An International Centre of Excellence in Public Policy and Research

Leveraging on Digitalization to Promote Public Service Delivery in Kenya


The Government of Kenya has adopted digitalization in enhancing public service delivery through the establishment of Personal Data Hubs for the National Population Register, rolling out an e-Citizen platform for various services such as business, marriages, driving, land registries, immigration, and civil registration services together with e-Citizen payment gateway, digitization of over 107 Civil Registration Centres and the High Court Registry, development and implementation of Transport Information Management System (TIMS)-NTSA and development of the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI), which have led to public-private partnerships (PPPs) and job creation. Furthermore, the Digital Superhighway will play a significant role in achieving remarkable outcomes in the four Bottom-up Economic Transformation Agenda (BETA) priorities: agriculture, the MSME sector, housing, and health through developing a robust digital infrastructure that facilitates high-speed Internet connectivity and digital access for its citizens.

Despite its achievements, some significant economic gains from digitalization are yet to be realized. Notably, the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry is yet to take off despite being prioritized in the Kenya Vision 2030. To address this, the government’s 2022-2032 Digital Master Plan outlines four critical pillars: digital infrastructure; digital government; digital innovation, entrepreneurship, and business; and digital skills and values development that will drive digitalization. This blog provides a comprehensive review of these pillars, finding gaps where the government could direct its attention to accelerate digitalization in Kenya.

Status and Milestones of the Four Digitalization Pillars

Digital infrastructure

The goal of the government is to create equitable access to government services through national ICT infrastructure. On national connectivity, the government has built approximately 6,000km by June 2016 and 9,000km by March 2022 of terrestrial fibre that has reached the sub-county level through the National Optic Fibre Backbone Infrastructure Project (NOFBI). The connection of 26 more Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to the Government Common Core Network (GCCN) programme resulted in a total of 78 connected MDAs against a target of 100 within Nairobi by 2020. The government has built the National Data Centre at Konza Technopolis, a cloud-based, tier 3 data centre, which is set to play a key role in the digital government agenda. In the Last Mile Country Connectivity project, the government has connected 443 government buildings, 91 hospitals, and 23 police stations to the government backbone network in the counties, and 884 public secondary schools out of the targeted 896 by 2022.

Digital government

The government plays a pivotal role in delivering information and services to citizens using established electronic systems.  Approximately half of the adult population accesses at least one e-service, facilitated by the National Population Registration System (IPRS). The government has also established Personal Data Hubs for the National Population Register, an e-passport system, and 31 Huduma centres offering 45 services to approximately 30,000 individuals daily. Notably, the government has further set up over 107 civil registration centres, and 13 land registries, and digitalized the High Court Registry to fast-track service delivery.

The Government of Kenya has prioritized the transformation of creative ideas into sustainable businesses and transitioning existing businesses to digital platforms. To facilitate this, 61 out of 25,000 hotspots had been installed in rural business centres and public spaces by February 2023, providing Internet access to innovators and entrepreneurs.

Kenya’s strong presence in the innovation landscape is evident in its 100th rank in the 2023 Global Innovation Index, ranking first in Sub-Saharan Africa after Egypt, which ranked 86th. Kenyan startups led the continent in 2020, attracting a record-breaking US$ 701.5 million in funding. Kenya, which is on a steady journey to fully digitalize government services, ranks 116th out of 193 countries in the UN E-Government Development Index 2020.

The government has expanded funding to youth innovations through the National Youth Toward Advancement (NYOTA) in 2023, which transitioned from KYEOP in 2023, and has impacted 65,353 youth. The Youth Enterprise Development Fund has set up over 180 constituency innovation hubs. The government through the State Department for Crops Development also runs the ENABLE Youth programme, which was launched in 2018. The government through the Local Purchasing Order (LPO) financing programme provides youth involved in government tenders with up to Ksh 5 million.

Further, E-commerce platforms such as Twiga Foods, Masoko, and Jumia thrive within the country. Mobile money usage has surged due to government efforts to promote cashless transactions, with transactions increasing from Ksh 364.5 billion to Ksh 708.06 billion between March 2020 and December 2022.

The government has prioritized the development of a digitally skilled workforce to seize growing opportunities in data protection, coding, mobile app development, IoT, robotics, cybersecurity, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and big data. First, the Ministry of ICT has conducted training in a series of cohorts graduating 2,100 ICT graduates and 15,000 public officials in the 2022/2023 cohort. In 2013, it established the Digital Literacy Programme (DLP), providing 21,638 public primary schools with learning devices. Additionally, 93,009 teachers have received ICT enhancing teaching and learning quality during implementation of the 2014-2017 Kenya ICT Master Plan. The Ajira Digital Programme launched in November 2016, targeting 240,000 young people for online jobs, trained 91,615 by 2022 through programme-based training, and created 1,579 digital jobs in the judiciary by 2023 with 2,000 benefiting from the Digi Truck project in rural areas. These initiatives aim to position Kenya as the destination for African content and empower the youth for the digital future.

Policy Gaps in the Government Digitalization Agenda

Digital divide

The country faces a substantial digital divide gap. By 2021, 44 per cent of the urban population enjoyed Internet access compared to a mere 17 per cent in rural areas. Many people have inadequate basic digital skills, making it hard for them to use digital tools and services. The digital divide is further fuelled by economic disparities between the affluent and low-income populations and infrastructure challenges, hindering the reliability and quality of Internet connection. Addressing the digital divide in Kenya thus requires a comprehensive approach that improves digital literacy skills, expanding Internet infrastructure, making digital technologies more affordable and accessible, and implementing policies that narrow the digital gap.

Attracting and retaining key talent

With the advancement in technology globally, ICT professionals could work anywhere in the world. This has resulted in ICT professionals migrating to other countries. To be able to retain this key talent, the government could consider incentives for skilled ICT professionals, such as working remotely, supporting entrepreneurs offering ICT solutions, and offering attractive salary packages. Another significant obstacle is the inadequate grasp of advanced ICT skills among the youth, such as artificial intelligence (AI), big data, coding, cybersecurity, Internet of Things (IoT), and mobile app development. Many employers express challenges in finding qualified staff with the necessary skills. It is therefore essential to foster digital skills training starting from primary education and continuing through university to prepare for the job market in the digital economy.

A digitalization fund

The absence of a dedicated digitalization fund in the country poses a significant challenge to advancing the implementation of the digital master plan. Establishing such a fund is crucial in the successful implementation of identified flagship programmes in the digital master plan. The fund is also critical in enhancing the capacity of human resource personnel who can catch up with the dynamic digital landscape. The Ministry can explore diversified strategies to mobilize resources and prudently manage the finances. The government could also set up a framework for resource mobilization from the National Government, development partners, and other public or private institutions through Private-Public Partnerships (PPPs) and collaborations. The framework can also ensure that the funds are sustainable.

Data security and protection

In the evolving landscape of cybersecurity, new threats emerge daily. Safeguarding citizen privacy and ensuring compliance with privacy regulations becomes imperative as digital systems process more information. This therefore requires data security professionals to stay up to date with the latest trends and technologies in the digital world.

In response to the escalating threat of cyber-attacks, the government has implemented proactive measures, including the establishment of the Kenya Computer Incidence Response Team and the Cyber Command and Incidence Response Centre. Complementing these measures is the Data Protection Act of 2019. This legislation plays a crucial role in regulating personal data processing and safeguarding individual privacy through legal and institutional mechanisms. This comprehensive approach will ensure a prioritized and legally backed focus on data security, enhancing transparency in data management.

Conclusion and Recommendations

The government’s investment in digital infrastructure, innovation, entrepreneurship, and skills development has yielded significant achievements, including increased access to government services, improved connectivity in rural areas, job creation among the youth, and a thriving digital economy. To further the digitalization agenda as outlined in the 2023-2032 digital master plan, the government could use a multi-faceted approach involving stakeholders in the private sector, academia, civil society, and public participation. Such public-private partnerships can leverage the strengths and capabilities in different sectors, and the resources. By implementing these recommendations, Kenya can accelerate its digital transformation, improve access to digital services, and unlock economic opportunities for its citizens.

Authors: Rachel Munyifwa, Young Professional

Dorah Momanyi, Young Professional

Share this post

Stay Up to Date

More Blogs