By David Mwere
As the National Assembly resumes its sittings after a short break on Tuesday afternoon, the MPs will now be conducting business paperless.
According to House Speaker Justin Muturi, a total of 350 iPads have been procured by the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC), which he chairs, and installed in the debating chamber with customised applications.
“As from Tuesday, April 23, 2019, there will be no physical Order Paper that will from time to time be provided in the chamber,” Mr Muturi directed.
“MPs will henceforth be able to access all documents from the application on the equipment,” he said.
While some lawmakers have undergone training on the use of the iPads, the parliamentary ICT department will be on standby to help those not so tech savvy.
MPs require a password to log in to access all parliamentary documents including committee schedules and reports, Hansard records, and other key journals.
The use of the gadgets will ease access to the order paper, motions, Bills, petitions, Speaker’s rulings, proposed amendments to Bills and memoranda.
Kenya becomes the second country in East Africa, after Uganda, to embrace an e-parliament.
National Assembly Clerk Michael Sialai said that the paperless solution will be implemented progressively starting with the order paper.
Mr Sialai noted that the digitisation of the order paper alone will see the government save at least Sh15 million a year in printing and photocopying costs as well as procurement of accessories and repair and maintenance of the photocopying machines.
COST OF IPADS
“The amount we save is likely to go up once we fully integrate the system and use it in uploading all the information in the chamber,” Mr Sialai told Nation.
However, the iPads did not come at a cheap.
While Mr Sialai did not reveal how much was spent to procure the gadgets, at current market prices an iPad goes for between Sh100,000 to Sh120,000, meaning that PSC may have spent between Sh35 million to Sh42 million to acquire the 350 tablets.
It is not clear when the Senate will roll out its paperless solution but its debating chamber is already fitted with 68 tablets.
County Hall mini chamber is also fitted with some tablets.
REAMS OF PAPER
Currently, parliament uses at least 1,500 reams of printing paper, which is about 750,000 sheets of paper every week to print and photocopy the parliamentary documents when the two Houses are in session.
Mr Aden Duale, the Leader of Majority in the National Assembly, hailed the House’s digital transformation saying it will check on unnecessary wastage.
“This is the way to go in this time and age notwithstanding that as a House we are saving substantial amount of money,” Mr Duale said.
Dagoretti North MP Simba Arati said the technology, though good, will pose a serious challenge to other members, who would still want the old order to continue.
“The unfortunate thing is that we have members who are computer illiterate, those who believe in seeing the hard copies. Some of them will be forced to skive House proceedings because they would not want to embarrass themselves,” Mr Arati, who is tech savvy, said.
On February 12, 2019, Mr Muturi reminded all the members of the need to avail themselves for short briefing sessions on the new paperless solution to ensure that they are familiar and conversant with the use of the gadgets.
Yesterday, Mr Muturi reminded the members who may not have acclimatised with the use of the application to create time to attend user-training sessions that will be conducted by personnel from the parliamentary ICT department.