Kenya launches Huduma e-centre to cut bureaucracy

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President Uhuru Kenyatta logs his detailsImage source, Kenya presidency
Image caption,
President Uhuru Kenyatta (second right) logged his details at the pilot Huduma centre

Kenya's leader has launched a "one-stop shop" to access and pay for government services electronically in order to cut corruption and bureaucracy.

President Uhuru Kenyatta said public inefficiency had bred corruption, wasted time and "cost billions".

A pilot centre has been set up in the capital, Nairobi, where customers can access a range of self-service counters linked to government databases.

Known as Huduma centres, they will be rolled out across the country.

Huduma, which means "service" in Swahili, is part of a government plan to fully digitise government services.

Kenya is one of Africa's most technologically advanced countries, with a widely used mobile phone money transfer service and a cluster of tech start-ups.

But President Kenyatta said this had yet to reach government services:

"For a long time Kenyans have been subjected to moving from place to place in search of services from the government," he said at the launch of the pilot centre.

"Kenyans and visitors became accustomed to being frustrated numerous times in their quest for public service: 'Come tomorrow'; 'Go to this or that other office first'; 'Bring a copy of your identity card'; and so on.

"Endless, static queues have been the order of the day, wasting countless hours. Public service became the epitome of inefficiency. This inefficiency bred corruption, initiating a cycle of vice which has tormented many and cost the country billions."

'Rude service illegal'

The BBC's Odhiambo Joseph in Nairobi says dealing with Kenyan bureaucracy can indeed be a costly and time-wasting business.

Our reporter says he took a whole day off work to order a replacement of his ID card.

It involved reporting the loss at a police station, going to a district officer to have the loss certified, then going to the national ID office and queuing for forms.

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
A recent survey said 97% of Kenyans do not bother to report paying bribes

He then joined another queue to submit the forms and then had to wait to be called for finger-printing and queued again to have a photo taken.

At most stages, he was asked for money and then there was at least a three-month wait until the card was ready, which involved queuing again to collect it, he says.

Under the new system, our reporter should be able to report the loss and apply for a replacement ID card at the Huduma centre - and as the system is connected directly to a government database, there would be no need for finger-printing and photos as his records could be automatically accessed.

In properly managed queues, the president said Kenyans would be able to access 18 services from 10 government agencies - from renewing a driving licence and applying for health insurance to registering a business and paying for parking.

"I urge Kenyans to expect and demand the highest service standards. I also remind all public servants that rude, reluctant, slow, or negligent service is illegal," Mr Kenyatta said.

It was also matter of urgency for all government departments to digitise and automate their records and procedures, he added.

Our correspondent says that once Huduma is rolled out, people should be able to track their applications online or through their mobile phones and will also be able to use some services without going into a centre.

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