Patrick Mogaka sat patiently inside the cybercafe in Kenya’s capital Nairobi as the attendant keyed into the computer his details.

cybercafe “You have to be patient; the website is too slow today. I think many people are using it,” the attendant told Mogaka, who was dressed in a maroon trouser, a matching half-coat and shirt.

Mogaka is a matatu (passenger minibus) conductor, and he had taken time off duty on Saturday to visit the cybercafe and file his income tax returns to the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA).

It was the first time the matatu operator was using the internet, thanks to the government that has taken its services online.

The search for the services has also seen tens of thousands of Kenyans, particularly those in the informal sector, visit the internet for the first time. They include landlords, matatu drivers and conductors, spare parts dealers, eatery operators and second-hand items dealers.

Top on the list of services the traders are looking for are the filing of income tax returns and application of driving licences. However, in the past one month, the former has been the most popular.
“I would never have bothered with the internet if it was not filing my returns. I have never used the internet before in my life though I hear people talk about,” Mogaka said as he keenly looked at what the cybercaf? attendant was doing.

After about 40 minutes, the cybercafe attendant completed the task and printed for him an acknowledgement receipt.

“I now have an email address; so you do not pay anything for you to open the account?” an excited Mogaka asked the attendant as he handed him 1.2 U.S. dollars, a charge for the service.

The scenes were replicated in other parts of the city and across the East African nation as millions of Kenyans rushed to file their income tax returns online.

According to the KRA, over two millions Kenyans registered on their online portal iTax in about a month to file their returns.

“The system has heralded a new dawn in the use of information technology in Kenya, particularly in tax collection. We are happy by the uptake which is one of our key transformation platforms as we strive to simplify and raise efficiency,” said KRA commissioner- general John Njiraini Friday.

While many first-time internet users used the cybercafe to access the government service, others like Caleb Nyongesa, a landlord in western Kenya, were helped by their tech-savvy sons to file the returns.
“I don’t know what internet is about but my son helped me fill the government forms. I am happy because I did not have to go to KRA office and queue for long hours waiting to be served,” the 59- year-old who has six rental houses said on phone.

The biggest winners, however, in the online search for government services are cybercafe operators. The services have given their once floundering business a new lease of life as they charge up to 2 dollars to assist first-time users.

“The last one month has been hectic for me because the people seeking to file their income tax returns were many, but I am happy because I made good money. I wish people could be filing the returns throughout the year,” said Kevin Mutua, a cybercafe operator in Komarock on the east of Nairobi.
Bernard Mwaso of Edell IT Solutions in Nairobi noted that taking government services online is killing many birds with one stone.

“Government services are mandatory, which means millions of people would go for them, thus, lifting the number of internet users, enhancing efficiency and handing businesses like cybercafes a lifeline,” he noted.
As of the end of 2014, according to Communication Authority of Kenya, there were 16.4 million internet subscriptions in the country, and Mwaso noted search for government services can double the number. Enditem

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