The Kenyan government has launched the Gava Mkononi App, a mobile version of the eCitizen platform, to digitize 5000 government services.

The Gava Mkononi app will be fully integrated with eCitizen, a digital platform that gives citizens access to government services. "The Swahili phrase 'government in the palm of your hands' is called 'Gava Mkononi. The Huduma Kenya Service Delivery Programme (HKSDP), a network of service centers that offer access to various public services, and eCitizen have also been integrated into Gava Mkononi.

At the opening celebration, President William Ruto presided over the wedding of Nicholas Mwangi and Judith Kemboi, demonstrating the app's effectiveness. The trailblazing young couple received their marriage certificate, which was generated using the eCitizen digital platform. The newlyweds received a 4-night honeymoon vacation at the Leopard Beach Hotel in Diani as a gift from President Ruto.

Over 29.4 million Kenyans had smartphones as of March 2023, compared to 33.4 million who had feature phones. Given that feature phones are still frequently used in Kenya, according to these statistics, Gava Mkononi will also be reachable via USSD by entering the code *2222#.

Gava Mkononi can be accessed through a wide network of mobile money agencies, including Safaricom's M-Pesa, as well as bank agencies including KCB with 28,000 shops, Equity Bank with over 40,000 shops, and Cooperative Bank with over 22,000 shops, in addition to the USSD code and smartphone app. According to President Ruto, "Gava Mkononi will be available in more than 250,000 M-Pesa shops, 28,000 KCB shops, 40,000 Equity shops, and 22,000 Cooperative Bank shops to serve those without smartphones." Additionally, people have the option to attend Huduma Centres, where the HKSDP services are physically supplied, and access eCitizen via the internet.

Glitches in the system

Kenya ICT Action Network (KICTANet), a Nairobi-based public tech policy think tank, has expressed concerns about the online service portal's outages and glitches.

The National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) and the tax returns system have both been reported to be unavailable due to server issues and delays. Additional passport applicants have previously reported that they were pressured to pay bribes in order to get around the lengthy appointment dates made accessible by the eCitizen platform.

“The eCitizen “My Profile” page has not been working and has not been resolved for years on end. There needs to be a two-factor authentication mechanism for added user security,” says Ahmed Maawy, co-founder of Mombasa-based startup AAA Platforms and a member of KICTANet

In recent years, hackers have been able to access Kenya's official websites, and the security of the eCitizen portal has also drawn attention. Last July, the ministry of lands was forced to issue a warning on unauthorized land searches and title deed violations on the site. KICTANet has demanded that the platform's cyber security system be strengthened.

Court Challenges

Goldrock Capital and Webmasters group filed legal challenges in 2017 regarding control of the eCitizen platform and ownership of intellectual property. The company hired to build up the platform, Webmasters, threatened to leave the eCitizen project, which would have prevented the transfer of hundreds of government services. Webmasters demanded Sh1.5billion in compensation before handing over control of the eCitizen portal.

After having its access to the official 206206 mobile money account suspended, Goldrock Capital sued Webmasters, Safaricom, and the Kenya National Treasury. According to the terms of the agreement, Goldrock collected Sh127.8 million from millions of Kenyans who needed various government services. Court actions prompted freezing of the mobile money account, with both Goldrock and Webmasters laying claim over the millions

The matter is still under judicial consideration in the Kenyan High Court.  

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