Kenyan government to use AI in affordable housing scheme

By on 01/05/2019
New for old: government housing projects rise behind Kibera, Nairobi’s vast shanty town (Image courtesy genvessel).

The government of Kenya is planning to use artificial intelligence (AI) to help assess citizens’ eligibility for affordable housing.

The government is building 500,000 new affordable homes, and faces a huge task in allocating them: to check applicants’ credit histories, it intends to apply AI technologies to data sourced by the Credit Reference Bureau (CRB) – including people’s smartphone wallet transaction histories.

According to a government policy paper, using data such as that contained in people’s smartphone wallet apps – obtained through third party providers – will help to build credit profiles of those without a conventional banking history.

Faster results

The document says: “In principle the scoring will provide credit assessments that are driven by data analytics. This means that the credit and risk decision-making is fully automated; the system will be able to run ‘Thin File Assessments’ for those with little to no conventional transaction histories; and the level of Artificial Intelligence integrations being deployed reduce the time taken on each assessment – providing a credit profile of each applicant in much less time than is conventionally accepted.”

The use of AI comes on the back of government proposals, put forward in October 2018, to use blockchain technology in deciding the distribution of affordable homes. 

The technology would help ensure that housing is allocated to “deserving” participants and address “graft fears arising from beneficiaries and even legislators,” CCN reported.

Dr Bitange Ndemo (right), seen here with CIO magazine’s Harry Hare, chairs Kenya’s Distributed Ledgers and Artificial Intelligence task force (image courtey Afromusing/flickr).

Squeezing out corruption

Kenya’s cabinet secretary for transport and housing, James Macharia, said at a meeting with the World Bank in Nairobi that Kenya would use blockchain “to ensure the rightful owners live in government-funded housing projects.”

The government is keen to explore the potential of new technology in a range of administrative processes, and set up an AI and blockchain taskforce in February 2018. 

According to CCN, in September last year the chairman of the Distributed Ledgers and Artificial Intelligence task force, Bitange Ndemo, advised the government to replace cash with digital currency in order to tackle “increasing issues of corruption and uncertainty”.

News of Kenya’s new initiatives comes after the East African Community announced that it intends to set up a regional Information Access Centre to boost the use of digital technologies by public bodies across the six member nations, including Kenya.

About Natalie Leal

Natalie is a freelance journalist whose work has been published by The Sun Online, The Guardian, Novara Media, Positive News, and Welfare Weekly, among others. She also writes reports and case studies on global business trends for behavioural insights agency, Canvas8. Prior to working as a journalist Natalie worked for the public sector in social services for several years. She switched careers in 2013 after winning a fully funded NCTJ in a national writing competition. She holds a Masters degree in social anthropology from Sussex University where she specialised in processes of social change and international conflict and reconciliation processes.

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