Cybercafés, tech-savvy Kenyans cash in on gov't online services

Source: Xinhua| 2019-06-28 23:42:18|Editor: Mu Xuequan
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NAIROBI, June 28 (Xinhua) -- Over the last one month, John Mutua's cybercafé in Nairobi, Kenya's capital, has been a beehive of activity.

The internet facility has been mainly serving citizens who are filing their tax returns ahead of the June 30 deadline.

It is compulsory for all Kenyans who are over 18 and have personal identification numbers to file their tax returns by end of June of every year.

Initially, the tax returns used to be done manually but the government automated the services, with citizens, therefore, required to open Itax accounts and file returns.

The change of operation by the government has given cybercafés in the east African nation a new a lease of life, with the peak season for the businesses being every June when millions file returns.

"I am overwhelmed by the number of people seeking to file returns ahead of the deadline, but I cannot complain because this is good business," said Mutua on Friday.

The businessman is charging 500 shillings (5 U.S. dollars) to help those who have no idea of how to file their returns and open email accounts, one of the mandatory requirements needed.

For those who know how to file returns, they only pay for the time they spend on the internet and the computer.

"We are getting business because you cannot file the tax returns using the smartphone. If this was possible, we would have closed down months ago," said Mutua.

However, it is not only cybercafés that are reaping big, entrepreneurial Kenyans have launched websites that are helping citizens at a fee calculate the amount of tax they are to pay and file returns.

One such a site is named Ushuru, which is dedicated to assisting employed and self-employed file their returns at 20 dollars and 35 dollars respectively. The fee is paid upfront via mobile money.

The later are being charged more because the site helps one compute the tax that is due while for the employed, the tax is already computed by the employer.

"I am mainly dealing with teachers and civil servants. They are the ones who are filing tax returns here," Hezborn Ajwang, a cybercafe operator in Busia, western Kenya, said on phone.

There are four million Kenyans who are registered on Itax, according to the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA).

The authority said on June 26 that 2.7 million citizens had filed their tax returns by June 23. KRA expects the rest to do the tax by Sunday to avoid up to 200 dollars' penalty.

Bernard Mwaso of Edell IT Solution in Nairobi noted that decentralization of government services to online has not only improved efficiency but also created job opportunities.

"In rural areas where people have no personal computers or electricity, cybercafés are doing really well. Teachers, car owners, drivers and students are among those frequenting the businesses to access various services online," he said.

These services include loan application for students, registration of cars and driving licenses. Ordinary citizens applying for birth certificates also have to do it online, offering cybercafés huge business.