19 November 2012

Kenya: Information PS Advises Govt to Focus on Efficiency Through Digitisation Rather Than Taxation

The government should shift its focus from extra taxation and instead focus on efficiency, which will lead to more revenue for the government.

This was the advice by Dr. Bitange Ndemo, Kenya's Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information and Communication, to government agencies and ministries. The PS was speaking at the start of the Kenya National ICT Conference by Deloitte to discuss their input into the Kenyan National ICT Master Plan. The conference was held on Monday at Nairobi's Intercontinental Hotel and saw delegates drawn from various global Deloitte offices.

Digitisation of government is one of the strategic pillars of the National ICT Master Plan. The PS said digitisation of the lands registry had seen revenue collected rise from Ksh. 800 million to Ksh. 9 billion. The PS added that digitisation around the country stood to make the country more than Ksh. 200 billion in additional revenue.

He further added that the procurement registry was badly in need of automation as its inefficiency was causing government a lot in the high cost of goods. Such goods were supplied at high costs as the government took months to pay for their supply.

Fully digitised hospitals were expected to bring savings of 40 percent in the healthcare sector.

Digitisation was however coming with major challenges. "Every move you make, there is super resistance to change," said the PS, expounding that many government officials were benefiting from the current systems and were therefore not keen on the systems being changed.

The PS also criticised consultants such as Deloitte who he said were also in resistance to change in current procedures. This he said was due to their focus on small short term deals rather than long term big deals.

In addition, the PS urged African countries to look at big data, and start trusting data. This he said would help Africans be prepared and deal with natural disasters. He gave example of where data had come in handy, such as President's Obama re-election which relied on data based micro-marketing and US's preparedness in the face of Hurricane Sandy.

The PS said that Kenya would have better prepared for a drought by slaughtering and preserving cattle. During the drought, he said the country imported sun dried meat from Australia.

Other wanting government issues include resource sharing, where different government agencies each ordered and procured similar solutions which they ended up not fully utilising. Solutions such as Enterprise Resource Planning suits should be shared by government agencies.

Ndemo also said that while government ministries and agencies had been encouraged to adopt Open Source solutions, there was need of enough capacity in the sector to avoid government being held at ransom by suppliers. Kenya Revenue Authority(KRA) and Kenya Medical Supplies Agency(KEMSA) are some of government agencies using open source solutions, He gave the example of an unnamed government agency which he said had been locked in an expensive vendor contract due to sensitivity of the data involved.

The PS said that Kenya had published a policy on infrastructure sharing in a bid to deal with fibre cuts. A fifth fibre optic cable expected in the country would also land at a different point to minimise the impact of undersea cable cuts at the Mombasa port.

The Kenya ICT Board is accepting input to the National ICT Master Plan, which sets out to establish Kenya as among top three outsourcing destinations in Africa and further distinguish Kenya's service industry.

Deloitte will issue its input into the Master Plan in the next two weeks.

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