down menu that asks the user to select a code representing their area of interest.

There is a separate code for government ministries, healthcare services, tourists sites, hotels and radio stations.


“When you send the word “hello”, it gives you an automated “welcome” response and from there, you can get information on anything,” says Levit Nudi, one of the brains behind the platform.

“It is very similar to USSD codes like *100# with the only major difference being that it's running on WhatsApp, which is not a common thing to find anywhere,” he said, adding that future plans include creating codes for information on county jobs, tenders, and other opportunities.

Maurice Owen, County’s Director of Information, said Kisumu has come up with a digital information assistant in order to improve information service delivery.

“Automatic response to inquiries is meant to satisfy information needs of residents up to the village level, which is in line with the governor’s 10 point agenda No 4 and 8 which talk about access to information and use of ICT,” he said

Why a WhatsApp platform? Mr Owen said the platform requires no training since most residents are already using WhatsApp.

“The system is not limited to residents only but will also help visitors or anyone outside the county to access accurate and relevant information efficiently,” he says.

Currently, smartphone penetration in Kenya is over 80 per cent with majority of users having subscribed to WhatsApp, a popular messaging and Voice over IP service owned by Facebook that allows users to send text messages, voice calls, recorded voice messages, video calls, images, documents and user location.

More than one billion people in over 180 countries use WhatsApp to stay in touch. “The county government of Kisumu seeks to tap into this opportunity to leverage on the platform as a service which will see many young people stay informed,” Mr Owen told the Business Daily.

The Kisumu’s directorate of information, he added, was developing a county database to provide more detailed information through a resource centre to be opened by Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o upon completion of the database compilation.