The government recently launched the Umoja Kenya platform, a national digital registry service that aims to provide a single source of information on people, land, establishments, and assets.
While countries such as Finland have national population registers that integrate population, dwellings, buildings, and real estate data, Umoja Kenya will represent a true first in seamless data collation and integration for national socio-economic benefit.
The platform represents the first of three strategic programmes established by the Jubilee administration to transform government and how it works for the people.
These strategic programmes, which fall under a special initiative titled the Presidential Digital Transformation of Government, include a government-shared services programme and one focused on providing a one-stop shop for public services to citizens.
This initiative responds to the security challenges made prominent by the Westgate terrorist attack in September last year, when Kenya’s vulnerability was highlighted by limited, inaccurate, and incomplete data and information on people and property. It is also about a transformed public service that is result-driven and accountable and capable of collaboration, coordination, and synergistic working.
Basically, the starting point for enhanced national security, improved governance and service delivery, and better socio-economic planning must begin with an inventory of people, land, establishments, and assets.
This is important for achieving the demand perspective of service delivery that is based on what people need, not what government bureaucrats want.
Working in government and citizen-centric services will only begin to have true and lasting impact when we have a clean inventory of people and property.
Uniquely, what Umoja Kenya will do is relate the land, establishments, and assets pillars to the people pillar on a single, integrated data platform.
For the first time in Kenya’s history, a firm, demand basis for targeted and appropriate national security, governance, and service delivery and socio-economic planning will have been established.
The immediate benefit that this project delivers to Kenyans is faster turnaround times in the issuance of key identification documents such as IDs and passports. The use of unique biometric identification will cut the time currently taken in filling forms, copying documents, or moving from building to building to obtain signatures.
The second obvious benefit will be faster, smoother access to public services, especially at Huduma service centres.
Having a single platform means that public services and benefits relating to education, health, social security, social protection, vehicle registration, and pension claims will be much faster.
In essence, the National Social Security Fund, the National Hospital Fund, and taxpayer registration will benefit from this single platform as a reference source on any individual’s background, as will voter registration.
People and business will also reap benefits from this platform. Bank and credit check transactions can be processed faster, as will land, public utility, and business registration, especially where digital IDs give citizens access to services anywhere and at any time.
Persons seeking employment overseas will process their travel papers much faster and there will be less scope for bureaucratic lethargy, red tape, and bribery. Not only will the cost of doing business drop for companies, transaction costs for individuals will also be lower.
Westgate reminds us why Umoja Kenya is important. The public is aware that the heightened insecurity in the country has been the result of weak vigilance over population registration processes, particularly, the issuance of IDs, passports, visas, and residence/work permits.
A “clean, comprehensive and secure” platform of population data will provide assurance to Kenyans concerning their safety.
Simply put, Umoja Kenya should be seen as the digital plan to safely unlock Kenya’s socio-economic potential.
Ms Gatabaki is acting director general, Kenya Citizens & Foreign Nationals Management Service, and project director, Umoja Kenya