As someone who supports digitisation of services, it was great to see Kenya’s National Police Service roll out the final phase of implementing the digital Occurrence Book (OB) in Nairobi County, before it will be replicated in other counties.
Reporting a matter at a police station is not joyous. For obvious reasons, to find yourself there is never a reason to celebrate. The processes can be draining. Past experiences have made me to resolve issues without stepping foot in any police grounds, if I can.
Walking into a station just makes me tense up even more. I never really know where to start or the order of things.
There is always a group of people when sharing the matter openly, with an officer behind the OB desk.
It’s like the rudest officers are the ones who have to deal with the public. After explaining the matter, a plain piece of paper, with a purple- blue stamp with a date and an OB number written is proof of reporting an incident.
I ask how will one be able to trace that the paper with reference details of the report. These are the thoughts running through my head as I find a safe place to put it in my wallet, in one of the pockets that are just too many for credit cards.
I wanted it to be sure, because I had this unnecessary pressure that it will be lost by next week, and it is really important. And that is the thing about paper, it gets lost, torn or fades. It is not made to last, no matter how much you try to take care of it.
And if you are not organised when it comes to storing things, then for sure it’s only a matter of time you will lose that small square piece of paper.
But with digitisation, storing information for long periods of time, and to find it, you go to the same place always. Thus the digital OB makes a major contribution toward saving time and also retrieving information.
When it comes to migration to technology, the exercise needs to be rolled out in phases, including recruitment of officers.
The process will have to change from just physical characteristics of the recruits and also the capability of the officers to learn how to use and adapt to technology, since that is the first interaction that the public have with the police and also considering that several aspects of the service are to be digitised.
Structures have to support the change. At police stations, finding a pen is difficult. Now there will be computers that to be taken care of, including issues of power outages, and not being able to make reports because there is no back-up power. Or even worse, devices breaking down.
Nerima Wako-Ojiwa, executive director at Siasa Place @NerimaW