The Governent Big4 Agenda on housing has received a shot in the arm after the launch of a new app which seeks to bring together all the players in the construction industry and ensure Kenyans have access to affordable housing.
Speaking on Friday during the launch of the app dubbed Ibuild, Information, Communications and Technology (ICT) Cabinet Secretary (CS) Joe Mucheru said that as a government the MInistry supports the development of technology which is creating job opportunities and reducing the cost of doing business.
“Since independence we have only 500, 000 home owners in Kenya and unless something drastic is done –like the launch of this app- the country is moving on a very wrong direction,” said the CS.
Mucheru said that the mortgage statistics indicate that out of about 45 million Kenyans we only have about 25, 000 mortgages out of which 18, 000 are from bank employees.
“To tackle the housing problem, within the next three years, the government will invest Shs.2.3 trillion almost the annual budget on housing alone and the Big4 itself is about Shs.7.5 trillion.
The great thing is that with this app, things can move faster because absorption is usually the biggest challenge that we have,” explained Mucheru.
He added that when president Uhuru Kenyatta was getting into government there was a policy that as long as a house had grass thatched roof it would not get electricity but the president scrapped that and through the Last Mile Project, the government was able to improve the number of Kenyans connected to electricity from two million to seven million households.
“If tomorrow everyone downloads this app we will be able to know how many plumbers we have in this country maybe all the way to the wards level and the moment the contractor goes on site somewhere they can get all the skilled manpower they require,” explained the CS.
The CS lauded the app for bringing together all sectors of the construction industry and the fact that Ibuild chose Kenya for their global launch shows how critical Kenya is strategically placed in the global technological landscape.
According to Mucheru, Kenya is leading in this area and other will have to learn from us on how we use and adopt this new technology to make our construction industry efficient which will in return lead to more Kenyans accessing affordable homes.
The CS said that in order to improve the rate of coming up with new innovations in the country, under the Ajira digital program, the government has so far put up 96 constituency innovation hubs where the youth get free WI-FI and training on how to work online and create app’s adding that the aim is to have 1, 160 of this center that is one in every Ward.
Ibuild global solutions board chairman Lew Schulman said that professionals are the backbone of the construction industry and they need to be incorporated into the ecosystem for it to be successful.
“There are only 55, 000 construction professionals registered by National Construction Authority (NCA) but more than 2 million are practicing and it is important to know who they and their skills levels and build on the country’s ability to solving the housing challenge,” said Schulman.
He added that they have worked with the Jommo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) School of architecture to identify job gaps in the construction industry and how to plug in the gaps.
“Construction work job seekers will be able to see the available jobs in their area, electronic records can be taken to a bank as proof of employment and can get loans to build a house or buy more tools,” he explained.
“The app has a list of building materials from different suppliers and varied prices giving Kenyans a wide variety of choice, it also has the Iwalllet which makes payment to workers easy and is able to track payments from the client to the contractor to the suppliers thus cubing diversion of funds,” said Schulman.
He added that workers also get rating according to their work output and their pay increases alongside their rating.
Schulman said that the app is working at linking the end to end construction and home ownership value chain in efforts to bringing down the cost of construction and home ownership.
By Joseph Ng’ang’a.