Kenyans abroad will now be able to apply and get government services online from their current locations through an interactive web portal soon to be launched.
The Director of Digital, News Media and Diaspora Affairs Dennis Itumbi, who heads the recently created department, disclosed that his office was working on a comprehensive and interactive online portal which will be dedicated to Diaspora affairs.
He said the virtual office will also serve as a platform where Kenyans in the Diaspora will be able to remotely register their companies, apply for land registration and even contribute to social security services such as National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) for themselves or their kin back home.
Mr Itumbi said the website, due to be launched next month, will have an interface which will allow all Kenyans in the Diaspora to create their user accounts and have a virtual interaction with government officials in Kenya.
Mr Itumbi has urged Kenyans in the Diaspora to be patient as his office lays out strategies on how to effectively deal with the vast number of Kenyans living outside the country.
“It will be a complete departure from the traditional way of doing things,” said Itumbi. He was speaking on Friday during a phone-in interview with a US based radio station.
“It will be a one stop shop and a virtual platform letting Kenyans apply for identity cards, passports and other documents without being physically present in Kenya,” he told the Massachusetts based Jambo Boston Radio during the live broadcast.
Since taking office, Mr Itumbi has come under scathing attack from a section of disillusioned Kenyans in the Diaspora as well as politicians.
Soon after president Kenyatta announced Itumbi’s appointment last month, many Kenyans in the Diaspora took to the social media stating that they would have preferred one of their own.
“By appointing someone who does not understand a thing about Kenyans in Diaspora, the Kenyatta administration has disappointed all of us out here,” Said Mr Newton Kinnity, a Kenyan based on Washington DC.
And last month, former Prime Minister, Raila Odinga, criticised president Kenyatta for appointing the former blogger-cum-journalist as the head of the Diaspora desk. Speaking on the sidelines of a CORD governors’ conference in Dallas Texas, Mr Odinga questioned Mr Itumbi’s competence saying that the position should have been given to a person who is better versed with issues affecting Kenyans in the Diaspora. “The president should have appointed someone who understands the Diaspora and who has lived out here,” he told a Nation reporter in Irving, Texas.
But Friday, Mr Itumbi urged those skeptical of his capability to give his office about two months within which it will deliver. “I understand the cynicism but I promise to surprise you come the end of October. Just give me a chance.”
Itumbi took issue with critics who he said were “launching attacks on my personal character” and urged them to draw the line between him and the office he holds. “They should know that we are a team in that office and stop personalising issues.”
The new office faces a daunting task as Kenyans in the Diaspora have already began agitating for voting rights saying efforts should be made to ensure they participate in the 2017 voter exercise.
“We must keep the government and other relevant agencies on their toes. We can’t afford another disappointment,” said Atlanta based businessman, Wilson Wanguhu, in apparent reference to the decision by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to exclude most Kenyans in the Diaspora from participating in the last general election.
Mr Itumbi also announced that for the first time, President Kenyatta will field questions from Kenyan journalists in the US on his forthcoming visit to New York during which he will address the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).
As the head of the department which falls under the Presidential Strategic Communications Unit (PSCU), Itumbi is charged with the responsibility of connecting and engaging with Kenyans in the Diaspora for the mutual benefit of both the government and Kenyans residing out of the country.