On one of those long holidays, my boys and I decided to go on a road trip. I was duly elected as the designated driver being the most responsible of the bunch. On the day for the trip, I woke up early and embarked towards the meeting point after checking that I had everything I needed for the trip. I met with the guys and the journey to Nanyuki finally begun. Halfway to our destination we encountered a Police roadblock in the middle of nowhere.  I rolled down the window and heartily greeted the Cop, he proceeded to do the mandatory check on my insurance sticker and asked for my driving license. Because I was in a hurry to get going, I quickly handed it over to him and patiently wait for him to finish with it. To our shock, he called out to his colleague with a smile on his face “Afande kuja haraka hapa iko kitu” immediately I knew that I was in trouble. It turned out that the driving license expired two weeks earlier and like most drivers I rarely go through my license hence I hadn’t noticed. What followed was hours of negotiation punctuated with pleas of innocence “aki afande sikujua ime expire, nisamehe leo tu”. It turned out to be your lucky day and they agreed to let you off the hook but on condition that I don’t drive with an expired driving license.

As it turned out none of the guys had carried their licenses since they had not anticipated to drive. This left us with two options either to get someone to drive us to our destination and back or find a way to renew my driving license. As we pondered on our options I had a eureka moment and remembered that one could renew a driving license via the eCitizen portal. On enquiring from the officers I learnt that there was a small town nearby, I quickly hailed a boda boda to the town. On getting to the town I found the nearest cyber café, registered on the portal, paid via M-pesa Paybill number 206206 and printed my renewal slip in less than 10 mins. I hopped back on the boda to the road block, got into my car and we resumed our journey though with a tongue lashing from my irate passengers.

After that experience I couldn’t help but think of how the eCitizen portal has helped the ordinary mwananchi like myself. Some of the benefits include;

The eCitizen portal saves you a lot of time that you could have spent queueing in government offices to get the requisite forms after which you have to queue again in a banking hall to pay for the same. In a matter of minutes you can log in, apply for whichever service you want for example driving license renewal, marriage certificate, driving test application among others. After which you can pay using M-pesa and you are done.

The portal is also convenient in the way it enables you to access government services from anywhere in the country be it your office or home and pay via M-pesa. In my case if it hadn’t been for the eCitizen portal we would have had to look for an open government office to pick the form and also a bank through which to make payments. Both of which were impossible as it was a weekend and a holiday to boot not to mention we would have had to incur extra costs for hiring a driver and also be delayed unnecessarily as we looked for one.

The portal has made accessing of the services cheaper for the mwananchi. Most government offices are usually located in big towns so for you to access them you had to travel all the way from your village, some of which are hundreds of kilometers away. As such one had to incur transport costs just to get the offices without an assurance that you will get the service due to inefficiencies. With the eCitizen portal if for example you needed to pay for a 3 year driving license renewal you just have to pay Kshs.1,400 for the service, Kshs.50 for convenience and the M-pesa Paybill fee of Kshs.33 coming to a total of Kshs.1,488 after which you can print the renewal slip at your convenience. This is against the possible hundreds of shillings one would have paid to renew the same a couple of years back if say you lived in Namanga and had to come to all the way to Nairobi to have it renewed.

Use of the portal also lowers incidences of corruption as it reduces chances of government staff interacting with the general public. Initially some officers used to frustrate you so much that you had to part with some money in order to be served or brokers would magically appear promising to hasten the process at a fee. Given the fact that one pays for the services via M-pesa the officials do not handle any money hence helping reduce corruption.