M-governance: Exploratory Survey on Kenyan Service Delivery and Government Interaction

This exploratory study formed the basis for our accepted paper to the IST Conference (to be held in Tanzania in May 2012). We will be presenting these findings at the conference.

A one-week of exploratory fieldwork was conducted in Nairobi in November 2011 , with the aim of investigating citizens’ opinions on the best methods to interact with government. The focus was on how Kenyan citizens understand governance and how they currently interact with the government. The initial write-up can be found here. The information that was gathered is important as a first step to studying the potential role of technology in Kenyan governance.

The purpose of the study was to seek answers to the following core questions:

  • What are Kenyan citizens’ understandings of governance?
  • What services do citizens receive from service providers or the Kenyan government?
  • Do citizens feel they are able to raise issues or complaints to the government or service providers?
  • What do citizens want to talk to the Kenyan government about?
  • What methods do citizens believe are best to give information to government/service providers?

Respondents were asked for their understanding of the term, “governance.” Majority of the citizens interviewed understand governance to do with government and leadership. Other popular words to define governance were people, service, management, involvement, and resources, among others. Below is a word cloud based on frequency of the words used to describe governance.

The initial findings reveal that Kenyans believe governance is all about the government. This suggests a perception that governance is top-down and originates from government. Only 5% (n=3) of the respondents stated that governance involves both government and citizens in decision-making. This popular mind-set that governance is something that is done by the government and others in leadership needs to be amended if a more participatory role is to be taken by citizen stakeholders. Civic education and other programs to inform citizens of their rights and responsibilities may help to alter the view that governance is something implemented by government leaders.

Data on citizen interactions with government service providers reveals that the respondents on the whole had more negative experiences than positive experiences. This indicates that there is room for improvement in Kenyan service delivery. Further investigation using a larger sample size should be done to understand which specific sectors Kenyans believe would benefit most from technology applications.

Regarding topics that people would like to discuss with the government, the following findings were obtained:

When the interviewees were asked whether   they feel they are able to raise issues or complaints to the government or service providers, they gave the following opinions on effective and not effective methods of communicating with the government:

One of the most important findings from this research came out of citizens’ opinion on the most effective communication methods for engaging government. While the mobile telephone was still considered one viable method, it was not the most popular. In fact, the feedback from citizens revealed the limitation of using the mobile phone to call, SMS, or USSD. Further research must be done to test the viability of mobile phone applications. Also important to note is that the exploratory study was limited to residents of the capital city, Nairobi where it is much easier to have face-to-face interactions with Ministries and service providers. In contrast, it is much less viable for citizens in rural communities that can be over nine hours away from Nairobi to meet face-to-face with Ministries. It will be important to include these rural communities in the larger sample study to be conducted in 2012.

For more information: Contact : Angella Crandall  (angelac@ihub.co.ke ), Leo Mutuku (leo@ihub.co.ke)

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