East Africa: Slow Digital Uptake in Domestic Air Travel

The digital travel locator app, Jitenge, launched on June 18 for domestic airline travel across all Kenyan ports of entry has recorded a slow uptake, two weeks after its introduction to eliminate physical documents as an anti-Covid measure.

Domestic airline passengers using different airports and ports continue to use the manual clearance process instead of displaying the received Quick Response (QR) codes on their phones. A spot check by The EastAfrican shows that most airports are yet to implement the directive.

"I have travelled through different airports in Kenya for the past one week but I have not even been asked about scanning the QR codes, I still fill papers at the airport for contact tracing," said John Mbugua who had travelled from Nairobi to Lamu via Mombasa.

To address user challenge, the ministry of Health asked non-Android phone users to consult with port users for clearance which caused delays in the clearance thus forcing the government to rethink its implementation.

"Iphone users that are not able to access QR codes on their e-mail address should check in their system downloads or present their phone numbers and passports numbers at the port health desk to enable them to retrieve the QR code," reads a communication to passengers by the Head of Port Health Services, Benjamin Murkomen.

The department said it will suspend the usage of the USSD code *299# after the successful piloting of the application Jitenge which was developed during this Covid-19 period to help the national and county governments in Kenya to respond proactively in efforts to flatten the coronavirus curve.

The Jitenge solution was innovated as a module of the Emergency Alert and Reporting System (EARS) used by the ministry of Health's Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) to respond to over 40 infectious diseases.

The EARs system as dubbed is used at the Emergency Operations Centre to capture, report, and view emerging epidemics across the country.

The system provides crucial data for decision making and epidemic control measures at the national and county levels.

The new app is one of the basic measures which have been put in place to control the spread of Covid-19 at airports in line on the advice of local and international health and aviation authorities.

In the wake of a global pandemic, QR codes hold even more potential as they have become an essential and welcomed tool for travel and hospitality brands, used to streamline travel processes such as check-in, checking bags, security checks, and ordering and paying for goods and service.

Many of these self-service options eliminate communications breakdown and human error and provide consistency that customers expect.

Self-service and automation eliminate the need for staff to serve people waiting in physical queues, thus enabling more service desks to remain open for business while addressing the staffing issues to fully utilise the available infrastructure.

Fewer queues mean less crowding and then social distancing measures can easily be adopted.

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