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Saturday, August 11, 2007

How Cabinet Ministers In Kenya Use Email

Many Kenyan voters who are now fairly familiar with mobile phones (many of them are more complex to operate than a simple email address) have no idea how most of their respected elected leaders operate with the most important communication and information tool of this century—the Internet.

This is what happens in some of your cabinet minister's offices.

Minister walks into the office (usually at 3pm or 4pm after a long leisurely 5 course lunch at some hotel at the expense of the tax payer of course) and secretary hands him a print out of an email that has arrived for his attention.

Minister writes down reply in long hand in broken English and the sort of grammar that a Standard Two pupil would correct.

Hands over the scrap of paper to his overworked secretary who types in the message in some semblance of the English language and opens the minister's email account and sends back the reply. Secretary checks if the Minister has received any new mail. Sees a cheeky email from a "young woman admirer" from K-street. Makes her day as she reads it slowly savoring every detail and wonders whether it is worth the risk forwarding the email to Kumekucha so that Kenyans get a glimpse of what their respected leaders are all about. The girl talks about their activities the last time (NOT leaving out any graphic detail) they met and says she is looking forward to the next encounter with great anticipation (of course does not mention it is the cash reward that she is really anticipating). Secretary comes back to her senses and decides against exposing he boss and hits the delete button.

I kid you not. A large percentage (several very senior cabinet ministers) of the GNU operate like this.

The truth is that if anybody were to assess the computer skills of the Kenyan cabinet, they would be shocked. To start with a number of well-known ministers fear to come too close to a computer. Do they fear it will explode at some point or something?

Is it any wonder that the quality of debate on bills coming before the house is so poor? 5 minutes on the Internet would have given members the positive side of altering our laws to declare the hangman in Kenya redundant and even if the bill was finally defeated, the quality of debate would have been much higher.

As it is, we all know the bills that the 9th parliament are most interested in. Yep, the ones that increase their remuneration and benefits. And when such bills are slow in being passed because the legislators are too busy having no quorum in the house to push forward much business in the house, they start drawing the cash in advance.

I told a friend yesterday that what the 9th parliament has done is like me going into the house of the friend and accessing his wallet to "borrow" most of the content, knowing that I will ask him to lend me money later.

It is just too dangerous to retain a single one of these "experienced" legislators in the house to show the ropes to the new legislators their habits may just rub off.

P.S. Just as a matter of interest. The Bill Clinton administration used email extensively to get a lot done much quicker. We live in a very troubled world and the convenience of technology is supposed to give us the respite required to spend more time thinking and reflecting closely before making decisions. It is also supposed to encourage us to think out of the box. Extra-ordinary problems can only be solved by extra-ordinary ideas and solutions.

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1 comment:

bloggeratti said...

Makes me reminisce about the good old Moi days (just before we rolled over to the 21st Century) when a committee was formed by government to look into the "millenium bug" issue.

Remember what happened? Some "genius" on that committee actually tabled recommended to governent that a solution for the millenium bug would be found......BY THE YEAR 2010.

But on reflection, considering these clowns represent us, what does that say about computer literacy in Kenya in general?

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