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Is digitizing the traditional services adequate to respond to social problems?

How can all the mobile applications and platforms be used to create value for citizens and the government?

The literature on ICT shows that the sector drives the innovation in Africa, introducing new technologies to people in sub-Saharan Africa. As telecommunication markets gets mature, mobile phones in Africa evolved from a simple communication tool to service delivery platforms

How can all the mobile applications and platforms be used to create value for citizens and the government?

The literature on ICT shows that the sector drives the innovation in Africa, introducing new technologies to people in sub-Saharan Africa. As telecommunication markets gets mature, mobile phones in Africa evolved from a simple communication tool to service delivery platforms. This means it is now possible than ever for people to access information and service through mobile technology. The financial service was the first traditional service delivered through mobile technologies. Despite different modalities, the telecommunication and financial service providers placed innovation at the forefront, making possible for many unbanked people to access financial services from their mobiles. In attempt to expand the scope of the mobile money’s service, service providers, such as e-Dabab and Zaad integrate mobile money with bank accounts to provide full financial services to users with bank accounts.


However, it is questionable whether the mobile money in sub-Saharan African is underregulated or provide a full range of financial services to users?  According to Macmillan, et. al (2016), the regulation governing the mobile money sector is “light touch”. Even with this light regulation, the network led mobile money has been operational for many years without that light touch regulation, only the regulation had been passed by 2020 in Uganda, 2019 in Somalia, 2014 in Kenya. The literature discovers that network led mobile money in developing countries, was not considered technically as banking, either from the perspective of financial and legal (Banerjee and Newman, 1993; Banerjee, 2004; Burgess and Pande, 2005; Levine, 2005). Although digital lending or saving in mobile money had been launched in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania (Macmillian, et al. 2016), it is not yet considered banking from the legal perspective. Kenya which was the first country introduced the network led digital lending, the digital lending has been operating without regulation for more than 7 years (FSD, 2019). It was just at the end of 2021 when the Central Bank Act has been passed into law to regulate the digital money lenders in Kenya (


The transformation of the traditional financial service was also extended within other sectors including the health sector. The M-health app and platforms are now changing the game, both for the access to healthcare and the cost of the access. The number of M-health apps available in google play store was estimated around 53000 in the first quarter of 2021, representing a 6.51 percent increase over the previous quarter ( However, the total number of mHealth programs implemented in sub-Saharan Africa between 2006 and 2016 was estimated about 487 (same programs implemented in multiple countries were counted separately). Of these countries, the eastern region with 17 countries and the western region with 16 countries had 287 and 145 mHealth programs, respectively (Lee et al. 2017).


The agriculture sector leapfrog other sectors in delivering services through mobile technologies. Although there is not statistics showing the total agricultural app in the sub-Saharan Africa in 2022, countries in sub-Saharan Africa comprise not on topmost countries with largest number of agricultural apps. Kenya launched 14 mobile apps to transform agriculture in 2018. However, countries like India, USA, Brazil account for 64% of available apps in google app store in 2018. For example, the available app in google app store is around 599 apps in 61 countries in 2018. Despite this, the new smartphone apps paved the way for farmers in Kenya to access information and best practice transforming its agricultural practice, especially the old ways of delivering important services while farmers access to new knowledge that is available to societies globally  (

Innovation that creates value

It is, therefore, worth asking about how can all the mobile apps and platforms be used to create value for citizens and other stakeholders of the government?

Simply, the answer is placing the people at the heart of the innovation and technologies and using technologies as means, rather than as ends itself. This assumption encourages us to look the innovation at the inside-out which means improving internal process and efficiency and setting a coherent set of standards for delivering basic services to citizens. This entails two things: first creating an enabling environment for mobile technologies as a means to deliver services. The second point involves using the mobile technology to enhance the internal process for the organization that delivers the services to users. The combination of these two elements calls us to go beyond digitizing the traditional services into creating  cohesive systems that generate new revenues and opportunities to users as well as transforming the organizations that deliver the services.


It has become clear for placing people at the margin will likely be inadequate for the technologies to create values for the users while the success of such innovation is questionable. The literature shows that the organisations need to start the transformation at the organisation itself to eliminate the risk of different services and technologies standing in silos.  The key point is the innovation and technologies should transform the way the value is created, but not only how the services are delivered. In other words, the digital transformation should be built upon people’s needs and point of view while enhancing the internal process of the organization that delivers the innovation.


Tim Unwin. 2005.: “ICT4D Information Communication Technology for Development”


Mobile Government Consortium (MGC). 2010.: INTRODUCING MOBILE GOVERNMENT


Burgess, Robin and Rohini Pande. 2005. "Do Rural Banks Matter? Evidence from the Indian Social Banking Experiment." American Economic Review, 95(3):780-795.


Levine, Ross. 2005 “Finance and Growth: Theory and Evidence.” in Handbook of Economic Growth, Eds:Philippe Aghion and Steven Durlauf, The Netherlands: Elsevier Science, 2005.


SCIDEV (2021) Kenya launches 14 mobile apps to transform agriculture - Sub-Saharan Africa (


Statista:   Healthcare apps available Google Play 2021 | Statista

Commentary on the proposed regulation of digital lending in Kenya. – MWC Legal

Accessed at 2022

FSD 2020 Focus-Note-Digital-Credit-in-Kenya_Updated.pdf (

Accessed at 2022

Central Bank Kenya: 2021 139697899_Press Release - Enactment of the Law to Regulate Digital Lenders.pdf (

Accessed at 2022

Macmillan, R., Paelo, A., & Paremoer, T. (2016). The “evolution” of regulation

in Uganda’s mobile money sector. The African Journal of Information and

Communication (AJIC), 17, 89-110.


Posted: 2022-04-20 11:59:39 Back home

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