When the County government of Trans Nzoia announced that it had launched its very own online portal that would seek to provide carefully selected and tailored information for the people in the region in the hope of improving their lives, I was impressed that another Kenyan county is joining the country in going digital.
That, however, changed when I visited the new site to take a tour and see what the county had finally decided is worth sharing with the public or like the governor of the county would say, a site that will ensure citizens do not perish for lack of information.
Officially launched last week by the county’s Governor, Patrick Khaemba, the website is already live and streaming current information from their news desk, Twitter feed, a direct link to Facebook and also features a Podcast category that no other county website has managed to include; they decided to bring something new to the table.
Also to show the extent of digitization the County is willing to go was the launch of an SMS platform that is aimed at enabling residents get prompt information on their mobile phones by sending key words to the short code 21905, after which the residents will receive the needed information through a reply.
“The launch of the website and the SMS platform is crucial because we want to be a transparent and accountable government that is not only responsible but also responsive to the needs of the people,” said Khaemba.
“This platform offers you an opportunity to directly interact with government and get all the information you require without necessarily going to the offices.”
The website is hoped to not only communicate vital information regarding Health, Agriculture, Education, Tourism and Procurement matters, but also to attract both local and foreign investors wanting to take advantage of investment opportunities in the region.
While the Kenyatta government may want to hail the County for finally taking the baby steps towards joining the digital space that other counties like Kiambu have become masters of, I can’t help but express my disappointment in the county for approving such a mediocre online platform.
My Issues With The New Website
I get that you may feel the need to take on a different approach in your new creation and surpass other counties, especially with the Podcast section that I am still trying to figure out why the latest and only audio clip is of the County’s governor wishing people a Merry Christmas 2014 – just but a reminder, its already March, 2015.
At a time when Kenya wants all government services and operations to be digitized, it is impressive that the website has included a Twitter feed section for live updates, however, the arrangement and the really small fonts that even I, who have not had a problem with vision at close range, is having a problem reading is not acceptable. It is even worse when accessing the site on mobile.
This year is seeing and will continue to see multiple launches of low-cost mobile devices that have the capability to connect to the internet, and with the already free basic internet services provided for by Airtel through Facebook’s Internet.org, most people are coming online in order to also enjoy the benefits of the internet; like accessing vital agribusiness information from the county websites.
It then beats any sense why in 2015, Kenyans coming online for the first time would have to be tasked with the struggle of trying to read what should be readily available to them by the click of a button. Going digital is all about making it easier and more effective for people to access information at the comfort of their home or office, and truth be told, the new Trans Nzoia website may not deliver on that.
I believe before any new product is given the go ahead, there is usually a series of testing it out to examine the responsiveness and it is no different from online portals. So, either the County hurriedly approved the site without taking it through a pilot or the people of Trans Nzoia have an extraordinary eye sight and a very high tolerance for poorly done projects.
Whoever thinks I am just hating can take a tour of other County websites and see how easily they deliver their material on recent issues, with notable sites coming from the counties of Vihiga – whose radio station goes live once you’re on the page, Kitui, Kiambu, Kisii and even Samburu. And while you are at it, please flag the likes of Isiolo and Garissa to update their sites.
So, Trans Nzoia, as you join other counties with your newly launched website and as you continue to develop content for the site, please borrow from the likes of neighbouring Uasin Gishu County and provide the residents of your county with a struggle-free platform that even the elderly with little internet education can easily make use of.
The County has also announced plans to come up with a radio station of their own alongside other projects that include the automation of revenue collection and management, automation of land records as well as online licensing.