Electronic certificates: how Irembo is on course to making Rwanda paperless

Irembo is an online portal that serves as a gateway to different government services in Rwanda. (File)

IREMBO is on the verge of turning Rwanda into a paperless society – a target that the country has yearned for over a long period of time.

Irembo is an online portal that serves as a gateway to different government services in Rwanda. Just a few years ago, one had to move door to door of local government offices; some several kilometres apart as part of the process to acquire a document and these are varied and needed from time to time.


Throughout this, government was planning to make the process much, much easier than the population thought.


What was not obvious is whether this would be achieved within a short term period of time, given the heavy investment often associated with adopting new technologies, more so one that has to cover all corners of the country, including the countryside.


But as we get to use the technology, its pace of adoption is way too fast than what ordinary people could sometimes think. When Irembo was introduced few years back as the first online portal to allow people to access government services online, RwandaOnline, a technology company behind this portal, had a bold vision.

That vision was to make seamless the entire process of accessing any kind of service online. Rwanda bought into this vision which would later result into establishment of a public private partnership. Today, this vision has made it easier for people to access many of the services without having to leave the comfort of their homes or offices.

“Few years back, to apply for a certain job one had to go to the cell to obtain official documents and the cell would approve it and send you to the district, with a chance of asking you criminal records which would be gotten from another ministry,” says Florence Mutuyimana, a resident of Gasabo District and a regular user of Irembo, before adding that this is no longer the same process.

She says that using a mobile telephone at the moment, she is able to access criminal records, pay for Mutuelle de Sante (community based health insurance), and apply for birth and residence cerElectronic certificates: how Irembo is on course to making Rwanda paperless tificates, a process that has reduced amount of time spent on the way as well as the costs of obtaining the services. Like Mutuyimana, there are currently thousands of citizens who access government services online without having to traverse from one office to another.

According to Faith Keza, the Acting Chief Executive Officer of RwandaOnline, Irembo currently offers over 89 services online and that over 4 million Rwandans have been served. To them, this is already a milestone.

Keza says the overall target, however, is to re-engineer all the services and make services delivery smooth, highlighting why they are introducing the use of electronic certificates (ecertificates). Introducing e-certificates Irembo is currently rolling out e-certificates across the country.

Once successful, Rwanda will be among the first in the region to provide digital certificates to its citizens. E-certificates are services that one applies for and receives online without having to physically meet any provider. The entire process is paperless.

“What this means is that a service can be requested and received online without citizens travelling to sectors across the country to queue in line and get their documents,” Keza notes.

In November last year, Irembo launched the first full digital online services in Gasabo district in the City of Kigali. “The aim was to quickly roll out and we are happy that today, we now have Irembo ecertificates rolled-out across all 30 districts in the country,” Keza notes, adding that the impact is huge. Currently, there are three e-certificate services being offered, including birth and marriage certificates as well as full identity certificate.

With just these e-certificates, they say they are able to save over 3,000 citizens a day a trip to government service centers, and that this increases the productivity of citizens and government officers alike.

“Our aim is to continue this process and re-engineer all our services to become fully digital services where possible by the end of 2019,” the chief executive says.

She added that they are currently working with the Ministry of Local Government, the Ministry of Justice, and Rwanda Information Society Authority (RISA) to make it a success and reach to all citizens.


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