31 January 2019

Kenya Welcomes a Mobile App That Seeks to Consolidate Construction

Driven by the upsurge in the country's demand for improved and affordable housing, besides the rapid growth of informal settlements, global building and construction solutions firm, iBUILD, formally launched its services as well as its mobile-based platform in Kenya.

The firm, whose main objective is to expedite solutions across the building and construction, as well as the housing value chain by making all construction services easily accessible to users, began its initial testing in the country in 2017, but is now fully rolling out countrywide.

"Technology transforms the way people achieve what they need, hence the reason we decided to empower average Kenyans to transform the way they carry out their housing, construction and building accomplishments," said Lew Schulman, iBUILD's co-founder and chair of the company board.

According to Lew, globally, Kenya is among the front-runners in embracing and making good use of technologies, thus the reason iBUILD chose to implement its programme in the country.

The iBUILD mobile application is essentially a citizen-to-citizen (C2C) housing market tool which empowers small-scale constructions based on each individual's unique needs and affordability.

It empowers a citizen-focused virtual marketplace where customers directly engage with architects, lenders, artisans, material suppliers, and certified contractors, while equipping small scale construction markets to scale up and meet the growing housing demand.

Construction convenience

The web platform is designed to lower construction transaction costs by providing citizens direct access to an active network of competitive housing construction services, while creating transparency of transactions across all involved stakeholders throughout the project.

The three-pronged approach of service provision largely revolves around the property owners, contractors and the employed construction site workers.

Through the mobile phone platform, for instance, individual property owners have the ability to search and find qualified contractors by reviewing and selecting contractors' bids, track and manage their home construction and repair projects, assess their corresponding project budgets, project payments and project timelines all from the comfort of their mobile phone devices.

On the other hand, through the same system, contractors can find projects, place bids, hire workers as well as pay them, rate the workers' efficiency and productivity, manage the project details and make, as well as receive payments for their complete jobs.

Construction site workers and artisans also have the ability to build their profiles, find construction site jobs, track their work history and skills progression, and get paid through the same mobile platform.

"Construction work needs reliable service delivery and as such, contractors as well as site workers need to be reliable enough to do their duties for their pays' worth. Fundis and construction site artisans also need to have a voice vouching for them, something that enables the good ones get more jobs, and the platform enables them to do that," said Alice Mutai, who is the registrar at the Kenya Engineering Technology Registration Board (KETRB), whose duty it is to set and enforce standards that promote the engineering technology profession and ensure provision of quality services and works by its stakeholders.

Mass management system

The system, according to iBUILD, is set to help in digitally managing more than 100 million new buildings incrementally built, and repair jobs by ensuring up to 1.6 million homes are constructed and repaired each year, besides certifying more than eight million construction workers who are benefiting from the platform.

According to Habitat for Humanity-Kenya, the housing deficit in the country stood at two million in 2012 and continues to grow at the rate of over 200,000 units a year, which has led to a proliferation of informal settlements in urban areas with 60 per cent of the population living in informal settlements.

Families live in overcrowded homes- typically one room with no adequate ventilation, putting the members at high risk of diseases such as respiratory infections among others.

The government has put in place mechanisms to supply over 500,000 units of affordable housing over the next four years as part of its Big Four agenda, making technology an invaluable resource in realising this agenda.

It is for this reason that Habitat for Humanity sought to have partnerships with stakeholders such as iBuild, among others.

The importance of technology in housing is paramount, which is why an application like iBuild, will make the process of achieving the affordable housing agenda, even faster, according to ICT CS, Joe Mucheru.

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