Search the Site

Taking Risks to Improve Government: Kenya and Georgia


McKinsey is out with a new report on government innovation in Kenya and the Republic of Georgia.  It’s basically the story of how developing countries can harness technology to circumvent entrenched bureaucracy and make government both cheaper and more efficient.
Here are both cases in a nutshell, with a couple snippets from each:

Challenge: Nearly 40% of Kenyans live on less than $2 a day, and corruption is still cited as an ongoing challenge for citizens and businesses. The World Bank has reported, however, that if Kenya can sustain its recent growth rate, it’s on track to become a lower-middle-income country in the next decade. And a new constitution establishes the citizen’s right to access government information—a right that must now be implemented.
Emerging solution: This summer Kenya became the first African country to launch an open-data portal, with previously difficult-to-access government information on education, energy, health, population, poverty, and water and sanitation. Only a few countries (including Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States) have launched major data portals. Kenya has also signed on to the Open Government Partnership, launched by US president Barack Obama at the UN General Assembly in September 2011.

In a Q&A, Dr. Bitange Ndemo, Kenya’s information and communications minister, discusses the simple benefits that automation has had, since so much is still done by hand in Kenya:

Automation has been really important because so much is still manual. For instance, at the Ministry of Lands, we used to collect 3 billion shillings; after automation, that jumped to 7 billion.

And how poorly Kenya has performed over the last 50 years:

In 1966, Kenya’s per capita income was far closer to Korea’s, Malaysia’s, and Singapore’s than it is today. We have made mistakes, and one of the biggest that crept into our lives was greed. Most Kenyans had no idea that this was happening. Today there is a new crop of Kenyans: they are literate, use technology, and things will start to change. The way to change Africa and to increase government resources is through automation and open data.

And how Kenya’s digital infrastructure is sometimes out-pacing its physical one:

We already have 20,000 kilometers of terrestrial fiber. We are making sure that you can connect in every part of this country. In some places, you can’t find a good road but you can have broadband. Ten million Kenyans regularly use the Internet, but you need to give people local content, which will drive broadband’s adoption. We need a lot of local wikis where people can find local concepts, heroes, history. We need historical content to learn from our mistakes.


Challenge: To help establish its legitimacy quickly after the 2003 Rose Revolution, Georgia’s government needed to boost its revenues. Citizens expected a rapid turnaround in the quality and delivery of services. Businesses wanted to see measurable results before investing. As President Mikheil Saakashvili took office, the World Bank, citing onerous regulations and corruption, ranked Georgia 137th out of 153 countries as a place for doing business.
Emerging solution: To deliver high-quality public services efficiently and to streamline regulatory and licensing processes for businesses, the government created customer-oriented, high-tech “one stop shops.” After waging a major anti-corruption campaign, the administration turned to service delivery strategies common in the private sector: financial incentives to improve performance and the elimination of bureaucratic silos and paperwork.

Mimicking the way a private firm would increase revenue, the Georgian government is using business analytics and improved service to boost its tax collections, which jumped 17.8% to 28.2% of GDP from 2005 to 2010.
Georgia is now well ahead of the Organization for Economic Co0peration and Development’s average for things like starting a new business and registering property. It takes 3 days to start a business in Georgia compared with an average of two weeks in other OECD countries. Georgians spend about 2 days registering property, versus the OECD average of 33 days.