Feature: E-government services provide Kenyan youth with economic opportunities-Xinhua

Feature: E-government services provide Kenyan youth with economic opportunities

Source: Xinhua| 2024-05-21 23:23:49|Editor: huaxia

by Bedah Mengo

NAIROBI, May 21 (Xinhua) -- The hum of city life could be heard outside the cybercafe on the second floor of a building on Tom Mboya Street in Kenya's capital, Nairobi. Vehicles honked, touts shouted the names of residential estates to which the cars were headed, and hawkers sang out the prices of their wares.

Inside the cybercafe, two women holding babies on their laps sat before computers, as an assistant moved from one to another giving instructions. The women were at the internet cafe to apply for their children's birth certificates, a crucial government document in Kenya.

"Type your child's name here," John Gimode, the cybercafe attendant, told one of the women. "And here, type your name and that of the father of the child," he instructed the other.

Gimode carefully guided the women through the process to ensure they got it right. "If they mess up, they won't get the documents," he told Xinhua, adding that the business serves up to 30 clients daily seeking various government documents.

The cybercafe is among those experiencing a boom from Kenya's e-government services. With the rise of online government services, businesses that were once struggling due to the surge in smartphones have found a new lease on life.

In turn, these cybercafes have employed many young Kenyans like 22-year-old Gimode to assist citizens in accessing services such as birth and death certificates, smart driving licenses, passports, tax returns, and business and marriage registrations.

With the increase in the number of Kenyans seeking online government services, the number of internet cafes has risen across the East African nation. "I used to be alone here. We are now two, but sometimes the owner adds a third person when demand rises, like at this time when Kenyans are filing their tax returns," said Gimode.

Isaac Ochieng, director-general of E-Citizen, the platform through which Kenyans apply for all government services, said up to 1.2 million Kenyans seek online services daily, a significant rise from about 300,000 a few years ago.

"The online government services have created opportunities for hundreds of young people across the country as they assist those who are not tech-savvy and make some money out of it," Ochieng said, adding that the shift to digital platforms for government services has spurred demand for internet cafes.

The online services have not only improved access for citizens but also increased government revenue, which now collects 800 million shillings (about 6 million U.S. dollars) daily, up from about 760,557 dollars previously, according to Ochieng.

"In a year, we are collecting 1.14 billion dollars through the E-Citizen online services. This is a huge jump in revenue collection for the government as we also create jobs," he noted. Government services have become the lifeline for cybercafes, and the presence of a growing number of youth in these establishments is now apparent across Nairobi and other parts of Kenya.

"Apply for a driving license and birth certificate here! Also, file your tax returns," reads a message on a board outside a cybercafe in Kitengela, a suburb south of Nairobi. Cynthia Karimi, one of the two attendants at the cybercafe, said June is one of their busiest months due to the tax return deadline.

"The whole process takes 30 minutes to an hour, and the charges are 0.01 dollars per minute, which amounts to good money," said Karimi, adding that attendants earn between 61 and 76 dollars base salary plus commissions depending on the number of customers served.

Eliud Owalo, cabinet secretary in the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Digital Economy, said recently that the Kenyan government is working to create digital jobs for Kenyans through the provision of e-government services and digital training for the youth to access remote jobs.

The government has trained some 390,000 young people in digital jobs, with 139,000 working online, including for overseas companies, Owalo added.