The President’s legacy is hinged around the Big Four – agriculture, affordable housing, universal healthcare and manufacturing. From a layman’s perspective, these items have nothing or very little to do with ICTs.
But if we are to look at Kenya as a business enterprise, with the President as the CEO and the Big Four as his key departments, the question he would be asking is: How can ICTs be used to ensure that the departments deliver on their mandate in the most efficient and cost-effective way?
The answer would have to come from his chief information officer – the Cabinet secretary in charge of ICTs. However, the answers are not a problem since they are already known; implementation is always the problem when it comes to ICTs.
But the shareholders of Kenya Incorporated – the citizens –do not care about implementation details. They have been promised the Big Four, and come 2022, they will somehow make their verdict known, even though the President’s name will not be on the ballot.
It is therefore about the President’s legacy. Despite their well-documented failures or weaknesses, the previous Presidents still managed to have one or two legacy projects attributed to them. Will the current President deliver on all or at least one of his Big Four legacy agenda?
It is well known that ICTs are enablers in terms of reducing costs and improving productivity through the streamlining of operations. So clearly, if indeed the Big Four departments wanted to accelerate the achievements of their mandates, they would naturally bank on ICTs.
Take, for example, the issue of providing affordable housing. Urban Kenya is notorious for having one of the most expensive land markets in the world. And a big component of this exaggerated cost of land is attributed to the opaqueness and time wasted in completed land transactions.
There is no way we will have affordable housing, unless we have affordable land for sale. Affordable land won’t happen unless the land transactions are unlocked from the shadows of opaqueness that has tended to favour land cartels rather than the general populace.
Transforming and digitising the lands department is therefore the foundation for providing not just affordable housing, but also for providing the transparency necessary to unlock idle land for agricultural use.
Will the land cartels finally give a chance to comprehensive digitisation of the lands ministry? It remains to be seen, but the clock towards 2022 is already ticking, with almost one year gone since the last general election.
When it comes to affordable or universal healthcare, the single largest threat is actually not lack of doctors or specialists. The few specialists we have can always provide services remotely through technology – as long as the clinical officers and nurses are stationed at the grassroots.
These specialists can be located in their preferred urban areas or even retained in Cuba, but still be in a position to provide specialist input through telemedicine technologies.
The single largest threat to universal healthcare is actually lack of a comprehensive supply chain management (SCM) system for procuring and distributing drugs across the country.
Without an automated SCM system, the country will not be able to know if the consignment of drugs that left Nairobi, destined for a dispensary in Lokichogio, actually arrived intact at the destination.
Many such consignments have been pilfered along the supply chain and found their way into private clinics and pharmacies.
Furthermore, even when the drugs did arrive in Lokichogio, there are no systems in place to tell if it was a patient in a public health facility who actually benefited from the drugs and not one from a private facility.
The health information systems are therefore as opaque as those operating in the Lands office – with ICTs being the only remedy to make them sufficiently transparent in order to offer the benefits of universal healthcare.
NOT A SILVER BULLET
Of course automation is not necessarily the sliver bullet against corruption, as we have been reminded repeatedly in the unfolding NYS-IFMIS sequel. But at least ICTs will allows us to back-track and follow the money trail in order to catch the culprits.
Additionally, newer technologies such as blockchain will tighten and improve on the integrity of these information systems.
The last item on the Big Four agenda – manufacturing – is actually a proxy for youth employment. This being a tall agenda, it will require a whole post of its own to do it justice, and so we will reserve it for next week.
Nevertheless, the general thread across all the Big Four pillars is that ICT solutions do exist.
How the President deals with implementation issues that will be complicated by cartels that have deeply vested interest in the manual, opaque systems will actually determine his legacy.
Mr Walubengo is a lecturer at Multimedia University of Kenya, Faculty of Computing and IT. Email: [email protected], Twitter: @Jwalu