A few years ago, the Government of Kenya launched a platform where citizens could log in and access critical services at the comfort of their homes and smart devices. Dubbed e-citizen, the portal has played an essential role in reducing the number of trips people had to make to, say the Immigration Department to apply for a passport. The gains gained from the platform were further amplified by mobile money products that continue to be centered around Safaricom’s M-PESA.
That aside, the lucrative nature of e-citizen has been subject to a political tussle. The platform, which is legally owned by Webmasters, has for a long time been eyed by the state that wants to hold its intellectual rights. As you would have guessed, the power the platform commands cannot guarantee a smooth transition between the government and Webmasters, which is why the matter has been ongoing for years now. The row escalated to courts after Webmasters was accused of not being transparent about revenues collected from the system.
Now, e-citizen developers say that can let go of the platform is the Government pays them a healthy KES 1.5 billion.
The firm says that e-citizen, which is currently being run by Treasury (but is supported by Webmasters), has not returned any proceeds owing to the profits it generates. The proceeds are tied to the fact the developers own the intellectual property rights over the platform.
Should Webmasters drop support, e-citizen will be marred by hitches that will, in the end, affect the delivery of services that citizens have gotten used to. The outcome will be marked by a roll-back to the dark ages where people had to visit Government offices and queue for hours before being served.
e-citizen has since integrated more than 210 services after its pilot phase (which initially earned them KES 7.5 million and the controversial KES 50 ‘service fees’). The number of packaged services are said to have ballooned the buyout to KES 1.5 billion.