Digitisation in the public sector


The internet has become part of the daily lives of billions of people around the world. As of January 2020, the global online penetration rate was 59 percent. Consumers in the digital internet age are more informed, leading to increasing demands, and citizens are more demanding of their governments. With that in mind, governments must adopt digital means to deliver improved services to their citizens. Kenya overview The Government of Kenya has undertaken various initiatives to drive effective and efficient public service delivery. This has resulted in the improvement of ICT infrastructure across the country, institutionalisation of regulatory acts and policies and the implementation of innovative e-services and e-portals. The government has also formulated a blueprint to power the country’s transformation into a digital economy. The government envisions a digitally empowered citizenry living in a digitally enabled society and the blueprint highlights five key pillars that will drive the growth of the digital economy: digital government, digital business, infrastructure, innovation-driven entrepreneurship and digital skills and values. Digitisation has improved revenue administration through the Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS) which is integrated with the Kenyan Central Bank’s G-Pay system. The process of filing and collecting taxes has also been digitised through the iTax platform. The National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) and the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) attribute the effectiveness of their revenue collection processes to the digitisation of payments. Digitisation has also created more efficient revenue administration from the central government to county governments as well as facilitated payments to suppliers and social protection programmes for targeted groups. Despite these investments and initiatives, the provision of e-government services still requires significant improvement. It is often silo based (department-driven) and some parastatal services are still manual. A number of counties have also implemented different systems, which cannot be easily integrated into the central government systems without manual interventions. Global Trends The automation of government services can help to drive the government's big four agenda in Kenya. We have seen instances globally of e-government technology enabling governments to achieve step changes in their policy implementation. Finland and Estonia collaborated to develop an online ‘education cloud’ that joins educational platforms and materials through digital technology. Technology can facilitate mutually-beneficial collaboration, in this case between two different countries with the same objective. In the health sector, the Danish health portal Sundhed.dk is owned jointly by the Ministry of Health, the Danish Regions and Local Government Denmark. It gathers data from all the main health actors across different levels of government, including general practitioners, and gives citizens access to health-related information. The provision of services on mobile platforms is another way that governments can align with citizens’ digital preferences and behaviours. WeChat, a widely used mobile app in China, is accepted by some provincial governments for passport and visa applications. Progressing the government’s digitisation agenda in Kenya There are four main areas that Kenya’s government should prioritise on its digitisation journey:

1. Governance and oversight The government should prioritise good governance and appropriate measurement metrics, support technology incubators and implement tax deductions for tech start-ups. The 20th edition of the Kenya Economic Update: Securing Future Growth report notes that for Kenya to keep pace with technology innovation and the growth of the global digital economy, it will require stronger digital foundations, such as new regulations and policy guidelines designed to support digital transformation. Policies that govern the taxation of the digital economy in Kenya are unclear and need to be reviewed. Relevant ICT policies and strategy documents should also be reviewed and updated periodically. 2. Attraction and retention of key talent The government requires qualified and skilled people to drive the digitisation agenda. Initiatives to attract or retain talent could include giving flexibility on pay and job classifications to key IT talent, publicising interesting initiatives which can give IT talent relevant experience, working closely with higher institutions/universities by holding events which involve solving important problems and offering internships to students. Government could also consider partnering with private sector stakeholders who can dedicate time to help the government formulate its initiatives or be part of its governance team to drive the various initiatives. 3. Process automation Despite the advancements made by the government, the rate of automation could be improved further. There are several key processes in government parastatals that are still being executed manually, for example. Government should formulate a roadmap for the automation of its processes and key services for citizens that is properly monitored. Digitisation should not just focus on processes and services but should also consider the entire lifecycle of a citizen's interactions with government and areas where the government can add value to that lifecycle.

"Digital transformation will play a key role in modernising public services, increasing service productivity, enriching engagement with citizens and improving the openness of and trust in governments. Digitisation is crucial for creating a more innovation-driven, competition-based and value-adding economy."

4. Technology

  • Infrastructure There are opportunities for the government that are pegged to accessing the internet such as the creation of various platforms to help meet citizens’ demands. The Kenya Economic Update report highlights that Kenya faces a significant digital divide, with 44% of the urban population having access to the internet compared to 17% in rural areas. Addressing the digital divide is essential to ensuring that the government’s digitisation initiatives benefit all citizens equally. Smart cities such as Konza, Tatu City and Tilisi are also dependent on digitisation. There is an additional challenge as different parastatals/departments implement and operate different infrastructures/technologies which are not interoperable. Government must adopt a harmonised approach for sharing technology resources and ensure interoperability between its different departments, as well as develop standardised procedures and services for end users.
  • Data consolidation and data sharing Information sharing across departments is critical for the effective delivery of services and processes. Currently, various departments in the government hold unique data from portals such as itax, IFMIS, ecitizen, TIMS and Ejiji pay (payment parking) that could be used in sharing insights and guiding decision making but this data is held in disparate systems and departments. Without a consolidated view, the government is unable to make data-rich decisions to serve citizens and solve societal problems. Once it is implemented, the National Integrated Identity Management System (NIIMS), also known as ‘Huduma namba’, will integrate all of the data that the government has about an individual on various systems under one overarching ID number.
  • Data security and privacy The rise of digital connectivity has led to increased cybersecurity concerns. Massive amounts of citizen data is held by the government, potentially at risk of theft or unauthorised use. Like other organisations that handle sensitive information, the government must consider the security, ownership and usage of the data that is created and shared to protect the identities of both individuals and organisations. The Kenyan Data Protection Act 2019 was assented to by the President on 8th November 2019 and is primarily focused on the collection, handling, transfer and destruction of data. It ensures that user rights are protected as it compels companies and governments to appropriately handle the data that they are entrusted with. In protecting critical information infrastructure and interconnected information systems and networks, the government has an overarching responsibility to prevent disruptions which could seriously impact the health, safety, security, the economic well-being of citizens, and potentially the effective functioning of the government itself or the economy.
  • Predictive analytics The public sector can benefit from big data and analytics in defense, security, public safety, healthcare, and other areas. Advanced analytics systems feed data from many sources into algorithms that adjust operations in real time. Whilst no government has such a system yet, Singapore is setting up a nationwide network of sensors that will stream data into a repository for all agencies. Big data can help improve decision making (through predictive analytics) and increase revenue generation.
  • Co-creation of solutions with the private sector The government can also partner with private parties to develop solutions to address problems faced by citizens. According to PwC’s 23rd annual global CEO survey, CEOs will increasingly need to collaborate with a diverse range of governments to shape appropriate solutions that deploy technology and leverage data in a safe way — one that protects consumers and respects their values while fostering innovation. This is just as true in Kenya as it is anywhere else.

Conclusion Digital transformation will play a key role in modernising public services, increasing service productivity, enriching engagement with citizens and improving the openness of and trust in governments. It will also help to improve institutional processes and the effectiveness of public service delivery, as well as enhance the image and appeal of the country in the eyes of local and foreign investors. Digitisation is crucial for creating a more innovation-driven, competition-based and value-adding economy.

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Laolu Akindele

Associate Director, Risk Assurance Services T: +254 20 285 5612 E: laolu.x.akindele@pwc.com

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