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Practical applications of e-business in Kenya

Efforts have been made in implementing electronic transactions over the internet in Kenya. It is anticipated that with the rollout of the fibre optic cable, the challenge of connectivity will be minimised paving way to more electronic offerings. The growth of mobile telephony especially the drop in service tariffs, drop in costs of handsets and the rollout of 3G network by a number of operators has made it possible for access to the internet easier and convenient ‘on-the-go’.

The following are some of the common challenges of and how e-business adoption will help overcome such challenges;
  1. Retail Industry:- The growth of retail chain stores in the last couple of years has given rise to multiple options for points of purchase for the consumer. Due to increase in population, the space and access of such retail stores is a challenge. Few parking facilities and long queues at the counters makes shopping a frustrating experience especially on month ends. This has led some entrepreneurs to launch online shopping facilities to de-congest shopping malls and encourage people to place orders online while the deliveries are done by the online service providers. These offerings will be expected to grow as their popularity increases. The convenience of letting the mundane tasks of shopping to be handled by someone else while consumers focus on other important tasks will drive up the adoption of such initiatives.
  2. Utilities: - The payment of utility bills such as electricity, water and gas has for long been a very laborious task. The risk of revenue leakage in the process of such bill payment has also been high, with service providers losing revenue through illegal connections and incorrect billing. Introduction of pay bill options through ATMs, mobile money transfers and mobile banking as greatly contributed to de-congestion at utility provider premises and make the payment experience more convenient to the consumer. With introduction of pre-paid meters, there is an expectation that consumers will be able to manage their consumption in a more efficient way. This coupled with partnership from other service providers like retail chain stores would make the utility bill payment option become like another shopping experience thus reducing the painful process of having to remember when the bill is due and if the bill is settled or not.
  3. Financial Services:- Banking has in the last few years undergone tremendous transformation with the focus being on minimising over the transactions and moving them to other channels like ATMs, Mobile and Internet Banking as well as Agency Banking. The banking hall is being transformed into more of a business advisory premise where the consumer is guided into selecting optimal product mix that would meet their needs. The adoption of debit cards and credit cards as payment options has further reduced the use of cash in preference to card. With the implementation of cheque truncation system by Kenya Bankers Association, we expect increase in cheque payments due to a shorter cheque clearance process.
  4. Telecommunications:- This industry has been at the forefront of adoption of electronic transactions. The possibility of e-business is heavily dependent on a reliable telecommunication infrastructure. As mentioned earlier, efforts to rollout the fibre optic cable has given rise to adoption of electronic services. Within, the industry itself, buy and selling of airtime has been offered as an electronic service through mobile payment option or electronic top-up. Other offerings such as change of tariff plans and subscription of additional services by the subscribers will further reduce the need for subscribers to visit the customer care centres will still enjoying the preferred product / service mix.
  5. Public Sector:- This sector has been viewed as a later adopter of technology. However, in the last few years, we have seen efforts being made to transform this sector and bridge the digital divide gap. The government has largely been accused of being inefficient due to lack of transparent systems, lack of integration between different functions and departments of government and isolated initiatives within each of these functions. Efforts have been made to avail some services online like download of electronic forms for passport application, electronic filing of tax returns, and the recently launched Kenya Open Data portal. However, we expect to see more being done to bring about a government that is more integrated especially with the implementation of the new constitution. Some of the key areas of focus would be;
    • Public Procurement:- implementation of initiatives like e-procurement / e-sourcing / e-store to manage the sourcing, procurement and management of public goods and services.
    • Registration and Dual Citizenship:- implementation of an integrated citizen management system to achieve a single view of the citizen connecting different arms of government at national and county levels.
    • Budgeting and Financial Management:- implementation of an integrated financial management system to enable smooth management of funds allocated to county government and tracking against budgets.
    • Taxation and Revenue Management.- widening the tax base in order to collect revenue required for development. An efficient mechanism of enabling compliance both at national and county level for domestic tax and customs. 
    • Cloud Computing:- There is opportunity in the future for county governments to operate a shared infrastructure, storage and software through a private cloud. For a start things like mail hosted on the cloud as well as document management through applications like Google Apps would be a starting point. This will push down costs of ownership while increasing efficiency and ensuring the government concentrates on its service offering which is public administration.
E-business should be embedded as part and parcel of a process of transformation. While government functions are being dispersed to the county level, the role of e-business should be of paramount importance. The national ICT policy should be relooked at and cascaded at county level with proper structures to manage the transformation of each county with prioritized initiatives that align with national ICT initiatives to make e-business a reality. For example at the onset, county governments must be connected to the central government on financial management and budgeting through an automated system.
The government must also consider the private sector as a partner in this transformation. These two sectors must integrate in order to make e-business a reality. The government must realise that it is now dealing with a techno savvy citizen who is impatient and ready to pay to get access to faster services.


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