You have probably experienced the inconvenience of having to walk from office to office to either get that marriage or birth certificate required to apply for certain services like visa, scholarship, or that dream job.
This could change following the Government’s efforts to avail these services online. And if successful, Rwanda would be among a few countries where citizens access electronic certificates.
This is something officials believe will ease services delivery.
But what exactly are e-certificates? These are services that one applies for via online and receive them online without having to physically meet any person. The entire process is paperless.
Through Irembo, the first online portal that allows people to access Government services, RwandaOnline Platform, a local technology firm, is implementing a project in which Rwandans can own these digital certificates.
The pilot project, according to officials, has been ongoing since late last year and more than 50,000 people have been able to apply through Irembo and get e-certificates.
Jules Ntabwoba, the Outreach Manager at RwandaOnline, told The New Times that the project was being implemented in the City of Kigali where more people have access to internet and smart devices, but with a target to reach the other parts of the country in the next one year.
“We started with Kigali because there is full infrastructure like internet connectivity, which allows people to access these services,” he said.
The institution started with providing birth, marriage and full identity e-certificates, but Ntabwoba indicated that the plan was to re-engineer all the services and make it easier for people to access them.
“Currently, we are re-engineering our services because we want to make Irembo services easier to access. That is our mandate,” he said, adding that innovation is critical in the digital transformation.
Today, people can apply for up to 86 Government services online through Irembo. However, people still walk to Government offices to collect documents even after applying for them online.
For instance, if a couple wanted to apply for an official document that says that they are legally married, they can to do it via Irembo, but they will still have to collect the document at the sector office.
However, the rollout of e-certificates will change this as citizens will be able to apply online and receive these documents online.
This is part of the Government’s plan to limit the use of papers in the long-run.
Ntabwoba said that the adoption is not as fast as they want, but that there were lessons learnt.
“Awareness and literacy really is among the things we have learnt during the (pilot phase) process that need to be addressed. So many people are not aware while others are not digitally literate,” he noted.
Ntabwoba also highlighted that there was a lot of resistance of some local institutions to accept these e-certificates in the beginning.
“We have faced issues where some institutions would not accept these e-certificates because it was hard to verify whether they are genuine. But we have engaged them and this is changing,” he explained.
Low Internet connectivity and limited access to smart gadgets is another challenge that may limit the uptake of such service.
There are few people who can access the internet with statistics showing that there were only 4.3 million people subscribed to the internet as of the end of 2017, slightly over 35 per cent of the entire population.
But RwandaOnline is leveraging the over 3,000 agents deployed across the country to help citizens who may not have access to the internet to easily apply for these e-certificates.