July 11, 2018

Elgeyo-Marakwet, Kenya: WhatsApp What You Need

Until recently, residents of Elgeyo-Marakwet County in rural Kenya had to rely on unofficial channels to communicate with government officials. The government had no established processes to coordinate and respond to the issues raised. Government responses were often inconsistent, creating distrust and a perception of government indifference among community members.

To address this, the Government of Elgeyo Marakwet established two-way communications with community members using Whatsapp — a widely-used messaging application — as a channel for real-time citizen engagement and rapid government response. This has equipped the government with the capacity to track inquiries and responses. A designated phone number allows government officials to receive and respond to citizen queries in real time, so that concerns are raised and responded to with urgency. With this new system in place, people can now easily reach out to their government officials to voice their concerns, particularly important in a rural county where it is a long journey to a ward office, the closest level of government. In one example, a patient lodged a complaint about the shortage of drugs at the county’s hospital. This concern was forwarded to the cabinet executive member in charge of health. The next day, that same citizen reported that the drugs were now available and the necessary changes had been made to address the underlying problem.