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Kenya’s Huduma provides lesson for SA’s public sector

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Martin Mirero, ICT director, Huduma Kenya secretariat.
Martin Mirero, ICT director, Huduma Kenya secretariat.

Kenya’s Huduma programme, the country’s government services project, represents a powerful case study of effective digital service delivery – and one that South Africa can learn from.

So said Mandla Mkhwanazi, digital business leader at Transnet Group, who opened the Public Sector ICT Forum, hosted in Houghton, Johannesburg today.

Huduma was launched in November 2013 to strengthen access and delivery of government service to the citizens of Kenya. It was established to address the negative public perception around government service delivery, impacted by long queues, bureaucracy and loss of information.

The objective was to enhance service delivery by responding to citizens’ demand for a speedier, accessible and national service, flexibility, improved turnaround time and less cost.

In his presentation, “Driving citizen service delivery through technology”, Martin Mirero, ICT director, Huduma Kenya secretariat, said the initiative settled for virtualisation (virtual desktop infrastructure) from the get-go, underpinned by a VMware platform to run a public cloud.

“Our journey started six years ago, when we got the mandate to create a one-stop shop to deliver government service… [allowing] different government agencies to talk and creating an interface through which citizens could access service. There is room to make an impact and to improve the delivery of services to citizens,” said Mirero.

South Africa’s need to catch up on digital transformation and its struggle to capitalise on its resources was highlighted.

According to Mirero, in 2013, Kenya did not have substantial resources, but it did have the political and social will to invest and take digitalisation opportunity seriously.

“We did have a large footprint of physical landlines, but we had mobile technology that allowed us to leapfrog. It was a perfect storm of sort, with low-cost bandwidth access to the Internet.

“So we felt the need to embrace the change, and the challenges … Getting our virtual desktops to work was an arduous task and we did not get much help from other customers who had walked the path.

“We had great tech partners at the time and we cracked it! It’s part luck, but also support from leadership, with the president who embraced it as a legacy project… a willingness to change and embrace the challenges.”

Today, there are 52 Huduma Centres in all 47 counties in Kenya, with Huduma Mashinani established for service delivery at sub-county level. It has several one-stop shop channels, including a citizen portal and mobile application Huduma Life.

According to Huduma, it provides over 100 public services via Huduma Centres; 23 million customers have been served since inception, with an estimated KES68 billion saved by Kenyans through the programme.

South Africa’s struggling economy and high level of unemployment were spotlighted as challenges that a programme like Huduma could help address.

Mirero said the initiative features a mechanism for funding of micro and medium enterprises, entrepreneurs and youth development.

He said the idea behind the agency model is to provide a means through which entrepreneurs can establish and run service delivery kiosks and earn commission.

The programme is now considering the rollout of mobile Huduma Centres – mobile trucks equipped with five to six workstations to deliver popular government services to communities.

“Change is the new norm… being agile is a strategic requirement to turn around services quickly, respond to change and drive digital transformation with resilience. As we digitise assets, we have to make investments to protect assets,” Mirero added.

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