Mzalendo, an information portal that hosts information on government, politicians and administrative regions in Kenya was relaunched today morning at the iHub Nairobi. The relaunch was attended by among others Mugo Kibati, Director General Vision 2030, Paul Kukubo, CEO, Kenya ICT Board CEO and John Githongo, former Kenya Anti Corruption Commission head.
Conrad AKunga, one of Mzalendo's founders and the portals technical lead says the relaunch of the site sees it hosting more information and bringing user engagement into the portal. " We worked with the old site over time and gained experience. "The new Constitution changed the structure of the government, which means we had to overhaul information on the site, we decided to do a complete redesign instead to reflect this based on our experience," says Akunga.
Mzalendo was conceived as an idea in 2003 at a bar, during a time when Kenya's Parliament Website had been pulled down just after it had gone live . The site was pulled down after members of parliament complained that the site had "too much" personal information and infringed on their privacy. Akunga says Mzalendo then took eight months to build and deploy, and is run and managed by its three founders on a voluntary basis. Other founders of the site include Ory Okolloh, founder of Ushahidi and Jessica Musila.
Information at the portal includes MPs information, background and contacts, constituency information such as usage of Constituency Development Fund (CDF) . Included in the redesigned site is an MP performance and accessibility ratings on various metrics, search-able Parliamentary Hansards (record of Parliamentary ongoings) and information on counties. Further information include simpler breakdowns of sections of Kenya's new Constitution and public forums. There will also be the ability of the public to dispute entries and submit information to the portal.
The redesigned site will also focus on political aspirants for the upcoming general elections and maintain a list of their campaigns and pledges. The portal will also source the views of spirants on certain key issues. Once voted in, Mzalendo will continue keeping track on delivery of such promises.
Akunga says that traffic on the site and engagement has been really high, at more than 1000 hits per day, despite MPs not engaging on the site. However, some MPs have been able to engage with their constituents through the site. Tharaka constituency is such a success story where the level of engagement went past the portal to the constituents physically meeting with their MP.
Speaking at the launch, Githongo said that the country was moving from a civil society to a civic society, and urged young Kenyans to embrace online media and take charge of it, positively.
Mzalendo is also supported by other organisations such as Mysociety which has been providing technical assistance and Omidyar networks, Kenya Parliament, Kenya National Examination Council and National Tax Payers Association.
Mzalendo can be accessed at http://mzalendo.com