The Government is Online?

“We are going online” bug has finally caught up with the government. It doesn’t really matter where you live, this common theme transcends economies and continents. We can all agree that there is an insatiable need to be connected in today’s world. Estonia has already fully set the example but most countries are still left behind including the so-called First World countries.

The rise of various messaging, social media and video sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube have fed that appetite and predictably made us addicted. Another consequence of the rise of the internet and various platforms is e-commerce. Amazon, E-bay, Alibaba Express, Jumia and many other platforms have made it easy to find what you want, pay for it using a myriad of services and have it delivered quickly.

The era of ordering and being able to find everything online is here. You can find restaurants, flights and illegal items online. This has put pressure on governments to embrace these technologies. People can no longer endure the inefficiencies of poor government services with silly excuses of lost documents and cash payments. People want to be able to have online accounts, preferably one, and be able to access all government services. They want to do this without having to print documents, use cash and queue for hours.

Recently, the Kenya government launched a platform called E-citizen. The platform revolutionalized government services by introducing more efficient ways of processing documents such as Passports, Police Clearance Forms, Licences and much more. The problem is that there is still many manual processes which are annoyingly redundant in the government.

The Hypotheses

I would like to propose several explanations for the following:

  1. Why you are asked for the same documents from one office to the next
  2. Why the government asks for unnecessary documents like recommendation letters even when renewing a document.
  3. Why you have to print documents even though they have digital copies.
  4. Why you are required to have BOTH parents ID copies even as an adult to get a document such as a passport is beyond reason.

The following are the hypotheses:

  1. The various government departments and ministries do not share data and don’t have ways of doing so since most documents are offline in files.
  2. The old bureaucratic processes and procedures are so ingrained in the personnel that it has been near impossible to get rid of.
  3. Some requirements like parents ID copies are for filtering through applicants by increasing the barrier to access.
  4. The printed copies are backups and manually stored in files.
The above hypotheses can either be wrong or true. I don’t have definitive proof for any of the above. It’s there for you to accept whether to believe it or not.

Conclusion

This article may as well be an incoherent mess but if you are to take away a lesson or two it should be that the government is not online. There may be applications that are online but in true sense we are still manual and will be for a long time if no radical reform is carried out.

How did Estonia do it? I’ll help you, here is a story. If you work in government or work with it, give suggestions on areas of improvement. If you just sit back and watch corruption happen, inefficiencies and misuse of resources, you are contributing to the problem. Be the solution.


Originally published at David’s Blog.